Watching Baby grow up is full of exciting moments. Babies have so many firsts–crawling, walking, sitting up, speaking, rolling over. And all of these firsts seem to happen so much faster than the milestones in our own, adult lives. It’s exciting to live vicariously through our children as they learn and discover and grow. Just about everyone waits expectantly to see their child’s first time to walk, talk, read, etc.

The real value children get from the pre-school time of their life is just that—being a kid. Playing, tumbling, taking things at their own pace and enjoying the journey of growing up one day at a time. While some are excited to see their child rush ahead of others in their development, sometimes that rush isn’t the best thing for your child. Your child growing up faster than your neighbor’s isn’t necessarily a badge of honor. Everyone grows at different speeds, and while babies grow and learn fast as a matter of course, they need time to process and work toward the next milestone.

Just because children are growing into adults doesn’t mean they have to be in a rush to get there. We, however, often are in a hurry to get them there. This is often helped by the fact that how an older kid interacts with the world is usually easier on the parent than how a baby interacts.

Solid food often seems easier

Breastfeeding, while a joyful time of baby snuggles and bonding, can also be a bit of a struggle. From getting Baby to eat on a timetable and Mama dealing with sore shoulders, neck, and back pain, solid foods can feel like a lighthouse, beckoning you closer. It’s far easier to put a handful of dry cereal on a highchair tray and let Baby feed themselves than take the time to sit down and breastfeed. Not only that, but solid food is the end goal, anyway, right?

Breast milk is not simply a means to an end

While solid food may be easier, that doesn’t necessarily make it better. There are multiple benefits to breast milk you may not be aware of, including the fact that it naturally changes to suit Baby’s needs. Hormones in Baby’s saliva communicate Baby’s nutritional needs to Mama, whose milk then changes to give Baby what they need.

When Baby is born, their digestive tract isn’t fully developed, meaning it’s easier for what is in Baby’s digestive tract to filter through to the bloodstream. Because Mama’s milk is tailor-made for Baby, this doesn’t pose a problem or create allergies like solid foods do, at this stage. This is also part of the reason breast milk is better than formula—while breast milk is made specially for baby, formula has a base of soy or milk, which Baby’s body isn’t ready for. Because of this, Mama can keep breastfeeding as long as she and Baby want without fear of Baby suffering from lack of solid foods.

When is Baby ready?

Option 1: Three months

This is a commonly held view these days: that once babies reach three months—or four, or six—they should start to move to solid foods.

Many people will give you a time frame as to when you can or should start Baby on solid foods. This is a comforting option as it gives you a calendar to plan things by and count on. It is not, however, the best option for Baby.

Option 2: Baby-led weaning

Baby-led weaning suggests that when Baby starts to reach for foods and put them into his or her mouth, they are wanting to eat the same food as those around them. Many people consider this as an indicator that the baby is signaling that it’s ready to start eating solid foods. In reality, Baby is simply mimicking the actions they see the people around them doing, grabbing things and putting those things in their mouth. Babies explore the world around them by grabbing things and putting them in their mouths. Babies put everything in their mouths–that doesn’t mean it’s a wise course of action for them to switch their diet.

Babies start to mimic those around them long before their digestive tracts are fully developed and ready for table and solid foods. It’s how they learn and grow, and something we should be aware of. It’s also something we don’t want to misread, even though it’s very easy to do so.

Consider this point of view. We wouldn’t let a young child decide they are ready to cross a busy street, or play with sharp objects before they are ready, even if they want to or insist they are ready. It is still the parents’ responsibility to ensure that the child is at the proper stage developmentally for what they are insisting on before handing over those reins.

Option 3: The Wellness Way approach

At roughly a year old, Baby’s body starts to give signs they’re ready for adult food. They start to get a full mouth of teeth, they’ve started salivating and drooling more, and they start to turn away from Mama’s milk more regularly.

When weaning, most people start off with soft, mushy food. If you wait until Baby’s body is ready for food, you don’t have to do this; you can start with solid foods. It’s important to keep an eye on Baby while they eat to make sure they don’t choke.

While these signs tend to start at a year old, that’s by no means a cold, hard, timeline. Some babies may take a bit longer to be ready for foods, while others may be ready sooner. Remember to look for the signs Baby’s body gives–there’s more than just grabbing things and putting them in their mouth or reaching a certain age threshold.

How to Feed Baby The Wellness Way

It’s not a stretch to say that not all food is created equal. Just as important to weaning Baby at the right time is making sure Baby is eating the right foods. For some suggestions on some foods to start Baby off with, check out this video by Tymberlyn Frischkorn. As you continue to feed your baby, there’ll be things you want to keep an eye out for. Stay away from GMOs, artificial and processed ingredients, especially dyes used to make kids foods more appealing to them. Use glass storage containers rather than plastic ones. Switch from aluminum pots and pans to stainless steel or cast iron. This will keep the unnecessary chemicals and toxins in both Baby and the other people in the house to a minimum. Be aware of what Baby eats and if they get fussy or have blowouts or especially stinky diapers afterward. Even if our digestive systems are fully formed when we start eating solid foods, there can be foods and substances that still cause allergies. If you suspect a certain food of being an allergen, take a break from it, and see if Baby does better. When feeding Baby fruits and vegetables, be careful to stay away from the dirty dozen, and stick to the clean fifteen.

To learn more about the signs Baby’s body may be giving you that they need or are ready for something, discuss allergen concerns or other foods to introduce at what times, or talk to a Wellness Way practitioner, contact a clinic today!