Is My Baby Ready For Solids?
The golden rule used be introduce baby to enriched white rice cereal and/or Karo syrup (yes Karo syrup) sometimes as early as 2-3 months. Perhaps you have even been told by your pediatrician or mom friend to put a little rice cereal in your baby’s bottle to help them fall asleep. If you’ve been told this by a friend a Doctor you are not alone.
In reality, a 2010 study found adding rice cereal to an infant’s diet shortened the length of time a baby slept during the night. Researchers also began to notice a correlation between starting solids early and a depressed immune system along with a multitude of digestive issues in those babies.
Dr. Nathan Wall, pediatric Chiropractor in Draper, Ut writes,
Introducing solid foods is a very impactful step in a child’s life. This step stands to influence many other systems in their body for quite some time, two of which are the gut and immune system. Having practiced for years in the pediatric world, I can say that too many parents are misinformed and confused when it comes to this process either by poor information from their other health care providers or even by current trends.
I sometimes have to deliver the hard news to parents that just because a child can grasp food and bring it to their mouth, this does not mean that their neuro-gut-immune system is organized or even primed for such an introduction.
I want parents to understand as Dr. Kelly Brogan puts so eloquently, “Food is not just fuel, it is information. Literally, it puts the form into your body.” So, when a parent gives their child a bowl full of rice cereal (empty, nutrient lacking, simple carbohydrate) what form are they building in their child?
The American Academy for Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both agree babies should avoid solids until at least 6 months old (no juice, no cereal) For many babies 6 months is the minimum age to introduce solids and many babies benefit from waiting closer to 8 months before solids are introduced. It can difficult to determine when a baby’s gut health is ready for solids and so many parents and providers look for developmental milestones as a gage for adding solids into their child’s diet.
Before reaching for a jar of baby food or a bite of bread from your plate, ask yourself these questions:
- Can baby sit up well without support?
Sitting up without support doesn’t mean can my baby hold his or her head up while sitting in their Bumbo chair. Or sitting up while sitting in a baby bouncer or walker toy. If you set your baby on the floor can they sit up well unassisted for an extended period of time?
- Has baby lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue?
If you give your child a small bit of avocado or sweet potato does their tongue push out against their teeth or does their tongue stay back allowing them to properly swallow their food? Babies will naturally have foods they like but watch their tongue to effectively make this judgment call.
- Is baby ready and willing to chew?
Some children have teeth sooner than others. So don’t let the appearance or nonexistence of baby teeth sway your mind on this milestone.
- Is baby developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger? Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.
A great way to judge this milestone is to set small objects in front of your child. This could be diced sweet potatoes, peas or a favorite toy. Notice how your child uses his or her hands to pick up the object. Do you try a pick them up using their entire hand or do they reach for those small objects effectively with their thumb and forefinger?
When Baby Isn’t Ready for Solids
If you’ve gone through these questions and your 6 month isn’t quite meeting these points there is no need to push for solids. I remember with my first child I was a little eager on the solids. Around 5 ½ months without testing to see if my child was actually meeting these milestones I began to introduce solids. Interestingly during those first few months of solids, he had an increase in diaper rash, undigested foods in his diapers and began to become more cranky and hard to soothe as an infant. In contrast with my daughter, we waited a few weeks longer before trying solids and looked at her developmental milestones, not just her age. Unlike her brother, she was digesting foods better and didn’t have the same diaper rash concerns or crankiness. Coincidence??? Perhaps, but now knowing the research that supports delaying solids it makes sense to me.
Table Food, Purees & Where to Begin
Just walk down any baby food aisle and the whole process can seem overwhelming, baby food processors, special food puree tools etc. I reached out to Karen Folcik, Utah local, mom of two and author of the award-winning book Happy Tummies- A Cookbook for New Mammas to see what her suggestions were. Folcik shares,
When your baby is ready for solids, there is no need to go out and buy any special foods or equipment for your little one. You can just feed your baby what you already have at home! Most family dinners can easily be tailored to fit your little one’s nutritional needs, and studies have shown that babies are less picky when it comes to new foods when they are allowed to eat foods prepared for the whole family. It’s as easy as simply removing baby’s portion before adding salt or other spices, then mashing, pureeing or shredding their portion of the meal.
So, if you are making chicken for dinner, baby can have some chicken! If you have bananas or avocados at home, you can choose one of those, they make great starter foods for babies. The key is to choose mild flavors that will be easy for your baby to digest, and then serve it in a way that is suitable for a little one who doesn’t have many (or any) teeth. For instance, for bananas, which are a favorite starter food of mine, you just simply peel, mash with a fork until its completely smooth, then serve a tiny bit on your (cleaned) finger or a soft baby spoon. Nearly all fresh, natural foods are suitable for babies, as long as they are cooked properly, if needed, and are served in a way that baby can eat it without a risk of choking.
For more resources on introducing solids, recipes, weaning your baby, baby led weaning, making your own baby food and more, feel free to visit these pages.
Le Leche League- Local chapters throughout the U.S on supporting parents from breastfeeding to transitioning to solids and weaning.
Kelly Mom– Archive of articles on when to introduce solids, offering water, evidenced-based research on optimal time and more.
Baby Led Weaning– Blog articles and recipes for those who choose or want to incorporate baby led weaning into their transition to solids.
From the Author:
Alyssa Moulton is a Certified Hypno-doula who loves supporting her clients from pregnancy through the postpartum time. If you were to describe her in three words she would say calm, empowering and authentic. She is passionate about helping each client feel empowered and supported in their birthing decisions. When not serving as a Doula, Alyssa loves teaching youth and adult cooking classes from Healthy eating and meal planning to homemade pastries and baking themed birthday parties and loves seeing her student’s learn new skills and feel empowered in the kitchen! She also hosts a bi-monthly Mom’s Circle in Herriman as a way for Mom’s to connect, grow and live in community with each other. Interested in learning more? Contact Alyssa at Daybreakdoula.com
About our contributors:
Karen Folcik is the author of the award-winning Happy Tummies: A Cookbook For New Mamas, which shares recipes for homemade baby food using everyday ingredients you already have at home. Karen Folcik has her Master’s in Social work and was a child and family social worker for many years before deciding to stay home full time after the birth of her first son. She lives near Salt Lake City with her wonderful husband, two awesome children, and one rambunctious cat.
For more information about how to start solid foods, how to feed your baby for the first time, and recipes for feeding your baby foods you already have at home, check out Karen’s book, available on Amazon, and online wherever books are sold.
Dr. Nathan Wall is a family Chiropractor with a strong emphasis in pediatrics and prenatal care, as well as significant training and experience working with children with neuro-developmental disorders. His focus is on the proper function of the nervous system as it relates to the coordination of the body’s natural physiological functions. He strives to enable his community to become empowered with their own health.