Just when you think you've gotten a hang of the baby thing, there's something new to add into the mix. Usually, the first wrench that throws parents after the newborn period is having to introduce their little babe to solid foods. Until recently, the common recommendation was to start solids at 4 months, but the latest American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines suggest waiting until 6 months. What else has changed in solid-feeding practices? Should babies eat solids three times a day?
According to the website for Dr. Sears, waiting until 6 months to introduce solids has a few benefits. At this time, your baby's intestines are more mature, and so, there's less of a chance of allergies and food intolerances. Also, as mentioned by Dr. Sears, their tongue-thrust reflex, which instinctively pushes food out of their mouths, will have nearly diminished. Babies also have stronger head control at this time and are more socially involved in eating behaviors (like sitting at a high chair or table), so they will have likely begun showing interest in foods.
Dr. Gary Kramer, M.D., Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (F.A.A.P.) based in Miami, Florida, agrees with the current recommendation to start solids at 6 months of age. "At this age," he says to Romper, "infants benefit both from the nutritional content of the food, as well as the challenge that is offered in the maturation of the chewing and swallowing mechanism."
When your baby is showing signs of readiness, and your doctor has given you an OK to introduce solids, there is a best-practice approach to starting.
According to Kids Health, you and your baby will both have a better experience if you attempt feeding when your little one is not tired or cranky. They should be hungry, but not extremely hungry, so sometimes parents like to breastfeed briefly, or give a bit of a bottle, a short while before beginning. This way, your baby will be ready to eat, but not so distracted by hunger to try something new.
As far as how often to feed solids, there's no "right" method. Because babies should get the majority of their calories and nutrition from breast milk or formula until they are 12 months, there's no serious pressure to put your little babe on a strict feeding schedule right away, as Dr. Sears' website mentioned.
By 9 months, as noted by Cleveland Clinic, most babies are having three meals a day, in addition to their formula or breast milk. More than anything, this is to establish a pattern for mealtime eating that will likely begin after their first birthday. Eating at the table as a part of the family allows young babies an appropriate model to learn from. Because babies' stomachs are so teeny, they likely won't eat much at a time, and shouldn't be forced to.
As Kramer mentions, "there are no 'absolutes' in the realm of infant nutrition."
How and how often your baby eats solids will largely depend on your family's routines and habits, and that's totally OK. Be sure to stay in touch with your baby's pediatrician to ensure that your little one is receiving all the appropriate nutrients and experiences for her age and development.