Knowing where to start with our new little eaters can be a real challenge. Our feeding specialists are here to provide some tips and tricks for starting solids.
When is my baby ready to start solids?
When it comes to starting solids, we recommend looking out for your child’s readiness signs instead of following age recommendations. Your child might be ready to start solids if he/she has good head and trunk support when placed in a seated position, and ideally can roll both from belly to back and from back to belly. These skills indicate sufficient core strength to remain upright in a high chair without leaning to one side or using hands to stabilize. Before starting solids, your child should also be bringing toys to their mouth, munching on teething toys, and showing interest in foods. These readiness signs usually fall into place around 6 months. If your child does not demonstrate readiness signs by 7-8 months of age, we recommend consulting a feeding specialist to prevent delayed feeding skills. If you are unsure about your child’s positioning in his or her high chair, we can help with a high chair consultation.
What foods do I start with?
Baby-led weaning versus traditional weaning…what do I do?! Despite the popularization of baby led weaning on social media, there are significant benefits to spoon feeding that cannot go unmentioned. Spoon feeding pureed foods allows your child to learn how to manage non-liquid consistencies before introducing the demand of chewing. In the long run, this results in less gagging and less spitting out of foods. We recommend starting with smooth purees (think store-bought pureed foods) and long, skinny, hard food items that your child can use to practice munching (e.g. a big raw carrot, raw celery, a strip of dried fruit, etc.). Don’t be afraid of the mess! Allow your child to participate in mealtime by mouthing pre-loaded spoons and using cues to tell you when he/she wants more food or when he/she is all done. Slowly introduce dissolvable solids, fork-mashed solids, ground solids, and soft solids. By 9-12 months, your infant should be eating all table foods with minimal modifications for safety!
What about cups?
Open cups and straws can be introduced as early as 6 months of age. Sippy cups are not recommended, as they are not conducive to the development of oral motor skills for feeding. Start by placing a cup on your child’s tray during mealtime for play, and gradually begin offering small sips. Your infant does not need water for hydration purposes, but may have small volumes in order to practice cup drinking. By 9-12 months, your child should be starting to master cup drinking so that they are ready to transition from bottle and breastfeeding when the time comes.
When should I seek help?
If your infant is not showing feeding readiness signs by 7-8 months, a feeding evaluation may help. There is a critical period for the development of oral feeding skills, so addressing concerns early is best.
If your child is showing significant signs of aversion including excessive gagging, or is not attempting to munch or chew solid foods when presented, please schedule a feeding evaluation for your child.
Jill Leabman Katz, M.S. CCC-SLP, CLEC
Speech-Language Pathologist for Advanced Therapy Solutions
Certified Lactation Education Counselor
and… Mom of a new eater too!