Introducing solids to your breastfed baby brings mixed emotions.
On the one hand, it’s exciting that your amazing baby is now ready to experience new tastes and textures – on the other, you can’t help feeling a little sad that he’s taken the first steps towards weaning.
But introducing solids to your breastfed baby does NOT mean that you have to stop nursing.
Far from it – breastmilk continues to be his primary source of nutrition throughout the first year and nursing can continue well past baby’s first year if both you and your little one are happy for it to do so.
On this page, we look at how to wean your breastfed baby on to solid foods without negatively affecting nursing – plus we share with you some great tips from other nursing Mums!
As we discuss on our main page devoted to starting solids – Baby’s First Foods – many leading organizations, including the World Health Organization and UNICEF, agree that a baby’s nutritional needs for the first 6 months are fully met by either breast milk or formula. Also discussed on our First Foods page are the risks associated with giving your baby ‘real’ food too early.
When you are breastfeeding, however, there are further factors to take into consideration.
Breast fed babies often experience a dramatic increase in appetite as they go through periods of rapid growth. These are known as growth spurts.
If your baby seems less satisfied after nursing, don’t assume, then, that he needs solids without first trying to increase your milk supply to meet his growing needs by nursing frequently and on demand. Increased feeding during growth spurts is temporary and should only last for a few days.
In addition, it’s quite normal for breastfed babies to require feeding during the night. Your baby’s need to feed during the night should not, by itself, be taken as an indication of the need for solids during the day.
(Source – and for more information – please see Growth Spurts by Cheryl Taylor, BA, MME, CBE on dyjaygordon.com)
When thinking about introducing solids to your breastfed baby, be aware that giving your baby ‘real’ food will have a significant affect on the way he absorbs iron from his milk.
Iron plays a crucial part in your baby’s healthy growth and development and iron supplements are often routinely prescribed for breastfed babies once they have reached 6 months of age (note: an October 2010 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics has actually recommended giving supplemental iron from 4 months of age). This is because medical professionals have long maintained that the iron stores of a breastfed baby become too low by this point to continue to support healthy development.
Many question this approach, because further research has demonstrated that an exclusively breastfed baby (ie one that receives no formula milk or solid food whatsoever) absorbs sufficient iron from his milk well beyond the sixth month.
However, this changes when solid foods are introduced – baby begins to absorb less iron from his milk, making iron-rich foods more necessary.
If you give your baby solids before he has reached 6 months of age – and offer an increasing amount up to baby’s first birthday – then his milk intake will drop accordingly. This may lead to your baby weaning from the breast altogether, perhaps earlier than you had intended.
If you plan to continue breastfeeding past baby’s first birthday, then it makes sense to delay solids until AT LEAST 6 months of age.
Remember – there is no requirement to start solid foods at 6 months. Many breastfed babies, gaining weight adequately, do not display an interest in solids until their 8th or 9th month – some will reach their first birthday still enjoying a diet of breast milk alone!
For the first year, solid foods should be seen as a supplement to breastfeeding – not a replacement.
Breast milk is – without a doubt – the most nutritionally complete food for baby’s first year.
NOTE: Many breastfeeding Mums come under pressure to introduce solids earlier than they feel is necessary. The pressure may come from friends or family members – but can even come from medical professionals too!
If you’re finding it difficult to fend off unwelcome advice regarding feeding your baby, then please read our article…
If your pediatrician has recommended starting solids before 6 months of age, please visit…
Frequent breastfeeding will often delay the return of periods, allowing you to consider adopting the Lactational Amenorrhea Method of birth control. Introducing solid foods – which results in baby taking less breast milk – may mean that ovulation will restart.
The progressive weight loss associated with breastfeeding may also be affected as baby takes less milk!
One of the many great things about breastfeeding is that it has enabled your baby to experience a wide range of flavours already!
