7 Signs Your Baby is Ready to Start Having Solid Foods

How to tell if your baby is ready to start eating solid foods – and if they’re not quite there yet.

 

The prospect of starting solids with your pēpi can be exciting, daunting or… a bit of both. But before you can begin, it’s important to know if your pēpi is physically and physiologically ready to cope with food other than breast milk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and continue to be breastfed alongside complementary foods for up to two years of age and beyond. Breast milk should be the main source of your baby’s nutrition until they are 12 months.

The current WHO guideline is to introduce appropriate complementary foods (solids) at around six months of age. Babies cannot be given solid food before they are four months as their digestive system is not yet mature enough to fully process food prior to this time. Likewise, a baby born at full-term should have started solids by the time they are seven months old.

Starting your baby on solids early may not help them sleep better at night. There are risks associated with starting before they are ready, including eczema, respiratory disease, diarrhoea, dehydration and more.

Your baby may be ready for solid food if they:

  • Are around six months old.
  • Are sitting unaided, or with minimal assistance, and can hold their head up well.
  • Still seem hungry after having milk feeds.
  • Are interested in food – reaching out and grabbing food (note: this can occur early in some babies so it is best to check for the other signs of readiness as well).
  • Eagerly open their mouth when a spoon or food approaches.
  • No longer have the tongue thrust reflex, meaning when a spoon or food touches their lips they do not push their tongue out.
  • Keep food in their mouth and are able to swallow it.

Signs your baby isn’t ready for solid food yet:

  • Still has the tongue thrust reflex, meaning when a spoon or food touches their lips they push their tongue out.
  • Turns their head away when offered food.
  • Shuts their mouth when offered food.
  • Pushes away the spoon.

If your pēpi was born premature, it is typically recommended by most healthcare professionals to use your baby’s corrected age, plus the other signs of readiness, when deciding to start them on solids.