Updated: Jun 19, 2021
One of the most fundamental milestones for any baby is starting solid foods, but often, even our most trusted providers – pediatricians, dieticians, speech therapists – disagree about when to start. Why the varied opinions? Ultimately, it goes back to old physician opinions influenced by baby food companies that have continued to be passed down (I could go on and on, but that’s for another blog). I’m a girl that loves research – I want to know what the science says. Give me data. And what the data says around starting solids (and yes, this includes purees) is, to drastically reduce the chance of aspiration (food in the airway/lungs), there are specific milestones that a baby should meet before starting solid foods. This blog focuses on, in my personal opinion, the most important milestone – sitting independently.
Before we go into why this is important, let’s first talk about what independently means. An independent sitter ready for solids can sit with stability for roughly 30 seconds to a minute. So, your baby doesn’t have to be an expert sitter (they will, after all, be in a high chair), but they should be able to sit by themselves when placed on the floor without the assistance of a Boppy, pillow, or seat for a good amount of time. They shouldn’t be wobbly either. Basically, if you’re worried they’ll plop right over when you sit them on the floor, they aren’t quite ready. Again, waiting until they sit independently is the safest for your baby, and I promise, as exciting as it sounds, there are no benefits to starting solids earlier that outweigh the risks.
Why is sitting so important? It’s all about trunk and head control. Sitting independently builds the fundamental core strength it takes to effectively swallow solid food. Also, babies who sit have a whole new perspective on their world. They become more curious and really begin to engage with their environment. These developments make starting solids more fun for everyone because your baby has the interest to explore what’s in front of them. A sitting baby is also much better at bringing food to their mouths and chewing because, again, their strong trunk and head control allows them to focus less on staying stable and more on other coordinated movements.
So, as exciting as it is to start solids with your baby, waiting until they are sitting independently is worth the wait from safety and enjoyment perspectives. And, if you want to know more about starting your babe on solid foods, check out my Transitioning to Solids class. Happy eating!