Yes, that curry and those garlic-laced meals you enjoy so much have all added just a little extra flavour to your breast milk! And whilst this may not mean that your baby will enjoy ALL the foods you eat, his palate will be somewhat sophisticated – meaning that he is more likely to be receptive to new flavours than his formula-fed counterparts… and less likely to be a picky eater!
Iron fortified rice cereal has long been considered the ‘best’ first food for baby by medical professionals and parents alike… but opinions are changing!
Fruits, vegetables – even meat – are all acceptable foods for your little one’s first taste of solids and may help avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with introducing solids to breastfed babies… constipation being the most common.
Many breastfeeding Mums like to add a little breast milk to whatever they choose to offer as a first food. Not only may this give the food a more acceptable consistency for baby, it’s also helpful because it incorporates a familiar flavour with a new one.
Some foods are more likely than others to trigger an allergic reaction or digestive problem – and there are some foods that may present a choking hazard to a young baby.
Our list of Baby Foods to Avoid includes common allergens and other foods you may wish to delay until later in baby’s first year or beyond.
It may also be worth thinking about foods that seem to upset baby when YOU eat them – and to consider delaying the introduction of these foods to your little one.
Read more about…
Many parents see baby led weaning – the method of introducing solids where NO purees are offered and baby feeds himself from the beginning – as a natural progression from breastfeeding. As with nursing, baby continues to ‘feed on demand’ and is completely in control of how much he consumes.
There is no ‘best’ time of day to offer solid foods – and, as all babies are different – so are their preferences!
Some Mums like to offer solids in the evenings because that’s when their milk supply is at its lowest and when baby seems to feed the most. The only downside to this may be that it could result in an unsettled night for you both if the food you offer upsets your baby’s digestion.
Very occasionally, a new food may trigger an allergic reaction requiring medical help – and for this reason we suggest only offering new foods at a time when it’s easy to see a doctor (during weekdays, for example, and avoiding weekends or holidays when medical assistance may be harder to find).
Personally, we’ve always offered solids to our little ones in the mornings, when they were bright, cheerful and receptive to new experiences.
To maintain your milk supply, offer solids after breastfeeding – and then offer only a little. If you are pureeing food for your baby, then a teaspoon or so will be plenty at first.
Many breastfeeding Mums opt for the baby-led weaning approach when introducing solids – that means skipping purees altogether and offering soft pieces of food that baby can feed himself. If you choose to do this, then you can simply offer the food to your little one and he will take as much as he needs.
As he weeks pass, let your baby be the guide as to how much he wants to eat…
… remember – solid food should NOT be his primary source of nutrition before his first birthday, therefore you do not need to urge him to consume more than he wants to eat. In addition, encouraging your baby to eat more than he needs is teaching him to ignore his body’s signals, which can lead to weight problems in later life.
We discuss this in more detail here – How Much Should My Baby Be Eating?
Nor is it necessary to offer solids on a daily basis – your baby may be happy to take them one day, then may refuse them the next. This is totally normal.
Most breastfeeding mothers will agree that their baby’s poop really isn’t that offensive – it actually smells rather sweet!
Unfortunately, that changes when solid foods are introduced – the colour will likely change from the typical yellow to a darker brown and the smell will be… somewhat less sweet! This is perfectly normal and to be expected.
If you’re thinking of offering your little one bananas, then do check out this post on our blog to prepare yourself for the possible affect it may have on your little one’s poop!
Introducing solids to your breastfed baby should be fun for you both – so allow your little one to experiment with different textures and to play with his food (tips for dealing with the mess here!).
Do you have any tips or advice for introducing solids to your breastfed baby? Please share them here!
Please note: We check all submissions to our website prior to publication to ensure that content is original. All submissions are considered to be from non medical professionals – if you are a medical professional and choose to submit any information for publication on our website, you must identify your professional status. We require that all submissions are respectful and honest – submissions containing inappropriate content will not be published. You must be at least 18 years old to submit your experiences and comments to this website. The information given here is not intended to replace the advice of a health professional.
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