Introducing Solid Foods to the Breastfed Baby - What You Should Know
Starting Solids and Breastfeeding
Breast milk should be your baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year. Your breastfeeding pattern should not be altered at all when starting solid foods.
The primary goal for the next six to eight months, before your baby turns one, is to get them familiarized with different textures and tastes, but the primary source of nutrition should still be breast milk. Initially, it’s perfectly okay if your baby only eats a tsp of food at a time.
Sometimes when a mother starts to introduce solids, she may become confused about when and how often to breastfeed. You should continue breastfeeding as usual and add small meals or snacks between breastfeeding sessions.
After two years, if you are still breastfeeding, you can give your baby solid foods as the primary source of nutrition and add breastfeeding as a “snack" during the day. Although, it is not unknown that some children are breastfed exclusively into their second year and thrive.
- Introduce solids at six months while continuing to nurse.
- Introduce baby food that is of high nutritional value.
- Prepare food safely to reduce the incidence of food poisoning.
- Give your baby food that is prepared with appropriate texture and amount according to age.
- 6-8-month-olds can be given a small meal twice daily, 9-11 months can be given a small meal three to four times daily, and those between 12-24 months can be given an extra snack or two during the day. This is added to breast milk as the primary source of nutrition in the diet.
Breastfeed First or Give Solid Food First?
Mothers who breastfeed first and then feed their babies other food find that their babies wean later, compared to those who let their babies eat solid foods first and then breastfeed.
It’s best to offer your baby solid foods an hour or so after breastfeeding. This is so that your baby does not take in less breast milk.
Interesting Facts About Starting Baby on Solid Food
- Breastfed babies digest solid foods much easier than formula-fed babies due to the enzymes in milk helping to digest starch, fat, and proteins.
- Breastfed babies take to solid foods easier since they already recognize food flavors via the mother’s breast milk. They are, therefore, less likely to become picky eaters.
Which Foods to Start With?
- Start with foods that are plain (without spices).
- You can give your baby any food; there is no specific order. Some popular first-foods to give babies include bananas, peaches, carrots, pears, squash, avocado, and rice cereal.
- Some mothers like to start with rice cereal, then soft things like mashed banana, and finally, they offer meat and vegetables.
- When you think your baby is ready, you can start introducing finger foods like pieces of fruit, rusks, and toast. Learn more about baby-led weaning.
- Try to introduce as many different types of foods as possible. If your baby does not like something, you can always try it at a later stage again.
- By eight months of age, you can ensure that your baby is eating a combination of fruits, vegetables, meat, milk, and iron-fortified cereal daily. (Unless, of course, you are a vegetarian/vegan family, in which case, you can look for healthy protein alternatives)
Signs That Your Baby Is Ready to Start Solids
Not all babies are ready to eat solids at six months. Some babies may only show these signs at 8 or 9 months. There is no rush. Some babies take in solids only after one year and have no health or growth problems.
- When your baby can keep food in the mouth without pushing it out with the tongue.
- Your baby is preferably six months old.
- Baby has increased their feeding frequency for longer than a few days.
- Your baby seems interested in the food on your plate.
- Baby can grab hold of food and direct it to their mouth.
- Your baby starts imitating you by opening their mouth wide while you are eating.
- Your baby can sit upright without help.
- Baby has started getting teeth. However, this is not always a good indicator, as some babies are born with teeth!
Equipment Needed for Introducing Solid Foods
- Highchair, plastic spoons and dishes, bibs, and a sippy cup.
- Baby food grinder if you are making your own baby food.
Interesting Facts - Breast milk alone is enough for a growing baby, even a big baby.
What if My Baby Is Refusing Solids?
- Some babies do take longer to adapt to eating solids; it may be their own little body’s way of protecting itself until the digestive tract is ready.
- A baby does not need to start solids to learn to chew by six months. A baby can learn to chew at any age.
- With the exception of Vitamin D, babies do not need extra supplementation with vitamins and nutrients when breastfed exclusively.
- Solids will not help a baby sleep longer intervals at night.
- Don’t worry about this if your baby is still growing well and breastfeeding well.
- Your baby will get accustomed to the solids in their own time. All you have to do is continue to offer a variety of foods. If your baby does not want these foods, you should never force-feed them.
- Breast milk on its own can exclusively feed and nourish a child right up to the age of two. So, as long as your breast milk supply is adequate, your baby will be healthy.
Why Wait Until Six Months Before Starting Your Baby on Solids?
- A baby’s intestines only start maturing between 4 and 6 months.
- Younger babies still have a tongue-thrust reflex, which makes it difficult for them to keep food in their mouths and to swallow.
- Babies only learn to sit up from five months onward.
