When to Start Solid Foods

Posted by Janet Heinsler on April 29, 2015

Mothers who with their first baby do realize that they will be feeding their baby nothing but milk for some time and eventually add in baby food. The question is, when do you make the switch, or better yet, when do you start adding solid food?          

A study done by the CDC (2013) of over 1300 mothers found that over 40% were feeding their baby solid foods before they were four months old and as many as 9% were feeding them solid foods as early as their fourth week. Until 2012, the commonly held advice was that you could start a baby on solid foods at four months. This is no longer the case. Many mothers were found to be doing it earlier because of improper advice from their physician and cost of formula.
Many women feed their baby solid food early because they believe the myth that feeding them solids will help them sleep through the night or will help them gain weight; this is not the case. It is important that you not feed them food too early because their gut bacteria is not ready for it and they will tend to get diarrhea and gastroenteritis. In addition, those babies who were fed solid food too early were more likely to become diabetic, have eczema, be obese and have celiac disease.
So when is the proper time to add solid food? Although there are no fast and hard rules, there are some general guidelines.  If you are breastfeeding your baby, the general rule is that it is a good idea to breastfeed your child for an entire year without giving them anything else. This includes no water or solid food. The American Academy of Pediatrics states you should breastfeed exclusively for six months. This was changed in 2012; prior to that they advised that it was alright to add in solids as early as four months.  As I said there are no fast and hard rules. If you can breastfeed for a year there are numerous benefits for both you and your baby. If you are not breastfeeding, or are breastfeeding and you think the baby is not getting enough nourishment, there are some general guidelines as to when to start solid food.
As stated above, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not starting you baby on solid foods before six months; you may wait up to a year if the baby is not ready or if you prefer to keep breastfeeding them solely.  This begs the question of how do you know your baby is ready to eat solid foods?  It is important to know that there will be signs that your baby is ready for solid foods. These signs will include, but may not be limited to:
Your baby will start exhibiting an interest in food in general. They might try to grab something from your hand when you are eating it, or they may refuse the bottle and reach for what they see on the table.
Your baby still appears to be hungry after 8 to 10 feedings of breast or bottle milk a day.
Your baby needs to be able to hold their head up straight before you start feeding them solids. They might not be ready for a high chair, but as long as their head can be held up straight, you can give them solids if the other criteria are met. They must be able to do this without you holding them.

The rule of thumb is that the baby should have doubled their weight gain or be at least 15 pounds before you start them on solid food.
The baby must get rid of the reflex where the tongue pushes food out when put in their mouth.
Children are not born with the ability to swallow whole food.  Your child develops this in their first year of their life. It involves taking the food that is put into their mouth, pushing it to the back of their mouth and then swallowing. This is involves the strengthening of various muscles in their mouth and neck.