Eating is a social activity around the world. How early babies start solids, what solids they eat, and how they eat it (spoon or self-fed) is also a culturally driven process, even when it feels like a private one. That’s because, in every culture, starting solids is considered a significant event — it’s your baby’s first step of independence.
The transition period of moving from 100% breastmilk (or formula) to 100% solid food is called weaning.
In the beginning of weaning, babies drink the same amount of milk, and simply add more and more solids on top. Eventually, they start decreasing their milk intake until it fully stops. For most families, the weaning process happens over 6 or more months once a baby starts eating solids.
Signs your baby is ready for solids
Your baby is ready to start trying solid food when:
- They can hold their head steady -- they do not need to sit up on their own. They should be able to sit supported and be able to pick their head up and hold it there for a bit.
- They are at least 4 months old. In the United States, 4 months is considered the minimum age to start solids, though other cultures might say earlier or later.
- They seem like they want to. Perhaps the most important trigger to start weaning is that your baby seems interested in food or is grabbing and putting things in their mouth.
Getting yourself ready to wean
A lot of parents aren’t ready to wean when their baby is! Here are a few things to remember:
- There’s no harm in trying. If you try solids and your baby isn’t interested, you can always try again in a couple weeks. You can also go slowly if you want to.
- They won’t stop nursing. Some mothers fret about losing that special time with their infants. Solids should always be fed after a bottle or nursing session to make sure that your baby is getting all the proper nutrients...and that you still get snuggles.
- It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start with store-bought purees, a baby cereal, or mashed banana. You can even chew up your own food to share. Don’t feel like you have to prepare complicated separate meals. First foods are really about exploration.
Where to begin
Babies should start with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and no added salt or sugar. Babies can eat almost anything, as long as it is prepared safely, meaning mushy and easy to swallow. Hard, crunchy foods like uncooked carrots and raw nuts are a no-no until your baby has a full set of teeth.
There is no reason to wait three days between each new food. Pediatricians now recommend parents focus on introducing babies to a wide variety of healthy foods, right from the beginning. If your baby is going to have a reaction to something you fed them, it is likely to happen immediately or up to four hours afterward. Not three days later.
Parents should also introduce common allergens, like peanut, egg, tree nuts, dairy, and wheat into an infant’s diet early and often. Early introduction is the only proven way to reduce the risk of developing food allergies. Lil Mixins infant protein supplements help parents prepare the hard-to-eat foods like nuts and eggs safely and in the right amounts.
Where to go next
The goal for every baby should be to eat more and more of the same foods as the rest of her family, at the same time as the rest of her family, as possible. Eating together helps children make better choices, reduces obesity, and increases family bonding.
The process of weaning trains a baby to love the foods that her family eats, but also to love eating how her family eats. Eating is social and weaning is where babies learn to take a seat at the table.