When can I start solids with Baby Led Weaning?
“My baby is six months or older doesn’t sit unsupported, so I’m not feeding him solids yet.” I hear this over and over in my Baby Led Weaning Facebook Group. There seems to be this myth out there that baby needs to sit on his own independently for a minute, two minutes, maybe five minutes – before starting baby led weaning or self feeding. I’m not sure where this came from. Even Gill Rapley, the creator of the term “Baby Led Weaning” has an article on her website and she explicitly states there’s NO “60- second rule”.
Two of my own babies didn’t sit fully unsupported on their own for any length of time until they were eight, maybe closer to nine months. But certainly they were able to self feed before this age. I’ve also confirmed this with the Occupational Therapist that I work with: baby does not need to sit unsupported on their own before starting solids.
They do, however, need to be able to sit with support. Your baby does need to have enough strength in their trunk or body and their neck. So that when they are seated supported in a highchair, they can lean forward to grasp food and get it to the mouth without needing their arms for balance. And they need to be able to lean forward and spit food out, if needed. If they don’t have the strength to lean forward and they’re just in reclining mode, that can be a choking hazard.
So what could the “support” be, if you find the highchair isn’t supportive enough for your baby and they’re leaning to one side? You can roll up towels and place them either on either side of your baby or one side of them, even under their bum if they’re not high enough. The highchair tray or table should come to between about their nipple and their belly button. And their feet should be supported as well, to help them to be able to self-feed.
So even if your baby has just turned six months and they can’t sit fully unsupported, they should have enough physical strength to self-feed. If that’s supported, that’s okay. If they don’t yet even have that strength, then they may not be quite ready, and it’s okay to start with purees as well.
Beyond physical strength, what are some other signs babies are ready to start solids?
- Age: around six months of age, most babies are ready to start solids. These recommendations come from Health Canada, Dietitians of Canada and the World Health Organization. Some doctors are still saying four to six months, or so I hear. But in general, they’re just not up-to-date on the current guidelines, which are around six months of age.
- Your baby should also have some interest in eating. Usually around five months, they become interested in putting everything in their mouth. Including toys and their hands. That’s actually preparing them to start solids and feed themselves. If your baby’s really eager to eat, but not quite six months yet, you can sit them at the table with you during meals. Give them something to chew on, even if it’s just a plastic spoon. They get practice moving that around in their mouth and decrease their gag reflex so they are more prepared to eat.
Often I hear: “My baby’s really big. I need to start solids early.” Or “My baby’s really small. I need to start solids early.” Really neither of those are good excuses, on their own, to start solids. Your milk is more nutrient dense than any of the starter foods your baby will be eating anyways.
There are a few reasons why you may need to start solids early, on recommendation of your doctor. Such as reflux. But in that case, you’d likely be starting with purees.
If you want more information about how to start your baby on solids, especially using baby led weaning, you can hop over to my Facebook group at www.BLWCommunity.com.
Jennifer House is a Registered Dietitian, author & mom of 3. From Baby-led weaning to picky eating and meal planning, she helps you to make feeding your family easier