Why should you wait till around 6 months?
The World Health Organization and the UK Department of Health both recommend that breastfeeding continues for two years and beyond, with the addition of complementary foods around the middle of the first year. Breastfeeding provides everything your child needs for the first six months, and its nutritional and emotional value continues throughout the breastfeeding relationship.
Why wait until six months? Babies’ bodies need time to develop before they can handle solid food. The digestive system has to mature to allow it to process solids, and the motor and visual systems need to be developed enough for babies to get solid food into their mouth. After 6 months babies get better at moving food around their mouth and swallowing it. Feeding only breast milk up to around 6 months of age will help protect your baby against illness and infection (and that protection will remain for as long as you continue breastfeeding).
How will I know my baby is ready for solids?
You may wonder if your baby is ready for solids foods if they:
• chew their fists
• wake in the night even though they were sleeping through before
• want extra milk feeds
• show an interest in your food and utensils at mealtimes
However, these are all normal behaviours for babies around 4-6 months, and are not necessarily signs that they are hungry or ready to start solid food.
There are three helpful signs, usually appearing at around 6 months, that show your baby is ready to try their first solid foods alongside human milk or infant formula milk:
1. They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
2. They can co-ordinate their eyes, hand and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth all by themselves.
3. They can swallow food; babies who are not ready will push their food back out, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths!