Welcome to The Mummylogues. A series dedicated to candid conversations, relatable tips and resources for navigating pregnancy and parenting. If you’re considering baby-led weaning, this edition features useful advice from Pregnancy/Childbirth & Lactation Specialist and Founder of Therhappy, Dr. Vanshika Gupta-Adukia on the right time for introducing solids to your baby.
With time most adults lose the ability to stay in tune with their body’s signal and can no longer truly tell when, what or how much they need to eat. Studies reveal that this disconnect can start from a very young age, as early as infancy, depending on when solids are introduced and on external influences dictating how much should be eaten and when.
For this reason, it is now recommended that babies – even those who are breastfed – must be fed on demand and not by the clock. It is clear that even infants can tell when they are hungry and how much they need! However, amongst most parents this understanding is often limited only to the breastfeeding stage. Solid introduction often sees new parents rushing into the process of ‘weaning’ their babies- ‘assuming’ that their child needs to eat more.
In this phase one often forgets that BABY KNOWS BEST. It is the baby who can truly help parents understand his/her readiness and the need to begin with solids. The same should never be assumed under the general bias of the six-month mark, lagging growth/weight or even due to the broken bouts of night sleep.
So, what are the top three ‘cues’ that parents should be on the lookout for, when wanting to introduce solids to their little ones?
- Baby can sit well with little if not no support: they may still topple over or could require support to help them stay in a seated position. But sitting upright is an indicator of the digestive system being able to function optimally to help pass the food through the intestines, which is essential when starting solids.
- Baby has lost the tongue thrust reflex: very young babies try to thrush out food from their mouth when they aren’t ready for solids. This natural reflex makes babies spit out things to avoid hazards like choking and is a defence mechanism. Contrary to what one may think, this does not indicate that the baby is playing or acting stubborn during mealtimes.
- Baby is eager to participate in meal times: they love to imitate adults around them and that is a great way for babies to learn. Their keen interest in food around them and repeated attempts to grab the same to put it in their mouth can be taken into consideration when starting solids.
The above-mentioned cues are integral to start solids in babies. Some infants achieve the same prior to their six-month mark while some tend to take a little longer. A few may not be able to reach these goals even beyond the six-month mark. In either case one must always begin solids after observing signs of readiness.
While solid introduction is a major milestone of concern, the decision to choose between baby led weaning vs traditional weaning adds to the dilemma. While there is no ‘one’ right method baby led weaning may be a good idea for you if you:
- Can truly trust that babies are capable of self-regulating and can choose the right amount of food for themselves.
- Can stay calm when the baby may have a bout of gagging (this could often be the case with BLW but may only mean they expel the food out); and the occasional ‘low food quantity’ consumed by your little one does not make you nervous and anxious.
- If you are well aware and confident about the safest size, shape and texture of foods to be offered to the little one for consumption (this helps reduce gagging and safeguard against choking)
Remember, babies very easily take from their parents’ emotions. Meal times should be a fun and engaging experience for the baby to help build positive eating habits. Anxious negative reactions around infants often result in them picking the tension themselves and they often tend to go on to detest their meal routine!
For more on weaning, have a read here of Part II of Dr. Adukia’s series where she addresses finger foods vs purees for babies, sharing recipes for toddlers between the age group of 6 to 12 months.
About Dr. Vanshika Gupta-Adukia
Dr. Vanshika Gupta-Adukia is a Pregnancy Specialist and the Founder of Therhappy. She is an internationally certified Pre and Post Natal Fitness Educator, a CAPPA certified Childbirth & Lactation Educator Counsellor and a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. Her keen interest in women’s health, curiosity about childbirth and life of a fetus in a mother’s womb led her to venture in the journey of birthing and beyond.