Thanksgiving 2011 was pretty special. My daughter was just about 6 months and everyone was coming over to our house for dinner. I was so excited to show off my new found Super Mom abilities by parenting a six-month-old and single-handedly preparing a complete turkey dinner for 10 people! I have no recollection of how the meal went over, but I do remember that it was my daughter’s first meal. We put her in her high chair, covered her in a cute bib and offered her a spoonful of sweet potato – roasted just for her! I was pretty stoked.
Many parents get excited to offer their child their first mouthfuls of food, but how does a parent know when the time is right to start offering solids?
Many health organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, have general recommendations suggesting waiting until around 6 months of age to introduce complementary foods.
Why? At birth, infants are not well-equipped to digest much more than breastmilk, much less deal with breaking down solids efficiently. We cannot see when that magical switch turns on that says an infant’s gut is ready to start digesting more complex sources of nutrition, but around six months of age many infants show outward signs of being able to eat.
Many parents will report around five and six months that their baby is reaching for their cups and plates. This interest with eating (or playing at eating at least) is one sign that baby is ready to try foods. An observant parent will see these others signs when baby is ready for solids:
- Loss of the “Tongue Thrust” reflex. Newborn and very young infants will naturally push foreign objects forward with their tongue. As their oral muscles mature, they’ll “lose” that reflex and have more control over their tongues and finally be able to work food from the front of their mouths to the sides to be chewed up and then to the back to be swallowed.
- Baby is sitting up well on his own. Your mother always told you to sit up when eating and infants are no different. Babies who do not have the trunk and neck control to sit up might not yet be ready to control his eating. Let baby work on one milestone at a time and offer more tummy time and babywearing time to help them get to that point.
- Development of the pincer grasp. When baby is finally able to pick up small objects (like a tiny, smushy cube of ripe avocado) with his thumb and first fingers like a crab claw – instead of smashing them in his palm, Hulk style – he is ready to bring them to his mouth.
Many parents will find these developmental markers show up somewhere between five and eight months, but the most important take-away is to watch baby. Baby will indicate that he might be ready to try new foods – and he will also tell you when he is done with lunch or snack. Let your child be your guide.
Contact me today to learn about a “First Foods” consultation and other services.
Image: Phillippe Put, via Flickr.