When should my baby start solids?
By Angela Wilson
Certified child sleep consultant, MA Natural Sciences Cambridge University and co-founder of Baby Smiles Club
Your doctor/nurse/medical advisor has told you that it’s best to start solids at around 6 months. And you remember seeing this in your new baby handbook that the hospital gave you when your baby was born.
But well-meaning friends or family might have been saying otherwise. ‘Why don’t you start earlier?’, asks your mum. ‘My baby started at 4 months’ says a friend. ‘It will help your baby sleep longer at night’ and ‘will help to keep them full’, they say. And desperate to finally get a whole night’s sleep (without night feeds), you start thinking about when to begin giving solids to your baby.
The truth is that, unless you’ve been medically advised otherwise, it’s best to start solids at around 6 months. And up to then, all your baby needs is milk and more milk (and possibly a little water if they’re on formula and it’s hot weather).
This is for a few reasons:
- Breastmilk or formula is packed full of great stuff! It provides all the nutrients and energy that babies need until they’re around 6 months old. The only exception is that it’s usually recommended that babies take a Vitamin D supplement (which is easy to find in shops or online).
- Waiting until 6 months gives a baby’s digestive system the proper time to mature so as to be able to cope with solids.
- At 6 months, babies are better able to move food around their mouth, chew and swallow – making it easier and more enjoyable for them to eat.
Starting solids too soon
Introducing solids too early can actually cause problems for a baby. What can go wrong?
- There’s a higher risk of choking because a baby might not yet have developed the ability to swallow properly.
- Filling up on solids could mean a baby takes less breastmilk or formula, which they need for proper nutrition.
- A baby’s digestive system might not be ready to properly handle solids. This can cause a tummy ache, wind or bloating.
But what about the nighttime sleep?
Okay, we know that you still want to know whether introducing solids earlier than 6 months can help with your baby’s nighttime sleep.
The answer is – PROBABLY NOT. And that actually doing so could make your baby’s sleep worse if wind or a tummy ache is bothering them.
Studies show that there isn’t much connection between a baby starting solids before 6 months and getting more sleep. There was one study (published in 2018) that showed that babies who started solids before 6 months got an average of 16 minutes more sleep at night. But if you’re struggling with night sleep, 16 minutes really isn’t going to make much difference!
Our Introducing Solids and Allergens ebook is a 34 page ebook explaining everything you need to know about starting solids, including when and how to introduce solids, how solids complement your baby's milk diet, and the types of food to give to your baby. We also explain about food allergies and intolerances.
And if you’re struggling with nighttime sleep, then our Baby Sleep Program can help you.