In Australia, the recommendation for starting solids is around 6 months, but not before 4 months. Making sure your baby is demonstrating the signs of readiness is important in ensuring they have the appropriate strength, cognition and coordination to manage solids safely.
The Signs of Readiness are:
- Head control:
Your baby needs to have the appropriate stability of their head and neck for the duration of their mealtime. They should also have good control when turning their head to the sides.
This significantly reduces the chance of choking. The ability to move their head in all directions, means they can communicate whether they want more food by moving towards it, or move away from the food to indicate they are finished.
- Ability to sit up well with minimal support:
This does not mean your baby needs to be able to sit independently. Some babies will not be able to achieve this until closer to 8-9 months.
It is helpful to practise little bits of supported sitting from around 4 months, to develop the core, trunk and neck muscles required for starting solids.
- Shows interest in food:
For example looks at your plate and reaches out for your food.
This is not to be confused with mouthing. Mouthing is a process of exploration of objects in the baby’s world, so by 6 months, most babies are mouthing every object in sight. You may also hear them grunt or smack their lips when they watch you eat.
- Reach and Grasp:
Opens their mouth when you offer food with a spoon and reach out for either a spoon or food on their tray. They may not be completely skilled when doing so, as the process of starting solids encourages these skills along.
- Reduced Tongue Thrust Reflex/Extrusion Reflex:
This is when your baby pushes their tongue out in response to something touching their tongue. This is a protective reflex in preventing foreign objects from dislodging and causing a baby to choke.
This reflex may be present between 4 to 7 months of age. Although previously it was advised that this reflex must have disappeared prior to starting solids, it is not always necessary.
Even more importantly, if your baby is over 6 months and this reflex is present, delaying starting solids may be more detrimental, particularly if you plan to introduce finger foods/baby led weaning, as this process has been said to assist the chewing process.
High Chair Tips
- A supportive high chair that is easily adjustable, grows and adapts as your child does.Investing in a good high chair can mean that chair will be around for years to come.
- As a Paediatric Physiotherapist and mum, the Tripp Trapp is a chair I have continuously recommended when working with families.
- It has easily adjustable and moving parts. For example, as your child grows, the footplate can be lowered to accommodate for this. I love that the tray can be removed so the chair can be brought to your dining table to encourage socialisation and inclusion
- It ticks all the safety and practicality boxes, easy to clean, and durable enough to last your baby well past toddlerhood.
Posture Tips for Safe Eating.
- Your baby’s hips, knees and ankles are at a 90 degree angle (90/90/90 position)
- When your baby’s feet are well-supported, it means their core muscle are not working too hard, and they are not exerting their energy and concentration on sitting. They instead can focus this energy on reaching for food, taking it to their mouth and chewing it.
- A supportive tray where the elbows sit below their shoulders, to encourage use of their upper limbs and develop their fine motor skills.
- The 5 point harness provides support at their trunk, to prevent leaning and slouching, which increases the risk of choking. Additionally, the better supported the trunk is, the better base the arms have to work off and develop hand skills.
Starting solids can be a scary process, so arming yourself with all the knowledge and confidence is crucial. Having a good high chair is an important and a life-long investment.
[Blog written by: Demi Charalambous, Paediatric Physiotherapist and the Director of The Baby Physio.]