The big question – Solids, when?
How do you know as a parent what to do? When to start seems to be the biggest debate.
Who do you listen to?
Is it at 4 months, after 6 months, or is somewhere between 4 to 6 months but closer to 6 months.
Many parents ask me my thoughts.. and yes, I am probably adding to the conflicting advice with my opinion… but it is a question I get asked at least twice a day so I am going to put myself out there and answer the question! Solids should never be given before 4 months.
Rather than the magic “age” to start I encourage parents to look for signs of readiness.
5 Positive signs that your baby is ready to start solids include:
1. Has good head control aka they can sit on your lap supported and can hold their head up without their head bobbing around/leaning. Waiting until they can sit independently is not an sign to wait to start of solids, as many little ones cannot not do this until 8+ months. If they tire quickly or constantly need to be propped up when supported in the seated position, they are not ready for solids. Revisit solids in another 2 or 3 weeks, no matter their age
2. They are showing interest when you are eating aka trying to get to your food and/or mimicking your mouth movements when you are eating. If showing no interest, it is not the time to start solids. Revisit solids in another 2 or 3 weeks, no matter their age
3. During play time they are bringing hands and toys up to their mouth
4. If you bring a spoon to their mouth they open their mouth and are happy to “try”and not try to push it out or away). If they don’t open their mouth, cry and get distressed stop. They aren’t ready. Revisit solids in another 2 or 3 weeks, no matter their age
5. When the parent feels they are ready. Solids is hard work, and should never be rushed and be pressured. You know your little one best. If it all too much and you don’t feel ready, they (and you) are not ready for solids.
What can be agreed on is:
1. From 6 months little ones cannot get enough iron from breastmilk of formula alone so solids from 6 months do have a nutritional impact. Their intake is low for the first few months so prioritising nutritionally dense and iron rich foods nutritious foods is encouraged e.g. Iron fortified cereals, pureed meat/poultry/tofu/legumes.
2. It is recommended that the introduction of the high allergy foods should be considered and tried before 8 to 12 months, most definitely before 12 months. Delayed introduction of these foods may increase the risk of developing food allergy. If your baby/their siblings/parents etc have a history of food allergy, please discuss introduction with your GP, paediatrician or Paediatric Dietitian for extra support and advice to assist you with introducing solids before starting.
I encourage parents to play around with solids introduction, keeping it simple and fun, going with what their little one is telling them. Some days there maybe loads of solids taken and the next not so much. That is more than OK and normal. You eat more some days than others.
I have 6 month olds smashing solids, that is ok and normal for them.
I have 5 month olds showing all the signs of readiness for solids who, when offered a spoon, cry and become distressed. That is ok and normal, they just aren’t quite there yet.
I have 6 month olds only managing solids once a day. That is ok and normal.
Gaining their confidence (and yours) with solids is what the solids journey is all about. Good nutrition will play an important role in their entire life so it is important to start them on the right track from the beginning and let it happen at a natural and supportive pace.
Do what is right for YOU and YOUR BABY.
They all get there!
WHO Recommendations infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant receives breastmilk (including mother’ own expressed breast milk) and allows the infant to receive oral hydration solution, drops, syrups (vitamins, minerals, medicines), but nothing else.
Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond.
Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2019 and beyond / https://www.who.int/tools/elena/interventions/exclusive-breastfeeding
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