In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our June 2011 issue, Daniel Brennan, MD, one of WebMD's Baby Experts, answered a question about the best age for adding solid food to a baby's diet.
Q: My baby is 3 months old. How will I know when he is ready for solid food?
A: The general rule of thumb is that babies can start eating solid food between 4 and 6 months of age. But every baby is different. Determining just when yours is ready has more to do with his physical development than his exact age because it’s dangerous to give solid food to a baby who can’t yet swallow it.
For your baby to eat solid food, he’ll need to be able to sit up, with his head and neck unsupported. He’ll also need to be able to keep food in his mouth instead of pushing it out with his tongue (a reflex that disappears between 4 and 6 months of age).
He should seem to want to eat solids, too. One of the surest signs will be his interest in your food. He may bounce up and down when you’re eating, try to grab food off your plate, and watch you with avid interest during your meals. Still another sign is that he has trouble getting full from breast milk or formula alone.
That your baby is ready to eat doesn’t mean he’ll be a natural at it. Some babies get frustrated with the process or are picky about what foods they’ll eat. If that’s the case, take a break for a week or two, and then try introducing solids again.