Thursday, November 3, 2011

Starting Solids: When Should You Start Solids

Starting Solids: When Should You Start Solids

This post is a part of the Starting Solids series. The Starting Solids series is a five post series on what to feed your baby when you start solids and when to start that process. Be sure to check out the other posts in the series! 

First off let’s start off with the fact that health experts recommend all babies be exclusively breastfeed (that means no cereal, juice, etc) for the first 6 months. Oddly this isn’t what many doctor’s are telling their patients. Many doctors still give the 4-6 month guideline despite the fact that the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, and UNICEF all recommend not starting solids until 6 months. Why doctors can’t listen to health experts is beyond me, they really should keep up to date with the rest of the medical world’s views.

Got that? No starting solids of any kind until at least 6 months.

Now after 6 months it’s really up to you and the baby. If your baby is breastfed then technically they don’t need any solids until 12 months. Not that you can’t or in some cases even should hold off that long. Some breastfed babies will want to eat at 6 months, some will ignore food until closer to 1 year. All I’m saying is that breastmilk is a very nutritious food so if your baby is not eating solids like all the other babies then don’t worry. They are still getting plenty to eat. Now formula babies on the other hand should start eating when they show signs of readiness. Formula just can’t compare to breastmilk, no matter how hard they try.

Signs That Baby is Ready For Solids

Teeth are coming in

Able to sit up and old head up well

Interested in food and reaching for food (Although I suggest not taking this as a sole sign that baby wants to eat. Your baby will shove anything in their mouth at this age but that doesn’t mean we should feed them wood toys.)

Does not display tongue thrust reflex

Many also suggest that babies should have doubled their birth weight before starting solids. This I think is a good goal to shoot for and most babies double their weight by 6 months but there are some, like my daughter, who won’t double it till much later. In fact, I think my daughter is just doubling her weight at 12 months! (although we had some weirdness as she was a slightly bigger baby at birth, then we had weight gain issues in the beginning that set us back a bit.)

There are many reasons to delay solids until at least 6 months.

Greater protection from illness (if breastfed) 

Gives baby time for their digestive system to mature. Babies slowly develop the enzymes needed to digest certain foods.

Decreases the risk of allergies. Babies have what is called an "open gut" until they are around 6 months.  After that age the cells close together and keep proteins and pathogens from allowing to enter the bloodstream.

Less chance of anemia (I'm sure there are some cases where this is not true) However, babies who are exclusively breastfed for at least 7 months have higher hemoglobin levels.


  1. Thanks for doing this series. It will be very helpful for me and I know I will refer back to it when the time comes. I will be (trying) to read it, even though I probably will not be commenting much with baby coming tomorrow!

  2. Great advice, as usual. I just wanted to add that even if your baby is showing ALL the signs of readiness, you still need your gut instinct to tell you if it's time to start solids yet. Other than sitting up unassisted, my son hit all the "ready" markers by the time he was 3.5 months! We started solids at 5 months because we just felt like we couldn't hold him off any longer. :)

  3. Ugh. Started my baby on cereals a month ago. Then, I quit this past week and only went w/ fruits. She was 4 1/2 months when I started her on cereal. Is the damage done? Or can I just stop all together now and wait until much later to ensure a healthy child?

    1. Susan - It's possible that the damage is done already but if it is you probably can fix it. It's thankfully especially easy with babies as you control just what they are eating and they aren't used to eating all the "bad" stuff. I associate feeding babies with the GAPS diet (it's not that extreme probably but it's very similar and GAPS is great for healing allergies, digestive issues, etc) GAPS is mostly just broth, probiotic foods, meat, veggies. GAPS like I said is a bit more extreme but I think with babies you are probably fine with just adding these basic foods as your baby is ready for them. So once your baby is ready for broth, I highly suggest it; whether by it's self, with veggies/meat or blended into purees. Also you probably want to add in veggies if you are already doing fruits.

      I do think it's still best to quite the grains until she gets her molars in (or 12 months at the very least). You can still heal whatever has been done and if nothing has been done then all the more reason to delay and not risk acquiring issues. Plus cereals are just filler foods with fake nutrients added in. You might as well give your daughter the best real food.

      Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.


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