We know that every baby is different in how they develop, but having a basic guideline is useful. Instead of worrying about when you think your child should be moving onto solids, sleeping alone or starting at a daycare, child expert and co-author of Baby Sense, Ann Richardson gives us the facts.
How do we really know when to offer our babies solids?
A baby is normally between four and five months old when it becomes clear that he may need something more than breastmilk. Ann suggests looking out for these cues, which could indicate that he’s ready:
- He’s picking up frequent night feeds again
- He wants to feed more frequently during the day
- He’s not gaining weight
- Also, use his hunger as a guide to when to move him onto three meals a day, and how much to offer. “Some days he’ll seem ravenous, and other days he may show little interest. Space out the food and the milk feeds so that he’s not eating and drinking milk at the same time,” says Ann.
When it comes to your child sleeping alone, it depends on what works for you. Some parents move their children into their own room early, while others keep them in their room up until early childhood. “When the sleeping arrangements no longer suit you, you can change them,” assures Ann. She offers these tips:
- Read your baby a book; this will give him positive associations with bedtime
- Try not to lie with your tot until he falls asleep; he needs to be able to fall asleep on his own
- Some babies sleep better with noise in the background, so try leaving a fan on or look for a white noise CD that might help.
Being on his own
Ann advises that as soon as your baby learns to self-soothe, at around three months, he can entertain himself by chewing on his hands, and playing with his fingers and other objects. “This will help him stay
calm and contained for a while, without your constant presence.” says Ann. It’s also important to encourage separation in your child’s toddler years, as he’s beginning to learn how to be independent.
Ann suggests that children be kept in their home environment until the age of two years, but if you work and have no one to leave him with, or you spend hours away from home and leave him with a caregiver who may under-stimulate him, or you live in an unsafe area, then daycare may be a better option.
Most toddlers are ready for interaction with other children at around 18 months, so you can try a playgroup for a few hours, a couple of days a week. Pre-schooling usually occurs around three years of age.
*Originally published in June 2012