Starting Solids: Signs of Readiness
Feeding therapists and other medical professionals agree that it’s best to wait to start solids until your baby is around six months of age and showing signs of readiness. By learning the signs of readiness, you can proceed with first foods with confidence.
Wait for the Right Time: From birth to six months, baby is exclusively fed breast milk or formula. When baby is around 6 months you can introduce solids. If you had a preemie (a baby born too early) waiting for the right time is a tad more complicated.
- Preemie Adjusted Age: If baby was born early (before 38-40 weeks) we can start solids at their adjusted age of 6 months. You can figure out the adjusted age by subtracting the number of weeks baby was born early from the baby’s chronological age (e.g., 6-month-old baby born 4 weeks early has an adjusted age of 5 months). With this example, if we wait to start solids for another month (when the baby’s adjusted age is 6-months-old) we may find baby to be more active, interested and willing to eat than he would have been 4 weeks earlier. Patience is key, especially with our preemies!
Wait for the Right Signs: As parents prepare to offer solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding there are several signs we need to observe.
- Sitting: Wait to start solids until baby can sit up without support (a few rolled-up towels to help with positioning and stability is okay). Their ability to sit independently will regulate their interest in exploring food, their fatigue level and their overall consumption of food.
- Note for Practice – At first, have baby sit in the highchair for 5-minute increments under direct adult supervision. Then, slowly increase the length of time in the chair (while still being present and attentive). Be sure to make these ‘sessions’ fun and positive, which will help avoid crying and negative associations with the chair (and food).
- Interest: Baby should be interested in food and want to participate in mealtime. Postpone solids until you observe this interest or you see baby try to snag food off your plate! Paying close attention to their interest level will also allow you to understand their fullness cues once you start solids.
- Note for Practice – Once a week have baby sit on your lap while eating to see if there is interest in food.
- Mouthing: Delay solids if baby is not mouthing (sucking, licking and exploring toys or objects with their mouth). Mouthing toys is an important first step to mouthing and swallowing foods safely. Clinically, I find that if parents start solids without baby having this critical skill, gagging, choking and food refusal is common.
- Note for Practice – Offer baby multiple opportunities to mouth different textured toys. You can do this in the highchair when you practice baby’s sitting, too!
- Munching: Baby should want to munch (up-and-down chewing with no teeth) toys and objects. Wait to introduce foods if you have not observed this adorable munch pattern.
- Note for Practice – Find opportunities throughout the day to allow baby to munch on your finger, toys or teethers in order to rehearse this skill.
- Tongue Thrusting: Delay solid food introduction until baby has decreased their tongue-thrust reflex (instinctively pushing food out of their mouth with their tongue).
What signs of readiness did your baby demonstrate to let you know they were ready for solids? Did you have to figure out your little ones adjusted-age when offering first foods? Are you starting or planning to start solids with our feeding products? Be sure to tag us in your mealtime pics with the hashtags #ezpzfun #ezpz!
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 28 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating tendencies. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning feeding products.