One of the commonest questions that I get asked by parents of babies is – “How will I know if my baby is ready for weaning to solids?” or “How will I know if I should start my baby on solids?”
And my answer is that you need to look out for 5 critical signs that will tell you that it is now time for you to wean your baby from breast milk to solids
Weaning to solids is a very important milestone in the life of a baby who has only been breastfed since birth. It is important to wait until your baby is physically, mentally and emotionally ready for solids before starting solids.
At what age should you start looking out for signs of readiness for solids
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed until they are 6 months old. This means that babies should drink nothing other than breast milk until the age of 6 months. This means that signs of readiness for solids should be looked out for only after the baby is 6 months old.
Why is important to assess if baby is ready for solids before weaning
A baby who has been on a diet of liquids only – will need to learn how to swallow solids initially. For this she/he will need to hold his/her body and neck in a certain position so that the solid food makes its way into the food pipe and does not enter the wind pipe and cause choking. So assessment of posture is very important.
Also a baby who is showing signs of readiness for food will be enthusiastic about feeding himself/herself – which will result in fewer mealtime battles over eating and eventual good eating habits.
Detailed article follows after the video
What are the signs that your baby is ready for solids
These are the 5 signs that tell you that your baby is now ready to eat solids
- Your baby can sit up without support – Sitting up without support is an essential pre-requisite for weaning to solids. No baby should be started on solids if he/she is not able to sit up straight. This is because an erect posture is extremely important to keep the food pipe open and allow solid food to move in.
- Your baby can hold his/her head up – The neck needs to be straight to ensure that the food pipe is open. And if you still need to hold your baby’s neck up it means that he/she has not yet developed the muscle tone necessary. Without the necessary muscle tone your baby may start choking when you feed her/him solids and so it is important to wait until your child develops neck control.
- Your baby shows an interest in food and eating – When it is time for babies to start eating solids – nature will ensure that they get interested in solids. So if your baby follows your hand as you carry food from the plate to your mouth. And if your baby perks up and makes swallowing and chewing movements when he/she smells the food you are eating – it means that the sense organs are now ready to receive the texture, taste and smell of solid food
- Your baby is able to pick up objects – When your baby is ready to eat – nature will ensure the hand to eye coordination required to bring objects to your baby’s mouth. You will find that your baby is interested in objects around her/him and is attempting to bring these objects to the mouth
- Your baby puts everything into the mouth – Solids are something that we are meant to eat ourselves – unlike breast milk which we are supposed to be offered and fed. So when your baby is ready for solids he will begin to take everything around her/him to the mouth to find out if it is edible. So developing the ability to take objects to the mouth is a sure sign of being ready for solids.
What to do if your baby does not show these signs at 6 months
It is important to look for these signs to know if your baby is ready for weaning to solids or not. If your baby does not show these signs of readiness for solids – delay starting solids for a few weeks until these signs appear.
It is important to understand that different babies mature at different times and a few weeks of delay in reaching certain milestones is perfectly acceptable and normal.
When weaning babies the signs of readiness for solids is much better marker for starting weaning than the chronological age of the child.
Also Read Never force your child to eat