Recently I have seen the same question posted again and again to parenting pages and forums about the right age to start a baby on solids, whether that be purees or through baby led weaning.
There is confusion and uncertainty among parents, even those who have been through the weaning process with other children. Debate runs rife with extreme views on the topic and there is no shortage of heated discussion from those who are convinced of ‘the right age’.
Part of the confusion probably stems from the fact that the World Health Organisation recommends not introducing any foods apart from breastmilk for the first six months. On the other hand there are doctors and immunologists who believe the ideal age for introducing solids is four months, as this reduces the risk of developing food allergies. I have seen a mother hold out giving her first child food until six months, even though the child was very clearly ready and interested. Conversely, when she had her second child and heard that the recommendation for starting had changed to four months, she started with rice cereal on the exact day the baby turned four months old, and the child was far from ready.
When did we start following and trusting trends more than our instincts and common sense? Every child is different and that there is no correct age that can be applied across the board as the right time to introduce solids. For the huge majority of children, the right age is somewhere around the middle of the first year.
Mums! Watch your baby! Get to know them! You are the expert on when they are ready, not some book or doctor or other professional! I do not believe introducing solids has anything to do with night waking. Feel free to disagree. It is normal and natural for babies to wake at night for any number of reasons, and deciding to introduce solids so that mum or dad can have more sleep is incomprehensible to me.
It was so obvious to me when both of my children were ready for food. They stopped thrusting their tongues out. They were curious about food. They tried to swipe food out of my hands. They watched others eating very intently and would ‘air chew’ while doing so. They had at least one tooth and more on the way. They were self-regulating their breastfeeds – turning their heads when full and only taking what they wanted/needed during a feed. I don’t know their exact ages because I was watching them, not the calendar. I think it was somewhere around five months.
I did a mixture of baby led weaning (or baby self-feeding) and purees with both of my children. By twelve months, Boy Wonder was eating what we ate. I remember that it was Christmas time and he had just turned one, and he sat up at the table with the extended family. He had a plate full of turkey and roast vegetables, and he confidently fed himself and participated in the meal time. No high chair, no mush, no airplane spoons, no special meal just for him.
Sunshine Girl is seven months old at the moment and has mostly rejected purees, preferring finger food. This is great for me, it much easier than slaving away filling ice cube trays with mashed steamed fruit and vegetables and spending countless hours trying to get a spoon into her mouth.
I never force Sunshine Girl to eat. If she is hungry and interested, she will eat it! I trust that she can self-regulate her food intake, even at this tender age. She reaches for her cup of water when she wants a drink, and I help her with that (or Boy Wonder does, as you can see in the pic!), and she pulls away and turns her head when she is done drinking. She also makes it very clear when she has eaten enough – she squirms and pulls on her bib, trying to get it off. My baby may not be verbal yet, but I can hear and understand her loud and clear. I’d like to think that if she could talk, she’d say, ‘thanks Mum! You totally get me!’