- A baby only gets teeth for chewing from about four months, and some only after six or seven months.
- The earlier introduction of solids can cause allergic reactions.
- The risk of diarrhea is less after six months.
- Your baby needs as much immune protection as possible during the first six months.
- The baby is at an increased risk of developing allergic reactions if weaned before six months.
- Poorer nutrition. A baby's foods will most likely not be as nutrient and vitamin-rich as breast milk.
- The baby is at higher risk of ear and gut infections when consuming less breast milk.
Signs That Certain Foods Are Not Agreeing With Baby’s Tummy
- Flatulence (gassiness).
- There may be a red rash on your baby’s face or bottom.
- Diarrhea or explosive, frothy stools.
- Extra fussiness.
- Increase in spitting up (vomiting).
Learn more about food allergies in the breastfed baby
How to Entice Your Baby to Eat
- Take a bite of the food, and make a fuss over how much you like it.
- Feed your baby when they are awake, alert, and in a good mood.
- Allow your baby to feed themself. Sometimes, this can encourage a baby to eat more, although this may get messy.
- Add some of your breast milk to the food that you are offering your baby. The food will taste more familiar, increasing its appeal. ;-)
- A baby may feel more comfortable eating on the mother's lap. Let your baby sit on your lap and eat with you.
- Offer your baby finger foods.
Baby First Foods Ideas
It is always best to introduce whole foods into your baby's diet, such as steamed vegetables or fruit, instead of processed baby foods or canned foods.
At six months, a baby can handle lightly mashed fruits and veg, or whole soft pieces of banana, cheese, or avocado. The baby should be making some chewing motions when putting these in their mouth. The more whole the food is, the more likely the baby will stay interested.
Foods to Avoid When Introducing Solids
(may cause choking)
- Dried fruits.
- Whole grapes.
- Large pieces of sausage.
- Raw vegetables.
- Peanut butter.
Foods to Avoid That Pose Danger:
- Honey should be avoided for the first year of a baby’s life.
- Dried fruits since they are high in sugar.
- Deep-fried foods are overall bad for a person’s health.
- Any form of sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Easy Weaning Food Ideas
- Pieces of toasted whole grain bread.
- Low-sugar breakfast cereal.
- Frozen peas.
- Tofu cubes.
- Soft cooked beans.
- Steamed fruits and vegetables.
- Ripe, soft fruits.
- Steel-cut oats.
Moms Who Want to Start Feeding Solids at 4 Months
Sometimes a mother might feel that her baby is ready for solids at four months, maybe because her baby is starting to demand more breast milk. This is usually due to a growth spurt. She should try to breastfeed her baby as often as her baby needs, and it is unnecessary to start introducing solid foods. A growth spurt will only last about a week. After this, her baby should begin to feed as usual again.
Some babies may start grabbing the food on plates from about four months. You can begin to give your baby some food, but remember that your milk supply may drop a bit if your baby starts to breastfeed less.
Also, the sooner you introduce other foods, the sooner your baby is likely to wean and the sooner your period is going to return. (If it has not already returned).
Warnings When Introducing Solid Food
- Starting solids constipation: Don’t replace nursing with food too quickly, as this might cause your baby to become constipated.
- When feeding baby solid food, you might notice a change in bowel movements.
- Always offer your baby new foods in the morning. This will give you time during the day to see if the food agrees with your baby's tummy instead of waking up at night with a colicky baby.
- You may slowly introduce fish, nuts, dairy, or eggs into your baby's diet from six months in small amounts. As mentioned above, recent research suggests that introducing "culprit allergy foods" into your baby's diet in small quantities from 6 months can prevent allergic reactions later. A mother is now encouraged to eat these foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding unless she is allergic to a specific food. Some culprit foods include dairy products, nuts, fish, eggs, wheat, soy, and citrus fruits. Reference for this new information: Allergies - Where are we now? & Early consumption of peanuts in infancy is associated with a low prevalence of peanut allergy.
Comments, Questions & Answers
Baby Vomiting After Eating Solids
"With my first child, I introduced baby food after six months, and she cooperated very well. My second baby is now six months, and I gave her solids that she throws up immediately after. Even though she is very eager to eat at four months, I wanted to start giving her baby food when I noticed this, but my mum advised that I wait till six months.
What can I do? Please, your urgent reply will be appreciated
"There is no rush to introduce solids; it can be done slowly, especially if you have been breastfeeding exclusively. All babies are different; while one takes the transition easily, another might take much longer.
There are certain types of foods that are easier for a baby to digest. It is recommended to start with these foods and slowly transition to others as your baby becomes accustomed to them.
See signs of readiness to introduce solids.
