The Easy Way to Know When To Start Solids

Aug 15, 2018

When your baby is a newborn, it feels like an endless cycle of nurse/bottle, try to put to sleep, change diaper — and maybe squeeze in a shower for yourself. It feels like your baby is NEVER going to grow up, never going to be able to do things on his own, never going to be an actual human being, never — wait! Was that a smile?!

Ahah - it was! 

And that’s when the fun begins. Once your baby starts responding to you, doing things on his own and interacting with the world at large, he’s just taken his first step into becoming part of humanity. (And here you were thinking it was just a smile!).

But before the major cognition pieces start coming around, the first skills your baby is going to learn are motor skills and eating real food — because, after all, he’s not going to be on a liquid diet forever!

But solids, like everything else in your baby’s upbringing, is so confusing - when should you start? What should you feed? How much is enough? What’s not okay? And - of course - what about your supply?

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there (mothers are kinda like Jews — 2 mothers, 3 opinions!), but here are the boiled-down basics - when, why and how much (and why NOT).


When does the Solids Journey start?

The best time to start feeding your baby solids is at around 6 months. As my pediatrician says, nothing magical happens at the stroke of midnight when he turns 6 months — the age is more a guideline.

Some pediatricians have recommended beginning solids a little earlier — around 4 months old. I would, though, be cautious about beginning significantly before 6 months of age (and yes, 4 months qualifies for “significantly”), especially for a breastfed baby, since WHO does recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.


Why to start at around 6 months

So why should you start at about 6 months? 

Why simply because it’s the time to start - because at around six months, a bunch of things are happening all at once that create the perfect Solid Starting Situation:

First — your baby’s mineral stores start running out. While breastmilk does have everything your baby needs those first few months, it doesn’t have everything. But fear not - Hashem’s got it all set up. Our babies stockpile those crucial nutrients during gestation, building up the store that they’ll need to get them till approximately the 6 month mark — when they’ll be ready to take those in through solid foods.

Why are they ready at 6 months? Because that’s when the other things babies need to have to start eating solids happens: the ability to hold foods and bring them to their mouths (more on that in a bit!), hold their heads up, and show interest in food.


How much should you give (and what about your supply?)

When we’re used to feeding adults and little kids, it’s easy to get carried away when feeding our babies. The key to knowing how much to give is to follow your baby’s cues. If she’s interested, give it to her. If she closes her mouth, turns away, or refuses to take it - back off. She doesn’t need that now. 

While “food before one is just for fun” can be a great philosophy to start out with, remember that by the time your baby hits one, solid foods should be all (if you’re not nursing) or, at least nearly all (if you are nursing) of your baby’s nutrition. 

In the first few months — don’t sweat it. Any solids that your baby actually eats is a bonus: complementary nutrition on top of what she is already getting from nursing. The main thing is to experience the food, get used to new textures and tastes and learn to eat (more on that in next week’s post).

Once she gets a stronger handle on eating (no pun intended), and establishes a steady 3 solid meals a day at around 9 months, her solids consumption may start to cut into her nursing. And that’s just fine — she’ll eat what she needs.


Don’t Start Solids If…

You’re just trying to help your baby sleep better. I don’t know how prevalent these myths still are (I had a client less than a year ago whose pediatrician recommended rice cereal to help him sleep better 🤦‍♀️), but I do want to establish this: they are myths.

A baby who’s gaining weight fine and making regular dirty diapers is eating enough; waking in the middle of the night is rarely indicative of a baby’s hunger and is more often caused by a behavioral sleep difficulty like props or overtiredness.

Not sure if your baby should be able to sleep through the night? Check out this post.


How did you know your baby was ready to start solids?

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