Eating solid foods is an exciting milestone for baby and that first feeding is a rite of passage for parents. It's also one of the only times in life that those quick-reflex ducking skills you gained playing dodge ball in middle school finally come in handy. It’s important to know, however, when your baby’s not ready for solid foods just yet.
Dr. Daniel S. Ganjian, M.D., a pediatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper that starting solids "has an art to it," and "it's not just about putting solid foods in babies' mouths."
When you're first introducing non-liquids to your baby, start with soft foods and pieces that can be held easily with tiny hands, according to pediatric dietitian Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, R.D. For Baby's first solid foods, she recommends nutrient-dense foods with iron, protein, and healthy fats so that every calorie that makes it into those little mouths counts.
Malkoff-Cohen also wants you to remember that first foods are all about exploring, wearing, mushing, and dropping —not just eating. "Your floor will be covered and the family dog will love it," she says. Most importantly, make sure Baby will love it too by waiting until they're ready. If they're not, they'll let you know by showing these signs.
1. Baby Can't Sit Up Without Support
Sitting up without support is one of the most important gross motor skills baby needs to safely and effectively eat solid foods. This milestone can occur as early as 6 months. This is also when Baby's digestive system is better prepared for these new foods, according to the World Health Organization. "It took [my son] a little longer to sit up and I waited until he was 7 months to begin," says Malkoff-Cohen.
If by this age, baby cannot sit up without support, Malkoff-Cohen suggests having a conversation with your child's pediatrician.
2. They Can't Maintain Head Control When Sitting Up
Sitting upright and having good head control helps promote a good swallow, helps avoid choking, aids in digestion, and reduces reflux, Malkoff-Cohen says.
3. They Still Have The Tongue-Thrust Reflex
"Children have a tongue-thrust reflex where they instinctively push out food and spoons from their mouths. You have to wait for that reflex to decrease," Ganjian says, which is usually around 6 months old. Some children also have a strong gag reflex until that age, he says, and you need to wait until that decreases.
4. Baby Doesn't Seem Interested in Food
How do you know if baby is or isn't interested in food? Eat in front of them. If your baby watches you eat, smacks their lips when you're eating, or reaches for your utensils when you're using them, they're definitely interested, according to pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D.
5. They Have Difficulties Swallowing
Malkoff-Cohen says if your baby has swallowing issues, breathing issues, or problems controlling their lips or tongue, they aren't ready for solids just yet. Additionally, if your baby has a lip or tongue tie that could potentially cause some issues with eating solids, and you should speak to pediatrician about these concerns.
6. They're Not Developmentally On Schedule
Developmentally babies may not be ready to start solid foods when you expect. Look for signs of missed milestones, such as not cooing and not making eye contact, among other things, Malkoff-Cohen says.
7. They Cough A Lot When Trying to Eat Solids
"Some children still need even more time to develop their swallowing muscles and coordination. If you see your child coughs a lot while eating, consider waiting to start solids or make the solids softer by adding milk or water," Ganjian says.
8. Baby Isn't Old Enough
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solid foods at about 6 months of age. "That said, all babies are different, and therefore it's important to understand the signs of readiness to start solids," says Swanson.