5 Baby Milestones to Begin Baby-Led Weaning Safely | What Your Baby Should Be Able to Do Before Starting Solids

  • Unveiling the significance of the 6-month mark for a safe baby-led weaning start, emphasizing exclusive infant milk feeding for younger babies as their primary source of nutrition.
  • Exploring the developmental stages of independent sitting after 6 months and its correlation with enhanced head control in babies.
  • Debunking myths surrounding the disappearance of the extrusion or tongue thrust reflex as the sole indicator of readiness for solid foods.


Episode Description

Is your baby developmentally ready to safely start solids? Learn why the 6-month mark is pivotal, the significance of independent sitting, and why the disappearance of the tongue thrust reflex isn't the only readiness to eat signal to begin the weaning process.


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<v SPEAKER_1>Okay, I don't want to stress you out, but somehow it's already the 100th day of the year.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I mean, I love a good milestone as much as anyone, and I do have a little bit of a thing for the number 100.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Back in 2016, I created the 100 First Foods Approach to Starting Solid Foods, which is an easy, fun way to help your baby learn to safely eat 100 foods before turning one.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Because we know that babies who are offered the greatest variety of foods and flavors and tastes and textures early and often, those are the babies who are more likely to become independent eaters and are less likely to be picky eaters.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So if you're looking for a done-for-you solution to help expose your baby to more foods safely, my online program called Baby-Led Weaning with Katie Ferraro has everything you need, including the original 100 First Foods Daily Meal Plan.

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<v SPEAKER_1>That's 20 weeks of done-for-you meal plans with recipes and videos and instructions on how to make all of those foods safely so that in 100 days from now, you'll be confident knowing that you did everything you could during your baby's all-important flavor window to help them establish a healthy and foundational love of food.

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<v SPEAKER_1>You can get started today by going to babyledweaning.co.

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<v SPEAKER_1>program.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I would love to see your baby celebrating their 100th first food very soon too.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Come join me in the Baby-Led Weaning with Katie Ferraro program again, that's at babyledweaning.co.

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<v SPEAKER_1>program.

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<v SPEAKER_2>Your brain needs support and new OLLI Brainy Chews are a delightful way to take care of your cognitive health.

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<v SPEAKER_2>Made with scientifically backed ingredients like Thai ginger, L-theanine and caffeine, Brainy Chews support healthy brain function and help you find your focus, stay chill or get energized.

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<v SPEAKER_2>Be kind to your mind and get these new tropic chews at olli.com, that's olly.com.

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<v SPEAKER_2>These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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<v SPEAKER_2>This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning, it helps reduce the risk of peak eating, let your baby eat with the rest of the family, makes you not have to buy expensive baby foods or pouches.

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<v SPEAKER_1>You don't have to short order a cook for your kid, okay?

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<v SPEAKER_1>All of these things, none of them work if you start solid foods too early.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So these are the things that your baby should be able to do before you start solid foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Hey there, I'm Katie Ferraro, Registered Dietitian, College Nutrition Professor and Mom of Seven, specializing in Baby-Led Weaning.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Here on the Baby-Led Weaning with Katie Ferraro podcast, I help you strip out all of the noise and nonsense about feeding, giving you the confidence and knowledge you need to give your baby a safe start to solid foods using Baby-Led Weaning.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Hello there, today we're doing a quick list of five things that your baby should be able to do before starting solid foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It's like an audio checklist of sorts.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you are a planner, you got to check all these things off before you start solid foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I love to start each of these mini Baby-Led Weaning training episodes with a BLW tip of the day.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And today's tip is not all babies are ready to start solid foods right at six months of age, okay?

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<v SPEAKER_1>In fact, most babies don't show the most important reliable sign of readiness to eat until they're beyond six months of age.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And hang tight because in this episode, I'm going to explain what that most important sign of readiness is and show you how to identify if your baby is showing it so that you can go and get started with solid foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And I just want to tell you a quick story that if you're anything like me, then you're like a lot of parents who, when you go to start solid foods with your first baby, you really have no clue.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I literally had no clue with my oldest, even though I'm a college nutrition professor.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I teach nutrition throughout the life cycle.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I just did what my doctor told me to do when my oldest was like five months old.

