The Canadian Paediatric Society, Health Canada and the Dietitians of Canada recommend starting solids when your baby is around 6 months old. While the exact timing may vary from one infant to the next, your baby’s level of development should provide a few clues.
Is my baby ready for solids?
Babies are ready for solids when they:
- hold their head up on their own and turn it away if they are full
- sit upright in a high chair without support
- follow food with their eyes when you are eating next to them
- open their mouth wide when they see food coming
- close their lips over the spoon
- are able to move food to the back of their mouth with their tongue
- have significantly increased their number of feedings in the last 5 days
Good to know!
Don’t assume that a baby under 6 months is necessarily ready for solids just because he or she is feeding more often for a while. It could be just a growth spurt or a temporary increase in appetite.
Starting solids – Timing is everything
If you start feeding babies too soon…
- their digestive system will not be ready for solid foods
- they may not be able to swallow food from a spoon, posing a choking hazard
- they may drink less milk (breast milk or formula), which needs to remain the primary source of food for infants
If you start babies on solid foods too late, they may:
- not get all the nutrients they need (at a certain age)
- have difficulty learning to accept and try new foods and textures
- have difficulty in chewing foods
Certain myths die hard. For example, starting solid foods early will not help your baby sleep through the night. Babies sleep through the night when they are developmentally ready to do so. In addition, your baby does not need teeth to start eating solids.
Tips on how to start
You probably get plenty of advice since the birth of your baby! The number one rule is to trust in your own capabilities as a parent. Of course, that’s easier said than done when you are facing new situations . So here are a few tips you may find useful.
- Always breastfeed or formula feed your baby 30 minutes before a meal. Offer solids after. Remember that when they are first introduced, solids are “extras.” For up to 9 to 12 months, babies will get most of their nutrients from breast milk or formula. Think of solids not only as nutrition, but as an opportunity for your little one to experience new textures and flavours while practising the motor skills necessary for spoon feeding.
- Sit your baby in a high chair. Always fasten the seat belt and never leave your child alone while eating.
- Start with small amounts of food. Gradually increase the size of servings based on your baby’s appetite . Start with once per day, in the morning, and progress to twice per day once your baby accepts food well.
- Put some food on your baby's lips with a small spoon. But put food in your baby’s mouth only if he or she opens it. A baby who does not swallow the food may not be ready for solids yet. Wait a few days and try again.
- Let your baby’s reactions be your guide. Babies tell you when they have had enough to eat by turning their head away or keeping their mouth shut.
- Never force your baby to eat. Keep mealtimes pleasant.
Do you have questions on how to best feed your baby? Come and speak with your family pharmacist for help and advice.