by Wendy Wisner, IBCLC
“My 7 month old is not interested in starting baby foods at all, she just wants the breast. I am okay with that but her doctor tells me that she wouldn’t be getting enough nutrition. The internet searches I do are divided on the issue. What are your opinions or experiences with this? I don’t want to force her to eat but I also want her to be healthy.”
This is the kind of question I have gotten very frequently over the years, and I will tell you that I have never met a baby who didn’t eventually take to eating food!
Yes, there is a lot of division about this on the internet, and among health professionals. While some doctors say babies can start solids as early as 4 months, both the Academy of American Pediatrics and The World Health Organization recommend babies exclusively breastfeed for at least six months. Still, it is common for some babies to start solids as late as 9-12 months, and continue to thrive. The main nutritional reason that babies need solid food after the first six months is because the iron stores they are born with start to deplete sometime between 6-12 months (click here for more details on iron in breastmilk). Still, the iron available is breastmilk is absorbed easily, and most babies have enough iron to last them several months past the six month mark.
But let’s push all those numbers aside. Babies don’t have a calendar in their bodies! They are ready for solid foods when they are developmentally ready, and this is something all babies do on their own timetables—just like sitting up, walking, and talking. There are signs you can look for to see if your baby is ready, including the baby’s ability to sit up on her own, the development of a pincer grasp (picking up food between thumb and forefinger), and the loss of a tongue thrust (i.e., the baby doesn’t instinctively push food out of her mouth, and sweeps it in and swallows easily). Here is a good list of readiness signs.
Basically, when your baby can sit, grab the food, and swallow it easily, she is ready! And some babies really wish to do it themselves! Once your baby is developmentally ready, you can skip purees if you wish. You can offer her soft finger foods (avocado, bananas, softened sweet potatoes, etc.), and let her feed herself. Some babies just prefer the independence and the varied textures of such foods.
So, if you baby isn’t interested yet, don’t worry. It’s very common, and your breastmilk will keep her healthy until she’s ready. Keep offering in a relaxed, fun way. Let her explore the food with all her senses. Keep in mind that breastmilk will continue to be her primary food for the first 12 months, so there is really no pressure to prepare full meals for her yet. Follow her lead, and enjoy!
Wendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys. In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding. She blogs at www.nursememama.com.