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<v SPEAKER_1>He said, start spoon feeding her white rice cereal.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It was a total disaster.

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<v SPEAKER_1>She was definitely not ready.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I made things way, way worse for absolutely no reason.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And so my goal here is to like help you avoid disaster by starting solid foods too early, because, spoiler alert, it is way more fun and certainly safer to feed a baby who is really ready to start solid foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So let's dive in.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Here are five things your baby should be able to do before starting Baby-Led Weaning.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Number one, please, wait until your baby is six months of age or six months adjusted age if your baby was born prematurely.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So tip number one is wait until six months.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Why?

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<v SPEAKER_1>Well, from a nutritional standpoint, there is no benefit to starting solid foods early because your baby is getting all of the nutrition that they need from infant milk.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So infant milk, be that breast milk or formula or a combo of both, infant milk is sufficient to meet your baby's needs for the first six months of life.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Okay, so you don't need to start solid foods early.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Just because you can shove a spoon of period food down your baby's throat at four and five months of age does not mean that you should.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Now, waiting at those six months of age is important, but what if your baby was born prematurely?

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<v SPEAKER_1>Do you start right on their six month birthday?

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<v SPEAKER_1>No, absolutely not.

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<v SPEAKER_1>For premature babies, we want to use their adjusted age as the benchmark for starting solid food.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So if you're not familiar with this term, adjusted age, I'll give you an example using my own quadruplets.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So I had a set of quadruplets who were born at 34 weeks gestation.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So that's six weeks premature.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If we consider that full term gestation is 40 weeks, they were born at 34, so there was six weeks preemie.

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<v SPEAKER_1>When the quads were six months of age, from a developmental standpoint, they were really only like four and a half month old.

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<v SPEAKER_1>They were definitely not ready to start solid food.

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<v SPEAKER_1>But you can bet I heard it in stereo from everyone around me when the babies turned six months.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Oh, those babies need to start solid foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>They need to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>But they didn't.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Because again, they were six weeks premature.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So even though everyone saw six months on the birthday, we had to wait until their six month adjusted age to even consider trying something other than infant milk.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So when the quads were seven and a half months, chronological age, that was their six month adjusted age.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I added six weeks because they were six weeks premature.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So that got me to the stage where they were developmentally ready to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So if you have a premature baby, I have a few other episodes on the podcast about preemies.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Go check out episode 119.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It's called Premature Babies.

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<v SPEAKER_1>How to estimate and adjust the age for starting solids.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Also episode 158, How Premature Babies Can Succeed with Baby-Led Weaning.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Dr.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Terri Major-Kincade, who is amazing as a NICU doctor.

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<v SPEAKER_1>She came on in great episode.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And then also episode 110, Catch Up Weight.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Why starting solids early will not help your baby gain weight.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you are getting that pressure for a preemie baby, go listen to episode 110 with Rosan Meyer.

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<v SPEAKER_1>She's the world's leading expert on growth faltering and growth charts, and she's going to tell you why we don't use food to help babies with catch up weight.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So why do we wait until six months to feed anything except infant milk?

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<v SPEAKER_1>Because from a nutritional standpoint, your neurotypical healthy baby, they don't need anything else to meet their needs, right?

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<v SPEAKER_1>The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, every major health body agrees that exclusive breastfeeding and or formula as the sole source of nutrition for the first six months is what we do now.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So that's the nutrition side of things.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Developmentally, babies who are not yet six months of age are not physiologically ready to swallow anything except breast milk or formula.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And you might think like, oh, what's the big deal?

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<v SPEAKER_1>I'm going to start a few weeks or months early because my baby is four or five months of age.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It is a huge deal developmentally because your baby is going to change so much between four and six months.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So the two most reliable signs of readiness to eat are number one, which we just covered, being six months of age.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And the next one, which is going to be number two, being able to sit up relatively on their own.

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<v SPEAKER_1>OK, you cannot have one without the other to start solid foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>You need both.

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<v SPEAKER_1>You need a baby who's six months of age and who can sit on their own.

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<v SPEAKER_1>OK, and pro tip, most babies are not going to be ready to sit on their own right at six months of age.

