Your baby arrives with a set of reflexes that help them get the nutrition they need from milk. As these primitive reflexes fade away at three to six months, they are replaced by new skills that allow your baby to adapt to solid foods.
- Develops the ability to suck and swallow in the womb, swallowing about 500ml of amniotic fluid a day by the time they are born
- Cries when hungry
- Shows the 'rooting' reflex, turning their head and opening their mouth when you stroke the side of their mouth or cheek with your nipple or finger
- Will automatically push their tongue forwards when something touches it – this 'tongue-thrust' reflex helps them to suck efficiently
- Has an immature gut and kidneys that can only cope with milk feeds.
Your six month old:
- Is able to grasp objects and move them to their mouth
- Has good control of their back and neck muscles, allowing them to sit upright
- May be starting to get their first milk teeth
- Is able to absorb a wider range of foods
- Produces more saliva, which helps with the swallowing and digestion of solid foods
- Can use their tongue to pass solids from the front to the back of their mouth, although this may take a little practise
- Needs the nutrients and calories that solid foods provide, especially iron, to fuel their rapid development and growth from now on
- Can sip and swallow from a lidded cup with a little help.
Your seven month old:
- Has good control of the muscles in their hands and can grasp food and transfer it to their mouth more easily.
- Can swallow thick purees without gagging
- Can chew (encourage this skill by offering lumpier foods and finger foods)
- Will lean forward and open their mouth when they want more food, or turn away to signal that they have had enough.
Your nine month old:
- Can now pick up small bits of foods between their finger and thumb (pincer grip) – keep a close eye on them in case of choking
- Keeps their lips closed as they eat, which means less spillage when chewing
- May have both upper and lower teeth that can cut through hard or lumpy foods
- Makes sounds, touches your hand or points to show you when they want more
- Holds a lidded cup with two hands and drinks by themselves
- Shows an interest in feeding themselves by playing with a spoon or putting it in their mouth
- Can now drop objects as well as grasp them, and may drop food from their highchair
- Offers food to you or to animals
- May push your hand or the spoon away if they don’t want to eat.