How to tell if your baby is ready to eat solid foods

Introducing solids, or ‘weaning’, as it is more commonly known, is an exciting time for parents and babies alike. If gentle-eating principles are applied from the very start, they allow you to enjoy the process, knowing that you are giving your baby the most empowering and respectful start to their journey towards eating solid food.

Although all the research seems to point to ‘around six months’ as the right age to begin introducing solids, this guidance does not consider individual children. The best indicator of your child’s readiness for starting solids is a combination of them being close to six months of age, as well as exhibiting some behavioural and physical signs of interest.

The top three signs of readiness to wean onto solids are the following:

  • The baby should be able to stay in a sitting position, with support if necessary, and should be able to hold their head steady.
  • The baby should be able to coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth. They should be able to look at food, grab it and put it in their mouths by themselves.
  • The baby should be able to swallow their food. Babies who are not ready will often push their food back out with their tongues (something known as the tongue thrust reflex). They will, consequently, get more food around their faces than in their mouths. At six months, most babies should have lost this reflex.
  • The baby must show interest in solids. Some babies may display all the physical signs of readiness and have no interest in eating anything other than milk. Here, the gentle-eating way would be to stay mindful of the child’s interest, as well as their abilities, and to respect that they will begin in their own time.

The authoritative or responsive-feeding approach that constitutes gentle eating means that the baby is in control of what and when they eat. The hardest part as a parent is to trust in the baby, but this is also the most important part of all when it comes to introducing solids. Reminding yourself that your baby’s milk intake remains the main source of nutrients throughout the whole of their first year can help you to slow down and move at your baby’s pace.


Extract from The Gentle Eating Book by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, published by Piatkus on 1 March 2018.

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