August 08, 2022

Working Together: How to Introduce Solid Foods While Breastfeeding

Working Together: How to Introduce Solid Foods While Breastfeeding

Written by Pamela Lim,

Introducing solid foods to your baby while still breastfeeding is a great way to ensure that they receive the nutrition and other benefits of breast milk while beginning to explore the tastes and textures of solid foods. 

Keeping in mind that when you begin introducing solids to your baby's diet, it is not meant to replace breast milk as a nutrition or calorie source. At this stage, your baby is simply experimenting and learning about new foods.

If baby refuses solids, try again later in a week or two, and maybe with a different food. Some babies may refuse solids until 8-9 months or even longer.

Should I offer solids before or after nursing?
Do keep in mind that breastfeeding and breast milk are still very important as your child transitions to solid foods. It may take them a while to accept solids, but be patient and allow them to progress at their own pace.

The start of solid foods is not meant to replace which means that when solids are introduced, the breastfeeding pattern is not interrupted at all but baby is fed solids in slow and increasing amounts as his appetite increases. Baby will be getting about the same amount of breastmilk as he gets older with increasing amounts of solids on top of that.

The main point is maintaining breastmilk as baby’s main source of nutrition throughout the first year. This is important both to baby’s good nutrition and good health.

How often and how much to give?
Introduce solids to your baby gradually. It may take some time for some babies to accept them. Continue breastfeeding as often as before and adding more solids as your baby’s appetite increases. A few spoonful once a day is enough at the beginning and gradually increase.

If baby starts solids later than six months, then proceed in a similar manner, at baby’s pace.

0 – 4 months

– Breastmilk only

4 – 6 months

– Breastmilk only

6 – 7 months

  • Continue nursing on cue.
  • Solid foods should not replace nursing sessions.
  • Offer solids once per day or even once every few days is fine.
  • If baby is developmentally ready and is learning how to use a cup, give a few sips of expressed breastmilk or (water – no more than 2 ounces per 24 hours), a couple of times per day is fine.

7 – 9 months

  • Continue nursing on cue.
  • Solid foods should not replace nursing sessions.
  • Watch for baby’s cues as this is particularly easy if baby nurses beforehand and most or all solids are offered to baby to self-feed. Increase solids gradually of baby is interested with a maximum of 2 meals per day.

9 – 12 months

  • Continue nursing on cue.
  • Solid foods should not replace nursing sessions.
  • Watch for baby’s cues as this is particularly easy if baby nurses beforehand and most or all solids are offered to baby to self-feed.
  • Aim for baby getting no more than 25% of her calories from solids by 12 months which is also normal.

Offering the solids about an hour after you nurse often works well. If nursing has come before the solids, you can continue feeding your baby the solids until she shows signs of fullness when she turns her head, closing her mouth or spitting the food out. Trying to feed past this point is overfeeding. Most babies will balance their milk intake with their solid food intake well if you feed in this way.

Do note that if too many breastfeeding sessions are replaced by solid feedings too quickly, your baby may not be getting enough fluid. To relieve constipation, put the baby to the breast more frequently.  

There is no exact science to introducing solids. Just do your best to follow your baby’s cues about when to increase the amount of solids, taking care to ensure that breastmilk remains baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year.

What if my baby refuses all or most solids?
Some babies are slow to take to solids. It’s not uncommon for some babies to take several months once solids have been introduced before they really take to them well. Babies who are slow to teethe and babies who have food sensitivities are often the ones who are slower to begin eating solids. This “slowness” may be their bodies’ way of protecting them until the digestive system is more ready to accept new foods.

Rest assured that as long as your baby is continuing to gain weight and grow as she should, your breast milk is meeting her needs well as this should still be the primary source of nutrition for most of the first year.

Don’t worry if she’s not interested or takes very small amounts. Your only true responsibility is what you offer and when you offer it, not whether if baby eats it. That has to be entirely up to her. Do not try to force or coax her into eating as this is never recommended.

It’s best to follow your baby’s cues to determine how much and how often she wants to eat solid foods.

Allergic reactions and symptoms to watch for:
In very rare cases allergy can cause a severe life-threatening reaction called anaphylactic shock. If your baby has a severe and immediate allergic reaction, which may include swelling of the lips, tongue, eyes or face, seek emergency medical care.

Food sensitivity reactions can include eczema, nettle rash (urticaria), a sore bottom, wheezing, asthma, colic, vomiting, constipation and diarrhoea. If a food causes a mild reaction, consult your health visitor or doctor.

How to decide when to begin offering your baby solid foods? 
Watch for signs that your child is developmentally ready to begin manipulating solids in their mouth, and keep an eye out for their increased interest in what you are eating.

Signs of Readiness

  • Your child can sit up in a high chair and hold their head up without help.
  • They are interested in your food and may try to imitate you eating.
  • They can grab things and bring them to their mouth.
  • They no longer have the tongue-thrust reflex that pushes out of their mouth.
  • They are beginning to chew.

How to Offer Baby Food
Start introducing baby foods gradually, beginning with soft pureed vegetables and fruits.  These can be followed by foods that are high in iron and protein.

  • Try a few spoons of solids after breastfeeding so that your baby does not fill up on solids and not drink enough breast milk. At first, your baby may refuse solids or have trouble eating the new foods and it’s ok.
  • Be patient; your child will get it eventually. If they are not interested in solids, continue breastfeeding like normal and try the solids again in a few weeks.
  • Offer foods one at a time and wait a few days between starting new foods so you can tell if your child has a reaction to a new food. 
  • Wait to offer finger foods such as dry cereal, crackers, cut-up cooked vegetables, and soft fruits until about 8 months of age. Avoid foods your baby can choke such as raisins, nuts, whole grapes, hot dogs, and popcorn.
  • Baby learns how to swallow safely first, then works on chewing skills later. Purees can be very helpful for teaching swallowing, as they help intrinsic tongue muscles develop, preparing your baby to chew and swallow more efficiently. It’s also less common to gag or choke on purees, which may help some babies feel more comfortable when starting the feeding process.
  • You know how much your baby has eaten. Whether using store-bought or homemade purees, you’ll be able to get a good estimate on how much your baby consumed.
  • Baby can get a lot of flavor from the start. Who says purees have to be boring and bland? Especially if you make homemade purees, there are some pretty tasty flavour combinations that you can offer baby as some of their first foods.
  • Less Mess. Although letting baby touch and explore foods is an important part of the process, if you’re feeling hesitant on just how messy things are going to get initially, starting with spoon-feeding purees might help you ease into the process.

You may want to consider baby-led-weaning as a method of introducing solids. Using this technique, you provide your baby with age-appropriate forms of the food you are eating and allow them to explore it and decide how much they want to eat or whether they want to eat it at all. On the other hand, baby-led weaning may not be appropriate for some babies with developmental, motor or medical issues. Consult your paediatrician and they can make referrals to health professionals to support you as needed.

You may also find that it’s helpful to make finger foods readily available throughout the day, so that baby can graze often. Some parents keep a variety of foods out in an ice cube or muffin tray. Small children often need to take in several smaller snacks throughout the day rather than eating 3 large meals.

Some babies prefer to eat foods that they can pick up and feed themselves, rather than foods that must be spooned to them. Most babies would rather have food right off the table than the blander-tasting baby foods. For fuss-free pureed food, try offering your baby a variety of Taleii Baby Food (see below) during family mealtime.

It’s best to follow your baby’s cues to determine how much and how often she wants to eat solid foods.

Encourage your baby to enjoy exploring and experiencing food with its texture, colour and taste and to take part in family meal time. This can be a fun time for all.