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<v SPEAKER_1>OK, most babies are six months plus one week or six months plus two weeks or six months plus three weeks before they sit on their own.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Occasionally you'll see a baby who can go into the seven month mark without sitting up on their own.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you suspect your baby's past seven months and you're like, whoa, not sitting yet, reach out to your primary care provider, your pediatrician, ask for a referral to an occupation or physical therapist who can maybe determine if there's something else going on.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So we're going to move on to number two on the list of five things your baby should be able to do before starting solid foods, and that's sitting relatively unassisted.

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<v SPEAKER_1>After you hit that six month mark, the next most important reliable sign of readiness to eat is your baby sitting on their own relatively unassisted.

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<v SPEAKER_1>You might know, I'm not saying signs of readiness to feed.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It's like the signs of readiness to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>With Baby-Led Weaning, the baby is the one who does the eating.

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<v SPEAKER_1>They're driving the entire eating experience.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It's our job as parents and caregivers, we've got to be on the lookout for when they're ready to start.

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<v SPEAKER_1>But we talked about how they're not ready prior to six months of age, because from a nutritional standpoint, they don't need anything.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Babies who can sit up on their own are demonstrating that they have the head and neck control, as well as the trunk strength to support a safe swallow.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you're super slumped over because you can't even hold your head up, how are you going to swallow an avocado without choking?

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<v SPEAKER_1>If your baby's not sitting up on their own and you try to make them eat food, and then they choke on it, then they're going to have negative associations with food and feeding, and we don't want that.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So, wait until they're six months and can sit relatively on their own.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you're like, I want to see what a baby sitting on their own looks like, go to my YouTube channel.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It's just youtube.com/baby-ledweaning.

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<v SPEAKER_1>There's a playlist about babysitting, and I've got lots of videos of babies who are sitting ready to start solid foods, and I'm showing you some babies who are too early and not just ready.

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<v SPEAKER_1>But again, that sitting relatively on their own is the baby demonstrating that they have the head and neck control as well as the trunk strength to support a safe swallow.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Hey, we're going to take a quick break, but I'll be right back.

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<v SPEAKER_1>My phone is bursting at the seams with photos of our kids.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And over the years, I've tried all sorts of different ways to store and share them with family members.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So for a while, I would just text out pictures to the grandparents, and then we tried a shared photo album, but some people were using Google Photos, and others preferred Facebook Messenger for pictures.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And the more kids we had, the messier it got.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Then I stumbled across the Family Album App.

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<v SPEAKER_1>The Family Album App was created to give parents a secure and easy way to share photos and videos with loved ones.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It's a totally secure, personal haven for your family's memories.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I love that there's no third-party ads, no unwanted eyes, and it's totally free.

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<v SPEAKER_1>No more scrolling through endless feeds or searching folders to find the picture of the kid that you need right now.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Another cool feature about the Family Album App is you can order eight free photo prints every month to be delivered to your home.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Which, if you think about how quickly your baby is changing, it's really nice to have some tangible pictures to hold onto or share to document the last month of your baby's life.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you're looking to level up your photo sharing and organization game with a secure, one-stop, easy-to-use photo organization app, head over to the App Store, search Family Album, download the Family Album App, and start creating a legacy of love one photo at a time.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Take a peek at your baby's head and neck control to gauge their readiness.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And note, they're going to get way stronger as they cross over that six-month mark, but if they're not ready right at six months of age, it's totally fine to wait a couple days or weeks, not the end of the world.

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<v SPEAKER_1>The fourth thing that we're looking for that your baby should be able to do before they start Baby-Led Weaning is not pushing everything out of their mouth.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I mentioned earlier the disappearance of the tongue thrust or the extrusion reflex.

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<v SPEAKER_1>This is kind of still on the list of signs of readiness to eat because it harkens back to an era when we used to start solid foods way before six months of age.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Your baby has this protective mechanism called the extrusion reflex or the tongue thrust where earlier in life, if you put something or they put something in their mouth and they're not ready for it, they're going to push everything out of their mouth.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Now, by the time your baby hits six months of age, that tongue thrust reflex is almost certainly already gone.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And heads up, your baby who's six months of age and is just starting solid foods, they're going to spit some food out.