The first type of food introduced should be mashed or pureed cooked fruit and vegetables. Soft fruits such as peach, banana, or avocado may be given raw. Rice cereal may be provided with expressed breast milk. Breast milk, at this point, should still be your baby's primary source of nutrition.
Once the baby is handling those foods adequately, the next type of food should be soft-cooked meats such as fish and chicken, pasta, toast, rice, and hard-boiled eggs. At this stage, a few dairy products like (sugar-free) yogurt may be given.
Here is a page on baby's first foods.
Hope this helps."
7-1/2-Month-Old Starting Solids
"Over the last month, we have introduced solids to our now seven & 1/2-month-old baby. He only has a poop once every 7-10 days. I understand this is normal, but how long should it take to become more often as solids are introduced? He is now still pooping only once every 4-7 days."
There is no "Normal."
"Hello! Some babies poop four times a day, some once a day, and others once a week. It all depends on the baby's digestive system and diet, as breastmilk is very quickly and often completely digested with little left to "pass."
Consistency, color, and frequency change as solids are introduced into a baby's diet. As the baby moves to an almost completely solid diet (on or after 12 months), some babies regulate to once a day or after every meal. Some babies may only have a stool every two or three days. Just as every adult is different, every baby is, too."
by Zelda Behr
"It all depends on your baby's age. Up until six months, babies only need breast milk. After six months, they need extra solids.
Give your baby at least one meal of solid foods daily and increase it from there.
Remember to introduce only one new food at a time and wait three days before trying a new one to check for allergies.
If your little one does not like a specific food, give it a few days and try it again or mix it with some breast milk."
Baby off of Food and Only Wants to Breastfeed
by Dalia (Los Angeles California )
I am a first-time mom; I have a 7-month-old baby girl. I have been breastfeeding since she was born, and she was fine for the first month and a half, eating baby Cereal, oatmeal, and eating bananas, and snacks, but now that she turned seven months this past week, all she wants to eat is breast milk. Going on to her 2nd week without eating, is this normal?
Is someone going through something like this that can give me some advice
Please let me know. Thank you :) "
The same thing happened with my daughter, except she started waking up more often during the night.
It could be two things...
1. A growth spurt
If it is a growth spurt, you will notice that your little girl has grown somewhat in length afterward (which was the case with mine). My little girl is nine months now and eating better than ever.
The most common time for teeth to erupt is between 7 and 8 months, so your little girl may be starting to teethe now.
The good news is no matter what the issue is your baby will start to eat again soon. Just keep trying to introduce foods...also maybe begin adding other foods, like finger foods.
Try not to worry about the fact that she is only breastfeeding. Many moms have exclusively breastfed their babies until the age of one before introducing solids.
Hope this helps ;-)."
Can You Mix Rice and fruit?
By Kavita (India)
"6-month-old baby not liking non-sweet(plain) liquids
I introduced rice and dal water at five months to my baby. She used to enjoy her food at the beginning. But when she completed her five months, she cried a lot when I fed her the same dal and rice water. She is ready to intake any fruit juice.
Is it okay to mix the fruit and the rice to make her eat solid food? Or would it lead to some allergy? Also, I am afraid that she would get into the habit of eating only sweet foods as she grows older."
by Zelda Behr
"Babies need variety too and can get bored of the same food over and over.
Your baby is old enough to start giving pureed fruits and vegetables. Don't add salt or sugar to these. The naturally sweet taste of the fruit is fine, and it won't cause the baby only to want sweet flavors.
Mixing it with the rice is okay, as the baby is already accustomed to this taste.
Always introduce one new food at a time and wait three days before introducing another new food to check for allergies.
Start with basic things like pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, steamed pear, apple, banana."
Why Are My 6 Months Old Poop Green and Mucus-Like?
by Azeezah Salau (Nigeria)
"My six-month-old was exclusively breastfed for 6months when I introduced solid foods a week ago. I give him rice cereal with formula, apple puree, and banana puree. I noticed about two days after he started to eat solids, he poops frequently (6-8 times a day). Also, his poop is green, mucus-like, and smells a bit. Please, someone, HELP me!"
Re: Green Stool
It is natural for a change in diet to result in a change in poop. Solids are new for your baby, and his body is just beginning to learn how to absorb the nutrients from solid foods!
If the baby is mainly breastfed and then is introduced to formula (you said it was mixed with the rice cereal), this is most likely the cause of the change. Formula poop is more often a greener color than breast milk. A change in frequency in bowel movements is also normal, as the baby's digestive system gets accustomed to solid foods.
You can express breast milk to use with the cereal in place of the formula if you would like, or choose other high iron foods (such as green veggies) to replace the cereal."