Starting solids is a big step for any family, but it may be a particularly big step for moms who are breastfeeding. After all, you’ve worked hard to master your nursing technique, and by the time your baby is ready to start solids, you’ve probably gotten into a really great “nursing groove!”
Is starting solids going to ruin all that?
Probably not. It’s true that any big change to the routine, like starting solids, is going to impact breastfeeding, but if it doesn’t have to undo all your hard work.
Below are six things to keep in mind as you begin offering your breastfed baby solid foods. Thinking through these six factors will help you introduce solids in a way that’ll keep the breastmilk flowing and your little one nursing like a champ. 😉
1. Breastmilk is your baby’s primary source of nutrition for the first year.
If you remember one thing, remember this. Some parents assume that starting solids means putting an end to breastfeeding — not so! Not at all. The best food you can give your baby for her first year of life is breastmilk. The solids you offer in the first year are more for practice — they allow her to get used to different tastes and textures, and to adapt to a new way of eating. But it’s the breastmilk that will really nourish her.
2. If you want to nurse past 12 months, wait to introduce solids until your baby is 6 months (or even later!)
There’s lots of evidence that nursing your baby past his first birthday provides a ton of health benefits. If you’d like to continue nursing into your little one’s toddler years, don’t rush on starting solids. Instead, wait until at least 6 months (preferably even later) to start solids. Typically, as babies consume more and more solid food, they tend to wean themselves from the breast. Delaying the introduction of solids helps postpone any self-weaning and increases the changes that you’ll be able to nurse longer.
3. Some breastfeeding moms prefer a baby-led weaning approach to starting solids.
Baby-led weaning can be a great way to start solids if you want to make sure that nursing can continue uninterrupted. Baby-led weaning allows your baby’s own appetite to guide each feeding, ensuring that she doesn’t eat too much solid food (which could decrease her appetite for breastmilk.)
4. Follow the “breastmilk first, solids later” rule.
It’s always best to begin solids this way — nursing first, and then offering a small amount of solid food. That helps take the edge off baby’s hunger, ensuring that he’s calm and relaxed when it’s time to eat his solid food. It’s also a great way to ensure that he’s getting plenty of breastmilk (since he starts the feeding hungry.) But if you want to prioritize nursing, you may want to continue this patterns of breastmilk-first-solids-second long after you’ve introduced solids to your baby.
5. It’s possible for your baby to like solids too much!
If you find that your baby is gobbling up her solid food but showing less and less interest in nursing, think about offering her less solid food, and returning to the breastmilk-first-solids-second pattern (if you weren’t following it to begin with). This will help prevent any early self-weaning.
6. Keep an eye on your baby’s iron levels.
Not a literal eye, of course — that’s not exactly something you can see! But do keep in mind that when you introduce solids into your baby’s diet, it changes his nutritional intake. Iron is especially important; babies start needing more of it around 6 months of age, and their bodies’ own iron stores begin to deplete at that point. It’s important to offer your baby iron-rich foods; you may also want to offer an iron supplement. See this “Does Your Baby Need Vitamin Drops?” post for details.
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