Are You Feeding Baby Too Early?
Sometimes families are excited to start baby on solids and they accidentally start too early (without knowing some of the risks). I have worked with numerous families in feeding therapy that fed their baby early (at 3-5 months of age) and, unfortunately, this resulted in choking episodes or outright food refusal. To avoid these risks, let’s explore the signals you need to look for to make sure you are not feeding baby too early!
Recommendations: The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization encourage parents to start baby on solids at six months of age. I also recommend starting solids at about six months, but it depends on the child’s readiness signals. Here is my checklist of eight signals to look for:
- Hips: Can baby sit up on their own without losing their balance? If not, it may be too early.
- Arm: Does baby reach for your food or drink and/or grasp objects? If not, it may be too early.
- Hand: Does baby bring their hand, objects or food to their mouth? If not, it may be too early.
- Head: Does baby have the head control to look up, down and to both sides without falling forward? If not, it may be too early.
- Eyes: Does baby stare at you intently while you are eating and/or have an interest in food? If not, it may be too early.
- Mouth: Does baby start to drool, munch on their hand or open their mouth in time with you feeding yourself? If not, it may be too early.
- Tongue: Is baby’s tongue thrust reflex gone? If not, it may be too early.
- Brain: Is baby about six months of age? If not, has baby mastered the other seven signs?
Feeding Gear: Having the right gear can help baby be successful with solids. My two-step gear guide is to have the following:
- Highchair: The key to safe eating is having a good highchair (to help with baby’s head control and hips for sitting).
- Dishes: Silicone dishware like the Mini Mat and Tiny Bowl suction to the table (or highchair tray) to help baby with balance. They also foster effective arm and hand movements.
Common Reasons Parents Start Too Early: I think it is important to understand why parents may start introducing foods to early. Here are the three most common reasons I have encountered:
- Starting Solids Because of Comparing: In feeding therapy, parents confess to me that they started solids too soon because they were comparing their baby to their first born. Others state that well-meaning family members, neighbors, friends or even their spouse started comparing their baby to the ‘infant next door’ and they felt coerced into feeding early. But before we cave into peer pressure, we need to make sure baby has the skills to safely eat solids.
- Starting Early Because of a Fussy Baby: Many families explain that they started solid foods early because they thought it might help calm their fussy baby. Before we use food for comfort, we need to ensure baby is developmentally equipped to eat.
- Starting Early Because of Mixed Signals: Parents tell me that they were confused about what signals to look for. Receiving mixed signals can be frustrating for both baby and the parents. If baby is only showing one of the many signs of readiness, then baby is not quite ready…but they will be soon!
I hope these tips help parents make an informed decision regarding solids based on the development of their baby. What are some ways your baby told you they were ready for solids? #ezpzfun #startingsolids
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).