This post was reviewed by Dani Rhoades (Certified Nutrition Consultant) and Austen Lincoln (Licensed Pediatric Occupational Therapist)
According to health professionals, you can start incorporating small amounts of solids into your baby’s diet at around six months. Your baby will start to show signs of developmental readiness for solids at this age.
However, introducing solids into your baby’s eating routine can cause digestive issues because their gut isn’t ready for them yet. By solids, we mean small pieces of food versus pureed whole foods (baby food).
At Healthy Little Bellies, we go against the idea of introducing chunks of solid food. We prefer the approach of giving our babies whole foods but introducing them as pureed foods.
Our idea of introducing solids is a bit different than the modern baby-led weaning approach, and we explain it all in our blog post about Baby Led Weaning + Gut Health.
Before introducing solids into your baby’s diet, you need to make sure they’re developmentally ready, and can properly digest them.
This article covers:
- Signs of developmental readiness for solids
- The link between breastmilk and developmental readiness
- Common myths about developmental readiness
Developmental Signs Your Baby Is Ready for Solids
Developmental signs of readiness depend on your baby’s developmental readiness for solids and the maturity of your baby’s digestive tract. Within their first year of life, your baby’s digestive system matures at different stages.
For example, your baby’s digestive system doesn’t contain certain enzymes for digesting solid foods until at least six months of age. In addition, your baby’s digestive system becomes more adept at protecting against illness at around six to eight months of age.
As for developmental readiness for introducing solids, your baby may show the following signs for being ready for solids:
- Sitting upright without support (or very minimal support) and good head control
- Seems interested in different foods or what you’re eating
- Loses the reflex where they push food out of their mouth
- Wants to chew
- Starting to use their forefinger and thumb to grab food (“pincer” grasp)
Is your baby ready for solids, but you’re feeling unsure where to start? In our Starting Solids course we teach you all about your baby’s gut health and development. We walk you through exactly what foods to introduce and when, supporting your baby’s optimal development from 6 months to their 1st birthday.
What If My Baby Is Showing Signs of Developmental Readiness Too Early?
Your baby may show signs of developmental readiness earlier than expected, and that’s okay. There are ways to let your baby participate in events where others eat solids but not allow them to partake quite yet.
For example, have your baby sit at the dinner table with the rest of the family instead of their high chair while they’re eating. You can also give your baby a frozen popsicle made of your breastmilk to get them used to new textures.
However, we recommend you wait until your baby reaches about six months of age before you start introducing different types of foods.
How Baby Led Weaning Factors Into Developmental Readiness for Solids
Baby Led Weaning is the process of introducing a wide variety of foods into your baby’s diet at around six months of age. While this may seem like a good thing, your baby’s gut is not developmentally ready for soft finger foods at this age.
Their gut has not fully developed the digestive enzymes needed to digest solid foods. You can read more about this in our post Baby Led Weaning + Gut Health.
Consequently, if your baby isn’t fully digesting solid foods, they’re not getting all the nutrients they need either. Read more about it in our post Baby Led Weaning + Nutritional Deficiencies.
In addition, introducing solids can put your baby at high risk for choking and gag reflex. For these reasons, we tend to stray away from Baby Led Weaning and introduce new foods in a different way.
Baby led weaning has also been known to cause severe eczema from allergenic foods if solids are introduced too early into your baby’s diet. In those early months of life, things like eggs, cow’s milk, peanut products, fruit juice, and tree nuts can cause your baby to have an allergic reaction.
The best way to avoid these food allergies and prevent eczema is to make your own baby food from whole foods that contain the proper nutritional value. Starting with purees helps to protect and support your baby’s gut health.
Baby led weaning can be problematic for gut health as a baby’s immature digestive system is still developing. As such, it may cause leaky gut and nutritional deficiencies. At Healthy Little Bellies, we believe in a gentler way of introducing solids.
The Link Between Breastmilk and Developmental Readiness for Solids
Breastmilk contains essential vitamins and nutrients crucial to your baby’s development. Not only that, but it also strengthens their immune system, protects against diseases, and strengthens the bond between you and your baby.
Although, this doesn’t mean you should breastfeed forever. At a certain point, your baby will need more iron and zinc in their diet that they cannot get from breastfeeding.
This is where introducing “solids” comes into play. If your baby shows signs of readiness to start solids, you might start thinking about transitioning to solid foods.
However, if you start introducing solids and only solids, your baby isn’t getting the nutrients they need to continue developing. To remedy a lack of nutrients, there is a systematic way of introducing whole foods into your baby’s diet to get all the nutrients they need while weaning off breastmilk. We go more in-depth about the introduction of solid foods in our Starting Solids course.
Common Myths About Developmental Readiness for Solids
Many myths surround developmental readiness that may be confusing you. Let us clear these up.
Before introducing solids, there is a “magic weight” your baby needs to be at.
There is no “magic weight” your baby needs to be at before they can start solids. Starting solids isn’t dependent on weight. It depends on whether your baby seems ready for solids or “whole foods.”
If your baby is considered “big,” they need to start solids.
You may have heard that if you have a large baby, they need to start solids because breastmilk isn’t enough to satisfy them. However, the amount of breastmilk your baby gets after four weeks of age remains constant until around six months.
If your baby is considered “small,” they need to start solids.
You may have heard that if your baby is too small, they need to start solids. However, breastmilk contains many vital nutrients, and when first introducing solids, they won’t get as many nutrients from food as they would drinking breastmilk. Once your baby reaches six months of age, you can start decreasing their breastmilk intake and start introducing nutrient dense foods like bone broth and pureed squash into your child’s diet to ensure they’re getting everything they need to continue developing well.
There’s not enough iron in breastmilk, so your baby needs to start solids.
Although breastmilk contains less iron than infant formula, it is enough to sustain your baby until they reach six months of age. After six months, however, additional iron-rich foods are needed for optimal health. Try pureed winter squash with an animal protein to supplement the loss of iron from breastmilk once your baby is ready for solids.
Our Starting Solids course is a comprehensive guide to introducing real food where we teach you exactly how to care for your baby’s gut as you introduce solid foods. It’s a step-by-step guide that tells you exactly what foods to introduce and when, starting with baby bone broth.