I remember the day my daughter turned 6-months-old and my partner and I decided to give her solid food. We had been looking forward to the moment we could give her more than just formula for at least a month, and she took to solid foods I couldn't help but wonder how she would have handled the transition if we had introduced them sooner. So if you're asking yourself, "Should I introduce solids before 6 months?" know that you're not alone. The answer, however, isn't as straightforward as the question itself.
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) tells parents to, "Introduce solid foods at around six months of age," which is essentially the association's recommendation for when to introduce solid foods. But what does "around six months" really mean? The Mayo Clinic gives a little more detail when it comes to the recommended timeline, explaining that between 4 and 6 months old, babies are ready for solid foods. The site goes on to explain that during that particular age and/or developmental milestone, babies start to be able to push food from the back of their mouths to the front, which is one of the main, key requirements of being physically able to eat solid foods. Before 4 to 6 months of age, babies lack the right enzymes to digest starch, too, so their tiny baby stomaches just aren't ready to break down anything more than formula and/or breast milk.
The Mayo Clinic also explains that waiting until your baby is 6-months-old to introduce solid foods can ensure that babies who are exclusively breastfed enjoy the full benefits of breast milk. The Mayo Clinic also says that waiting until your baby hits the recommended age also helps limit the risk for obesity, as well upset stomach and choking, which can all happen if you start introducing solids too early.
It is, however, important to take note that Parents warns that starting babies too late with solids can have adverse affects, too. If you start your baby on solids much later than 6 months of age, you run the risk of your baby having oral motor delays, iron deficiency, or an aversion to solid foods.
How do you know your baby is ready for solid foods? There are a few things you can look for to know whether your baby is ready. Baby Center says if your baby can sit with support and hold their head in a steady, upright position, you can start to slowly introduce solid foods into their diet. If your baby is eyeing your plate of food, looking genuinely interested in your meal, that's another sign that they'll be ready to have a few bites of their own.
As for which solid foods to start, that's another question to consider. Good first foods, according to Baby Center, include pureed sweet potatoes, squash, applesauce, bananas, peaches, and pears. Experts recommend that babies who are exclusively breastfed start with iron-rich foods, like chicken or turkey, in order to restore iron that starts to deplete after 4 to 6 months. Iron-fortified cereal is another options made available to parents.
In other words, once your baby hits 4-months-old you can start to look for certain signs that they're ready for the next step. After all, and before you know it, they're going to be asking to eat some of chocolate you've hidden away. (Yes, your child will absolutely find your super secret personal stash. Trust me.)