The first time you feed your baby a solid food marks an exciting milestone in their development. Transitioning babies to solids typically begins around six months of age, though some doctors say that you can start as early as four months. The timeframe is different for each child, and like other developmental milestones (such as crawling, or walking), some kids may take longer than others to learn to eat food. There are also other concerns, such as allergies.
Today, I discuss three signs to look for before introducing solids. It’s always best to consult your doctor with anything regarding your baby’s development.
Maintain their head in midline Babies have to be able to hold their head up and maintain it in an upright position. They may not be sitting fully independently yet, but if they are sitting in their bouncy chair, high-chair, or on your lap, they must be able to support the weight of their head. If you notice that your baby’s head is still falling forward or sideways when they are seated, then it may be best to wait until they can learn to hold their head up.
Their Tongue-Thrust has began to diminish A tongue-thrust is the reflex of sticking the tongue out when anything comes near the mouth. This reflex allows babies to easily latch on nipples to feed. When you first give your baby a spoon to eat, you may notice that they stick their tongue out, which will block you from inserting the spoon inside their mouth. You may think your baby is being defiant, but this is a very natural reflex. A tongue thrust can be very strong when you first introduce solids, but should gradually begin to diminish as the baby gets older. Their oral-motor skills will also develop to help them learn to use their tongue and jaw to chew and swallow food.
Show interest in food, and imitate eating Is your baby constantly reaching for your plate food? or tries to grab food from your hands? This is a clear sign that they are showing interest in eating. Whether you introduce purees first or do the “baby-led weaning” method, your baby may initially be only interested in playing and licking food, and you may notice that they’re only consuming 2 teaspoons or so of food in an entire day. Playing with food and licking foods, though may be frustrating to the parent, is a positive sensory experience for babies. As your baby gets older, they will develop their oral-motor skills to chew and swallow, as well as learn to self-feed more neatly.
If you feel your child is struggling in any of the skills above? Many babies will need prompting or exercises to develop the above skills. A comprehensive Occupational Therapy assessment looks at oral-motor skills, oral-sensory needs and preferences, as well as any behavioural challenges surrounding mealtimes.
Mealtimes are about enjoying quality time with family as much as they are about eating. Developing positive routines around feeding will help your baby develop good feeding practices as they get older. If your baby is ready for solids, it is a good time to start implementing healthy feeding habits in your home. See my previous blogpost on this topic here.