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Baby Nutrition – Introducing Solid Foods: Signs of Readiness

Posted Apr 25 2010 11:49am

By Colleen Hurley, RD, Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist

Is your baby starting to show signs of wanting to open her mouth and let a spoon in?  Then get ready for the exciting (and messy) adventure of introducing solid foods.  This is an important time in your baby’s life. Not only are you introducing foods to her tummy for the first time, you are also setting the course for her lifelong eating behaviors.  Most global health experts agree that babies should be solely breastfed for the first 6 months of life.  Although some say you may start introducing solids earlier, here are some good reasons to wait:

  • Reduce the risk of overfeeding: younger babies are unable to turn their head to let you know when they are full
  • Reduce the risk of developing allergies: baby’s intestinal tract is not fully developed until 6 months old so introducing solid foosignsofreadinessforsolidsds too early can result in food allergies
  • Prevent choking: most babies cannot swallow food correctly before 6 months of age
  • Avoid myths: starting your baby on solids early to help him sleep through the night is just a myth

Signs of Readiness for Solid Foods

The leading expert on when it is time to introduce solid foods is actually your baby.  Babies will express the following signs when it is time for solids:

  • Ability to sit and hold head up unassisted
  • Doubling of birth weight
  • Loss of the tongue- thrust reflex: when something reaches a baby’s mouth, he automatically pushes them out.  This will cease around 6 months when ready for solids
  • Reaching for your fork or spoon at mealtime or food off our plate
  • Development of the pincer grasp: picking up object with the thumb and index finger
  • Ready and willing to chew

Oftentimes parents, even physicians, will tout increased hunger as another cue of readiness for solid foods but that alone should not be the reason especially if it is too early.  Babies often experience a growth spurt around 3-4 months that may require more frequent nursing but often go back to normal within a few weeks. There may also be temporary other factors like teething, cold, flu, or developmental changes so make sure to look at all the signs of readiness for solids.

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