We often get told that ‘back in the day’ babies were given solid foods at 4 months old, water and juice to drink and if our baby is salivating at the dinner table, reaching for food or waking frequently at night, they are definitely ready for solids. These are not signs of readiness however and current government, WHO and NHS guidance states that if* developmentally ready babies should be first introduced to solid food shortly before or after 6 months of age.
Common misconceptions of readiness:
watches people eat with interest
salivates when watching food and people eating
reaches and tries to grab food
weighs in or above the 90th centile
breastfeeds every 2 hours with no longer intervals at night of three hours or more
waking frequently at night
Actual signs of readiness:
sit strongly unassisted with good head control
pick up food and bring it to the mouth confidently
Many parents are eager to start introducing solid foods, (it’s pretty exciting to be fair) - but it might be reassuring for parents to read a few facts about the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months:
Breast milk contains all the fluid and nutrients the baby needs for around the first 6 months.
Exclusively breastfeeding provides protection from gastrointestinal infections.
Exclusively breastfeeding ensures a healthy milk supply.
Exclusively breastfeeding can provide a good contraceptive effect and can help weight loss for some mothers.
Breastfeeding can be much easier to do than giving solids. It takes less time, makes less mess and is cheaper.
One final note…
As a Doula I am always talking to my clients in prenatal sessions about normal newborn behaviour and normal baby behaviour, with a fairly big chunk of time discussing sleep and feeding. If your baby is breastfeeding more often, is spending longer at the breast, has become fussier or is waking more at night, know that these behaviours are very normal and are not signs that your baby is ready for solid food.