Transitioning your baby to solids: It’s about more than just age
When thinking about transitioning babies to solid foods, the first thing that usually crosses parents’ minds is age. While age does play a factor in determining whether or not a baby is ready for solid foods, there are several skills that babies need to have mastered in order to demonstrate readiness for solids.
Skills necessary for eating solid foods include:
- Independent sitting: Being able to sit with minimal to no support for short periods of time demonstrates that babies have enough control over the muscles of their head, neck, and trunk to safely swallow. Having control of their head and neck also allows babies to indicate when they have had enough to eat by turning their head.
- Can open mouth for spoon: When babies can open their mouths as the spoon approaches/touches their lips, this demonstrates that they are interested in the food presented to them. Opening their mouths for the spoon and then closing their lips around the spoon facilitates the swallow needed for solids. Parents should be mindful not to scrape the spoon on the roof of the baby’s mouth or upper gums, as this does not facilitate establishing proper motor patterns for independent feeding – let your baby’s lips do the work!
- Most of the food stays in their mouth: As parents begin to introduce solids, babies should gradually be able to keep more and more food in their mouths during feedings. This shows that they are gaining more control of their tongue and can start to move the food to the back of their mouth to swallow.
Many of these skills begin to emerge between 4 to 6 months, but having these skills is a true indication that your baby is ready for solids. If you are advised to begin transitioning your baby to solid foods by a certain age, be sure to assess their skill readiness first. Introducing solids before babies are ready can set them up for long-term feeding and oral motor difficulties. If you are concerned about your baby’s oral motor development, we recommend getting a feeding evaluation by a pediatric occupational therapist!
Satter, Ellyn. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense. Bull Pub., 2000.