How To Know If Your Baby Is Ready For Solids

I couldn’t wait to start solids with my kids. I was ready with single-grain cereals and rubber baby spoons the minute they each turned four months old. Other moms I know went much slower and felt reluctant (and a little nervous) about making the leap. But though all parents may feel differently about the transition, the most important thing when starting solids is knowing when your baby is ready.

…though all parents may feel differently about the transition, the most important thing when starting solids is knowing when your baby is ready.

Truth be told, I jumped the gun a bit. The American Academy of Pediatric (AAP) now recommends waiting until around six months to start solids—and ideally, exclusively breastfeeding until that point (then continuing to breastfeed until at least 12 months). In addition to your baby’s age, the AAP says there are other signs you should be looking for when deciding when to start, like these:

  • Your baby can sit in a high chair or infant seat and has good head control.
  • Your baby opens his mouth when food comes his way.
  • Your baby seems interested in what you’re eating.
  • Your baby can move food from the spoon into his throat (rather than pushing it out of his mouth)
  • Your baby has doubled her birth weight and weighs about 13 pounds or more.

Keep in mind that advice on first foods has changed a bit too. Though rice cereal was long recommended as the perfect starter, parents can now begin with any number of foods starting at six months, from veggie or fruit purees to pureed meat–and yes, even yogurt!

You may also have heard that certain foods like nut butter and fish are off-limits now because of allergies. But the AAP now says that starting these foods in the first year may be best for children and may even help prevent food allergies. (It’s also smart to check with your baby’s doctor first, especially if there is a family history of food allergies.) Whatever food you choose first, be sure to wait 2-3 days before trying another new food, so you can spot any negative reactions like rash or tummy troubles.

Ready to get started? Here are more tips for success:

Start small: Begin with half-spoonfuls of pureed food (never serve solids in a bottle). Mix purees with breastmilk or formula to make a thinner consistency at first, which can gradually thicken as your baby gets more comfortable with solids. Many of those first bites will come right back out of your baby’s mouth as he learns how to swallow. That’s normal!

Time it right: Starting solids before four months of age (even if your baby seems ready) isn’t smart. Your baby’s digestive system is ready to handle solids yet, and there’s also evidence that starting before four months may increase your baby’s risk for diabetes and obesity. But starting too long after six months isn’t wise either, and may slow your baby’s growth or trigger aversions to the texture of solid foods.

Get ready for changes: The contents of your baby’s diaper will change after he starts solids, including different smells and colors. (You may even spy whole pieces of food.)

Don’t stress: In these first few weeks, your baby may not get a lot of nourishment through solid feedings, but he is doing a lot of important learning! And remember that he’s still getting plenty of nutrition through breast milk or formula in the meantime.