Is Your Baby Ready For Solid Foods? Print

Check out my quotes in Today’s Parent magazine and learn more about when to introduce baby food and why.todaysparentlogo

Happy feeding!

Sherene Sieben, Pediatric Nutrition Specialist & Registered Dietitian

As soon as my son could sit up on his own, we’d squeeze his fat little legs into his high chair and pull him up to the table while we ate. He’d wave his tiny silicone spoon and watch every morsel that went into our mouths with intense longing — not to mention plenty of drool.

At a little older than five months, we finally gave in and started feeding him tiny dollops of brown-rice cereal. Within a couple days, we’d moved on to bananas and sweet potatoes. I felt a tad uneasy, knowing I was contravening long-standing guidelines from both the World Health Organization (WHO) and Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), which recommend feeding babies nothing but breastmilk (or formula) for their first six months. But the joy on that baby’s face as he attempted to shove gooey veggies into his mouth — well, how could I deny him?

picture of feeding a baby solid foods“It’s a bit of a difficult issue,” says Barbara Grueger, a paediatrician in Whitehorse, and member of the CPS’s Community Paediatrics Committee. “Most children can have all their nutritional needs met by maternal milk until six months, without needing anything except vitamin D.” But she admits that the WHO’s six-month recommendation − upon which the CPS’s own guidelines are based — is geared toward a more global perspective, including countries where clean water and wholesome food are scarce. “There is some discussion around whether or not this is necessarily the best advice for developed countries with a clean water supply,” she says. “The vast majority of children will start sometime between five to six months.”

Read more: Baby food recipes and ideas

Sherene Sieben, a registered dietitian with Health Stand Nutrition Consulting in Calgary, agrees. “If you can absolutely wait until six months, do it,” says Sieben. “But I also think there are some babies who are ready by five months.” Her own daughter, who’s now 10, began eating solids at five-and-a-half months. “She was completely ready to eat and to take the spoon away from us. I wasn’t going to wait until six months.” There are a couple of other signs to watch for, Sieben says. “If they can sit up and support themselves, if they can lean forward in a high chair, and if they’re really engaged, then they’re ready.” Besides, she adds, babies ingest only a tiny amount of food at the start.

(I can attest that the vast majority of that lovingly homemade squash purée will end up plastered in your baby’s hair and wedged between the floorboards, not in her mouth.) “Introducing solid food is not for calories. It’s really for skill and food repertoire,” says Sieben.

But just about everyone agrees that introducing solids before four months is too early: Not only is it a choking hazard, but it also increases the likelihood of obesity later on. Recently, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 1,334 moms and found that more than 40 percent of them had introduced solids before four months — and almost one-tenth had started solids at four weeks — despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its solid-food guidelines last year from between four and six months to six months, period.

By the one-year mark, your baby should be eating two or three meals a day (plus snacks) to replenish his iron stores, which begin to run out after six months, says Grueger. If your little one isn’t a fan of rice cereal — which, let’s face it, tastes like cardboard — try iron-rich foods like lentils, tofu, fish, cheese and meat. (The CPS now recommends introducing these foods right away, rather than waiting the traditional nine to 12 months.)

In my experience, it wasn’t long before both my babies grew into truculent toddlers who ate nothing but toast and cheese, so enjoy every enthusiastic bite while you still can.

Sherene Sieben

Sherene is a Registered Dietitian in Calgary, Alberta

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

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I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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