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When to Start Solids

I’m often surprised by at hearing from moms that their under 4 month-old baby has started solids. Sometimes it’s even under doctor recommendation! How I would love to give some health professionals an update on infant nutrition more recent than 1982….. Anyways, many parents are eager to start solids too young. Common excuses include “my baby is too big” (but…. Breast milk is more calorie-dense than most solids!). Or at the other end of the spectrum “My baby is too small” (but again…. Breast milk is more calorie-dense than most solids!).

So when should you start your baby on solids? There are lots of things to consider. While official guidelines have changed over the years, the current guideline in Canada is to start solids at about 6 months of age. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended until 6 months to protect your baby from GI and respiratory infections. But besides just age, it’s also important to look for developmental signs, as some babies are ready a bit earlier or later:

- Can your baby sit up (with support is fine), and lean forward a bit?
- Close her mouth over the spoon? And pick up foods to put in her mouth?
- Keep most of the food in her mouth and swallow? While this is a learned skill and might take a few tries, if your baby still has a strong extrusion reflex (the tongue pushes the food back out), try again in a few days or weeks, depending on your babies age.
- Are they interested and eager to try food? My babies have literally started vibrating when sitting at the table during dinner, just so excited and wanting to eat food!

Other things to consider include your baby’s gestational age. Where they born preterm, and maybe need a few extra weeks to mature before starting solids? On the other hand, preterm babies are often low in iron, so you might want to check with your doctor about a supplement if they aren’t ready to start solids. Or if your baby was born post-term (poor you – I can relate!), perhaps they will be developmentally ready for solids a bit earlier. If you had a baby the reached term, had good iron status in pregnancy yourself, and practice delayed umbilical cord clamping in the birth, your baby will have better iron status.

Taking age and development into account, make sure your BABY is ready to start solids, and it’s not just mom or dad forcing it on them. Then bon appetit baby!

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