Dr. Greene’s Answer:
Holding a newborn in your arms is incomparable magic, but a wonderful new stage of smiling, laughing, and interaction comes later, signaled by the introduction of solid foods.
Looking at a baby’s development is far more important than looking at a calendar to decide when is the right time to start feeding solids. It was once popular to do this according to a rigid timeline of set serving sizes at certain intervals, but we now know that each baby develops uniquely.
Your baby may know it is time before you do! The most obvious sign is a baby that still seems hungry after getting enough milk (8-10 breast feedings or 32 ounces of formula in a day). Your darling may lean forward eagerly or act fussy when you are eating.
Babies that are ready for solids can lift and support their own heads. They usually weigh at least 13 pounds and have often doubled their birth weights. They display curiosity about the world around them, following objects with their eyes and smiling at what they see.
Newborns are built for liquid nutrition. They instinctively push their tongues against anything inserted into their mouths. To succeed with solids, babies will need to overcome the strong tongue-thrust reflex they are born with.
For most babies this readiness happens between 4 and 6 months old. Not coincidently, this is the same period when most babies have increased caloric needs and are starting to deplete the iron they are born with. Iron-fortified infant cereals can help supply these needs.
But again, don’t look at the calendar: watch for the developmental cues listed above.
For the first several days, more food is likely to end up on the face than in the mouth. Pictures and videos taken during these historic days will be treasures for a lifetime.
If your baby gets upset at solids, or doesn’t seem interested at all, go back to nursing or bottle-feeding exclusively for a week or two, and then try again. There’s certainly no rush before at least 6 months old.
I do recommend at least trying solids by the time babies are rolling easily and sitting independently, even if they haven’t yet seemed interested. This will give them a good opportunity to learn the process of eating and swallowing while their brains are primed for it.
When the first spoonful is accepted and swallowed, at whatever age, you and your baby enter a new era in your relationship, a rich time of deepening new interactions.
You are becoming friends.
Photo credit: PraewBlackWhile