6 Myths Your Baby is Ready for Solids
Are you stuck? You think your baby is ready for solids… but you’re not 100% confident?
It’s confusing. Different people have different opinions and research keeps changing. When I first introduce solids to my oldest, after asking other mothers what they had done or the advice of health professionals, the less confident I felt.
To know if your baby is ready, a good place to start is debunking some of the myths to starting solids that are circulating. You will hear well-meaning people say these myths to be fact. But after reading about them, you will be confident that you are on the right track with waiting one week or more.
6 MYTHS To Starting Solids Debunked
1. Night-time waking = Hungrier = Ready for solids
Your baby had settled into a routine. Sleeping through and you had a glimpse of what it meant to be human again. But at 4months your little one has started waking more.
The dark circles under your eyes have reappeared (although they never really went away) and you’re brain processing speed equals that of the old dial-up internet connections.
Well-meaning advice is: “They are just hungry, you need to start solids”.
Just like boys will go through a testosterone spurt around 4-years and teenagers need more sleep. It’s a stage. And at 4-months your baby’s nighttime waking is not linked to hunger.
At around 4 months, babies have sleep regression. It’s a regression, but it is linked to their sleep cycles maturing. Four-month-olds start to establish a circadian rhythm.
If your baby is learning to self-sooth, when they go into the ‘light’ sleep cycle then they can cry out… as they are wanting you to help put them back to sleep.
Nothing to do with hunger.
The best thing you can do, if you are going through this stage is to help them to learn to self-sooth – pretty soon they will be sleeping through.
(note: some babies may be teething as well, this can cause night waking)
So, if your 4-month-old night-time sleep is getting worse. It is a phase that can be helped by teaching them to self-soothe. Not linked to hunger. No need to start solids just yet.
2. Reaching for Food is a Sign of Readiness
I’m going to have a rant.
There is nothing that annoyed me more than someone telling me that just because my baby was reaching for food at 4 or 5 months meant they were ready for solids and I was holding them back by not starting them.
They would have reached for poo if I happened to be playing with it.
Babies will reach for food, like they reach for your keys. They will want to put food in their mouth’s just like they will put your keys in their mouths.
Just because a child is ready to push the button on the pedestrian crossing, doesn’t make them ready to cross the road by themselves. Reaching for food means they can push a button, it doesn’t make them ready to start digesting solid food.
Reaching for objects and being able to put their hand to their mouth is a developmental sign your baby is getting ready to be able to start solids… But without the other signs (see below) they are not developed enough to start the solid food journey.
3. Baby is struggling to put on weight…they need solids earlier
Jess’s baby, Molly, was on the lighter side from birth. Molly had taken weeks to regain the weight she lost post birth. All of her antenatal visits had been focused on her weight. A 20g gain was phenomenal.
At 4months, Jess has been told that she should start solids if she wanted Molly to weight to increase.
But, that doesn’t make sense.
Pound for pound, breastmilk has more calories than solid food. It makes more sense to breastfeed more frequently than it does to introduce solids to a baby younger than 6months who is on the lighter side.
If your baby is on the lighter side and you have had all the checks with your doc and nothing seems to be wrong… your baby is thriving mentally and hitting all their milestone… someone has to be in the 5th percentile, that is what makes it a ‘range’.
Starting solids because a baby is not gaining weight quick enough makes no sense.
NOTE: Breastmilk production is based on supply and demand. The more frequently you feed the more milk you will produce.
4. Larger babies need solid food earlier…
“You haven’t started solids yet? You probably should soon”
“Why?” I asked
“Look he is ready. He looks more like a 6-month-old than a 4-month-old”. “I started my babies on solids at 4-weeks…”
By my fourth baby, I wasn’t fazed by these older generation opinions. I knew they were just that, their opinion. The advice they got 30-years ago had changed. More research had been done and ‘best-practise’ had been up-dated.
It was common for large babies to be fed solid food earlier. The doubling of one’s birth weight was seen as a sign that a baby was ready for solid food.
But this has changed.
It is typical for babies to double their birth weight at around 5.5 months of age. Coinciding with the age when a baby becomes more ready to start solids. But just because it’s typical, doesn’t mean it is typical for your baby.
While weight is one of the signs that babies are ready for solids, their developmental signs are stronger.
If your baby, like mine, doubled their weight quicker after birth (my comeback is I have cream not milk) but is younger than 5.5 months. Wait.
Weight by itself is not a clear sign your baby is ready to start digesting solid food.
5. Starting solids = decrease their milk feeds
Someday I felt like I got nothing done. I would have finished feeding only for time to fly and my little one was ready to nurse again. I was exhausted, and I worried that my milk just wasn’t enough. My boobs never seemed to fill.
Is your baby guzzling milk all day?
I feel for you. Some days and weeks, especially in the first 6monhts are tough. Especially when your wee one is going through a growth spurt and they are hungrier… and fussier.
Maybe you have been told that if you start solids they will help decrease their milk feeds…
But, introducing solids will not help. And, it can make the fussiness worse.
If your baby is guzzling milk all day and you are thinking your milk maybe not enough… it is. I know it doesn’t make things easier, but it is a stage.
Waiting until your baby is 6 months will be better for your little one in the long run.
6. Start at 4 months…
I couldn’t wait.
I couldn’t wait for Huxley, my first to smile.
I couldn’t wait for her to roll over. To sit. To crawl. To start solids.
When I had Huxley, I was smitten… but she didn’t do much.
When she smiled for the first time it was like someone took all the rainbows in the world and put them into my heart. It was a moment I would never forget… She was interacting with me and the world
The next stage always seemed exciting. Being a nutritionist, I couldn’t wait for my moment to shine and start her on solids.
Some health recommended from 4-6months and some said 6 months+. When I first introduced solids, I was confused as heck.
A 4-month-old seemed tiny compared to a 6-month-old…
10 years later I’m confident recommending waiting until 6months to introduce solids… not 4-6 months.
There are a few circumstances when starting slightly before 6 months is going to be fine, but not at 4-months. Waiting the extra week or so will help your baby’s digestion mature more to be ready to start their solid journey.
The research is clear: Exclusively breastfeeding a baby for their first 6months is like giving a magical elixir for health. Short term and life-long health.
If you are chomping at the bit to start?
Ready to start solids? Double check that your baby is ticking all the boxes below. this will help to an easier start to their solid food journey.
Sit up with support: You want them to be able to hold themselves up, so the food you give them can go down without fuss.
Head and Neck Control: They should be able to turn their head away if they don’t want any food and lean forward when they are interested (and open their mouth).
Hand-eye coordination: Your baby should be able to successfully bring an object to their mouth with their hands.
Chewing: Your baby should be able to go through motions of chewing. Interesting, the reflex to chew is something that researchers suggest can cease to exist if solids are delayed to 8 months or older. So, don’t delay too long…
Extrusion reflex is gone: The extrusion reflex is a reflex baby’s have which they raise their tongue and push against the object in their mouth. Spitting out anything in their mouth that doesn’t belong… including food. This goes around 5-6 months of age. Start after this has gone, it makes introducing solids 10x easier.
NOTE: You will not know they still have this until you start solids. So try introducing solids and if they push the food out then take it as a sign they are not ready yet. Try again every few days if they are over 6months with one spoon of solid food. Eventually, you will see them swallowing the food.
‘When’ you start your baby on solid foods is a decision not to take lightly. It can impact their life-long eating. If in doubt wait till 6 months then check if they have full head and neck control and can sit. It makes the food journey easier for you and your baby if you wait a few weeks.
All the Best.
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