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.
Please click here to read more about how baby’s iron levels are affected by solid foods
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!
This happened to Holly from mommieswithcents.com. She told us…
I am a breastfeeding mommy currently nursing my second child who is three months old. I was shocked when at her 3 month check up, the pediatrician recommended I start cereal. With my son, a different doctor said not to start until at least four months.
I will probably wait until closer to five months and then just start with one tablespoon once a day for her to get the hang of it, not really for her nutritional needs.
Candace Lindemann from Mamanista.com has an interesting view on pressure from the family to get started with solids…
I have felt pressure to introduce solids early–I think people like to be able to feed the baby. And part of the joy of having a baby in the family is to participate in his new experiences. Everyone likes to see the looks of surprise and excitement when baby discovers something–like a new taste.
I also believe that older people forget exactly when their children reached certain stages. So, a grandparent may remember that you started eating a certain food around the time you crawled, but really you were already 12 or even 18 months’ old, rather than 9 months’. And at this age, every month is a huge step in development.
If you’re finding it difficult to fend off unwelcome advice regarding feeding your baby, then please read our article…
Introducing solids – under pressure to start too soon?
If your pediatrician has recommended starting solids before 6 months of age, please visit…
Introducing solids at 4 to 6 months
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!
Breast milk provides menu of different flavors – New Scientist (external link)
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.
Read more in our comprehensive article – The Best First Food for Baby
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…
Introducing solids to a baby with reflux
Eczema and baby food – is there a connection?
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.
Learn more about baby led weaning here
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.
Depending on what he’s eaten, your baby may experience constipation or diarrhea, which – if caused by diet alone – can be corrected by modifying the types of food he’s consuming.
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!).
Remember that your little one is practicing for when solid foods take over as his main nutritional source – but that, for now, your milk is still the very best food for him… and that the closeness and comfort that nursing provides is as important as ever!
From Debbie Volk…
I am the mother of three and breastfed my children for a total of over 9 years (3+ years each).
I breastfed exclusively for the first six-seven months for each child, and then slowly introduced solid food for the next six months. I always made sure that I nursed my child prior to offering the solid foods – so that his hunger was satisfied by breast milk – and not by the solid food.
I nursed all of my babies “on demand” and not really to a schedule.
At family meal time is where we would experiment with solid foods – but the solid feedings were more about eating together as a family, and not so much about appeasing his hunger (since he was breastfed ahead of time). In doing it this way, my baby still associated breastfeeding with the way to alleviate his hunger – and solid foods were just something fun to do!
The other piece of advice I would give nursing moms is that they should look at the introduction to solid food as just that- an introduction…. A way for baby to practice eating and to become comfortable with different textures.
Nursing moms should remember that the solid food is not meant to offer nutritional value – breast milk should still be the primary food source as it is superior to solid foods. If baby does not take to eating the solid foods – they should not worry – eventually they will!
Luckily, my pediatricians were not so concerned with my introducing solid foods early because all three babies were above average in weight. My doctors felt that as long as they were thriving and gaining adequate weight on breast milk, that it was OK to introduce the solids at a much slower pace than “typical.”
Of course, there was much social pressure from friends and family – but with each child, that pressure lessened, especially since my confidence and knowledge about breastfeeding and its benefits increased with each birth.
From Amanda Alexandrakis…
My son is now 2.5 years old and I nursed until he was 21 months.
We did not introduce solid foods to him until he was 6 months old (he exclusively nursed). He was 22 pounds at 6 months and he was a hungry boy who wanted to eat ALL the time. (Of course, at 22 pounds, nobody could say I was starving the boy!)
I saw other mother’s mix cereal in with formula for their babies as young as 3 months but I felt it was my duty to nurse and protect him from the possibility of developing food allergies, build his immune system and keep him as healthy as possible.
Once he did start eating, he would easily eat 2 jars or organic baby food. My boy is not fat, but he’s big –41 pounds. He’s tall – sometimes much taller than most 4 year olds. He is rarely sick and very healthy.
It was a tough road but since when is the right thing to do easy?
I have four children, oldest 7, youngest 16 months, still nursing the 16 month old. I felt pressure with my first by my pediatrician to start solids at 4 months, I had read to wait until 6 months but went with her advice because she is the doctor.
Solids did not impact nursing at all. I used breast milk with the single grains and went really slow. I introduced each food one at a time waited several days and all of that.
With each of my other three I waited for the 6 month point to introduce solids because all four of my children have food allergies and I have read that the Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that a baby just have breast milk until then. The pressure to start solids earlier doesn’t really bother me because I feel I know my children best
Do you have any tips or advice for introducing solids to your breastfed baby? Please share them here!
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