With all the different sources of information out there, you may feel confused about when to start your baby on solid food. By solid food, I mean food that is not breast milk. At Toronto Public Health, we recommend feeding your baby only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. At 6 months, once baby shows you they are ready, you should begin to feed solid foods and continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond. I want to explain why this time frame is recommended in hopes that it will help you feel more prepared and confident in starting solid foods.
How does my baby show me they are ready?
Before starting solid food, your baby should show signs that they are ready:
- Can hold his head up
- Can sit up in a high chair
- Can open his mouth wide when you offer food on a spoon
- Can turn his face away if he does not want the food
- Can close his lips over the spoon
- Can keep the food in his mouth and swallow instead of pushing it out
If you try feeding your baby solid food and they don’t seem ready, simply stop and wait a few more days. A few extra days may be all that it takes
Why not start earlier?
It is important that your baby is ready for solid food. Starting too early may increase their risk of choking.
If you start too early, your baby may breastfeed less often, which can lead to them missing out on important nutrients from breast milk. If you breastfeed less often, you may start to produce less breast milk.
Babies go through many growth spurts. If your baby seems hungrier or is waking more often for feedings, they may simply need more breast milk during this time. It is not a sure sign that they are ready for solid food.
Why not start later?
If you start too late, your baby may be missing out on important nutrients needed for their growth and development such as iron, zinc and vitamin A. They may also have more trouble accepting new foods and textures and have more trouble chewing.
The time to start will vary slightly with every baby. Learn more.
If you find yourself unsure, talk to a health professional that can help you decide when to start. You can also chat or call Toronto Public Health at (416) 338-7600 and ask to speak with a dietitian.