It feels like your floppy, glassy-eyed newborn turned into a wriggling, giggly, drooling cherub overnight. Your sweet baby is growing at a rapid rate and you might start worrying that breastmilk or formula is no longer fulfilling your baby’s nutritional needs. Many parents grapple with when to introduce solid foods to their little one. You may also be getting conflicting advice from well-meaning friends, relatives, paediatricians, and the internet, and could be feeling pressured to introduce solids sooner than necessary.
According to the World Health Organisation, breastmilk (or formula) is the only source of food that your baby needs for the first six months of their lives. When they’re around six months old, you can start introducing solid foods. At this age, the food isn’t meant to replace breastmilk or formula, but complement it to meet their growing energy and nutritional needs.
The organisation recommends that breastmilk (or formula) remains the baby’s main source of food until they reach the age of 1, and even encourages frequent, on-demand breastfeeding until the age of 2 or beyond.
La Leche League International, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to breastfeeding education, has published handy information on how to know when your baby is developmentally ready for those first bites of solid food. They include:
- Your baby is around six months old
- Your baby is able to sit unsupported
- Your baby has lost its tongue-thrust reflex (this is the reflex that makes baby push food out of its mouth with its tongue)
- Your baby’s pincer grip – the ability to pick things up between its finger and thumb – is developed
- Your baby shows interest in your food
La Leche League also provides useful information on how to introduce solids to your baby and some ideas of what to feed them. The organisation points out that introducing solid foods before your baby is ready will not improve its sleep at night, increase calories, or be beneficial to larger babies.
When your baby’s finally ready for its first solid foods, you’ll be delighted to watch their facial expressions as they discover new tastes and textures. This is a big step in your little one’s development and they’ll be thrilled to be an active participant in family meals.