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Baby Basics

Q&A: When To Start Solid Foods?

My baby is 5 months old and I am so excited to feed her solids, I feel like I can't wait another day! Is it really a bad idea to start now?

Introducing solids is a very exciting time for both you and your baby. Sometimes it is more exciting for us as parents — we get caught up in the moment of the cute spoons and bowls and other fancy gadgets! Introducing solids can be a very pleasurable experience for a baby but it can also be quite scary, if your baby is not developmentally ready. It is very important to start feeding your baby solid foods when she is developmentally ready — go by what she can do and not by how old she is.

Typically, your baby will start giving you signs that she is ready for solid foods around six months of age. At this time she will be able to play an active part in the feeding process. Here are some general indicators that your baby is developmentally ready to start tasting the delicious world around her:

[  ] She is sitting up (either assisted or unassisted) and holding her head up straight

[  ] She opens her mouth for a spoon and closes her lips over spoon

[  ] She is able to let you know that she is either full or hungry (turns head away from spoon if full or keeps mouth open if still hungry). This is important so that baby learns to self regulate the amount of food that she eats.

[  ] She keeps her tongue low and flat when you put the spoon in her mouth

[  ] She is showing an interest in food that others around her are eating

In addition, when a baby approaches six months of age, the enzymes in her digestive track are becoming mature enough to break down and digest solid foods. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, six months can be an important time for baby's nutritional needs. A baby may need additional iron that can be extracted from the nutrients in various solid foods, like the iron fortified cereals. Make sure to wait at least four to seven days in between new foods for signs/symptoms of any allergies. Remember, breastfeeding or formula feeding should remain the main source of nutrition throughout the majority of the first year.

By Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD, nutritionist