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<v SPEAKER_1>It's because they don't know what to do with the food in their mouth yet because they need lots of time to learn how to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So, it's not a sign that they're not ready for food yet.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Just know that once you cross over that six month mark, that extrusion reflex is gone.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Your baby will spit a little bit of food out, but it's not a sign that like, oh my gosh, they're not ready to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>The next thing that your baby should be able to do before you start solid foods is showing an interest in food.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Your baby's going to be eyeballing and reaching for and grasping for the food that you're eating, okay?

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<v SPEAKER_1>And I just want to point out that this is also not an independent sign of readiness to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I had this mom the other day, she's like, my baby's three months old and is totally staring at me when I eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Does that mean they're ready to eat?

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<v SPEAKER_1>No, because they're not six months, they're not sitting on their own, but when all those other things kind of line up, you're also going to be like, whoa, this baby wants to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And again, it is always way more fun and certainly safer to feed a baby who is truly ready to eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So in conjunction with those other reliable signs of readiness to eat your baby, mouthing objects and bringing objects to their mouth and reaching for food and watching with interest as you eat it, these are all good things and they're indicators that your baby is moving closer to their starting point for solid food.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So in review, the five things you want your baby to do before they start solid foods is be six months of age or six months adjusted age, be sitting relatively on their own, be able to exert head control, be not pushing everything out of their mouth anymore, but heads up a little bit will come out.

00:14:09.880 --> 00:14:11.340

<v SPEAKER_1>So, you know, that's happening.

00:14:11.360 --> 00:14:13.760

<v SPEAKER_1>And then also just showing an interest in food.

00:14:13.920 --> 00:14:16.020

<v SPEAKER_1>And if they're not interested in it, don't force them.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Putting anything in your baby's mouth, including a spoon can be a choking hazard.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you would like to learn more about what Baby-Led Weaning is and how you can do it safely, I teach a free 75-minute online workshop called Baby-Led Weaning For Beginners.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I give everybody on that free training a copy of my 100 First Foods list.

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<v SPEAKER_1>So you'll never run out of ideas of foods that your baby can eat.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I also have a full program called Baby-Led Weaning with Katie Ferraro that has my original 100 First Foods Daily Meal Plan.

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<v SPEAKER_1>If you're one of those people that's like, I just want a plan.

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<v SPEAKER_1>I want 20 weeks of meal plans that show me exactly what foods to make and videos that show you how to make them safe and recipes.

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<v SPEAKER_1>And I'm explaining all the different things that are happening at the different ages and stages as you move your baby through 100 Foods.

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<v SPEAKER_1>Check out the Baby-Led Weaning with Katie Ferraro program.

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<v SPEAKER_1>The link for that as well as the free workshop.

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<v SPEAKER_1>They're all on my website.

00:15:05.440 --> 00:15:08.120

<v SPEAKER_1>That's at babyledweaning.co.

00:15:08.360 --> 00:15:12.540

<v SPEAKER_1>I'll also link up some of the other podcast episodes that I mentioned, the YouTube channel.

00:15:12.680 --> 00:15:16.020

<v SPEAKER_1>I'll link to a couple of good sitting reels from Instagram as well.

00:15:16.640 --> 00:15:19.760

<v SPEAKER_1>I got all the resources for it if you want to see what this stuff looks like.

00:15:19.780 --> 00:15:24.920

<v SPEAKER_1>I know you're a podcast person and you're listening to this, but I have a lot of video stuff for you too on Instagram, on YouTube.

00:15:25.240 --> 00:15:32.880

<v SPEAKER_1>Go to my website babyledweaning.co or check out the show notes page for this episode, which you can find at blwpodcast.com forward slash two.

00:15:33.460 --> 00:15:36.640

<v SPEAKER_1>And a special thank you to our partners at Airwave Media.

00:15:36.840 --> 00:15:42.620

<v SPEAKER_1>If you guys like podcasts that feature food and science and using your brain, check out some of the podcasts from Airwave.

00:15:42.920 --> 00:15:45.600

<v SPEAKER_1>We are online at blwpodcast.com.

00:15:45.620 --> 00:15:46.760

<v SPEAKER_1>Thank you guys so much for listening.

00:15:46.920 --> 00:15:47.660

<v SPEAKER_1>I'll see you next time.