Much ink has been spilled over the advantages of breastfeeding, as you have probably noticed. Solids for babies are, by contrast, much less talked about, and I think that’s a shame. After all, they’re the perfect way to introduce your baby to all the wonderful flavours there are and to lay the foundation for healthy eating habits. I’d like to recommend you to also immerse yourself in solids and to experiment, because every child has its own favourite flavours and textures. Read on to find out when your baby is ready for weaning, and which food myths need debunking.
How do you know your baby is ready for weaning?
No matter your method – from purées over baby-led weaning to a combination of both – your baby has to be ready to start solids. Telltale signs that your baby is ready to wean include:
- he is interested in table foods.
- he is able to hold his head steady and can sit up in a feeding chair with a little help (don’t worry if he can’t sit up completely on his own yet).
- he can grab things and bring them to his mouth. His hand-eye coordination is improving, in other words.
- he does not push food back out with his tongue, meaning he has sufficient control over his mouth muscles to start chewing.
You will notice that your baby will start showing these signs at about six months of age. At that point, his digestive system is mature enough to digest solid foods. Yet it goes without saying that all children develop at their own pace, so there is no such thing as ‘the right age’ for a baby to start eating solid foods. Follow your child’s lead and start when he is ready.
Introducing solids: some food myths debunked
You sometimes hear people say that children are ready for weaning when they start putting their fists or their toys into their mouths. Yet this behaviour is actually just part of the oral phase in their development. Others are convinced that a child is ready when he no longer needs nighttime feeds, but that’s an unrelated matter, too. After all, it’s normal for children to wake up at night, especially at six months old.
Is your little one suddenly demanding more milk? Be careful to take that as your cue to shift to solids, because it might just mean he’s going through a growth spurt or is making up for days in which he ate less.
It’s probably clear by now that saying ‘a child is ready for it at four, five or six months’ is quite beside the point. Don’t look at the calendar, but look at your baby. If he ticks the four boxes I mentioned earlier, he’s ready to give solids a go.
Why are solid foods called supplementary foods?
Solid foods are sometimes called ‘supplementary foods’, because milk remains your baby’s main source of nutrition, and the start and end of his meals. If you want to breastfeed for as long as possible, it’s best to start with breast milk: your baby will drink when he is hungriest, and solids will literally be supplementary. I myself started weaning my son at a quiet moment, making sure not to let this milestone coincide with, for instance, him starting daycare or being weaned off breast milk.
Chaos at the table? That’s completely normal!
Introducing your baby to solid foods often means chaos and perhaps a bit of stress. It is bound to be a messy business, too, because ‘playful learning’ and ‘practice makes perfect’ are key. Your child was used to the flavour and texture of milk, and is suddenly taking his taste buds to the next level. Just imagine what a strange experience it must be to discover the wonderful world of 1001 new flavours, smells and textures. It requires practice, and some days will be better than others. Give yourselves some time, and your baby will soon be munching on solids. After all, riding a bike isn’t something you expect your kid to learn overnight either, right?
Trust your child and your instincts
Dare to trust your instincts as a parent, and let your child take the lead. You should do what feels best for you, and look for the information you need to start with confidence.
What were your experiences introducing solids? What was your little one’s favourite recipe? We’d love to hear all about it!