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Introducing Solid Foods

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.

Baby will need this extra nutrition provided by solid foods, as he/she gets older, so don’t worry about overfeeding.

The main goal for the next six months, before your baby turns one, is to get him/her familiarized with different textures and tastes, but the main source of nutrition, should still be breast milk. In the beginning, 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 to breastfeed as per usual, and just add small meals or snacks in-between breastfeeding sessions.

After two years, if you are still breastfeeding, you can give your baby solid foods as the main source of nutrition and add breastfeeding as a “snack" during the day.

WHO Recommendations on Introducing Solid Foods to Breastfed Babies

  • 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 at an 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, with 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, due to the fact that they already recognize some flavors of food via the mother’s breast milk. They are, therefore, less likely to become picky eaters.

Which Foods to Start off with?

  • Start with foods that are plain (without spices).
  • You can give your baby any foods; there is no specific order. Some popular foods to start a baby on, include: Banana, peaches, carrots, pears, squash, avocado and rice cereal.
  • Some mothers like to start off with rice cereal, then soft things like mashed banana and finally they would offer meat and vegetables.
  • When you think your baby is ready, you can start introducing finger foods  like pieces of fruit, rusks and toast. Read more here 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 make sure that your baby is eating a combination of fruits, vegetables, meat, milk and iron fortified cereal daily. (Unless of course, if you are a vegetarian family, in this case, you can look for healthy alternative foods)

Signs that your Baby is Ready to Start Solids

  • When your baby can keep food in the mouth, without pushing it out with the tongue.
  • Your baby is preferably 6 months old.
  • Your baby still seems hungry, even after 8 – 12 breast feedings per day. This may just be a growth spurt, which should disappear within a week.
  • Your baby seems interested in the food on your plate.
  • Your baby starts imitating you, by opening the mouth wide, while you are eating.
  • Your baby can sit upright without help.

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.

What if 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.

Don’t worry about this too much if your baby is still growing well and breastfeeding well.

Your baby will get accustomed to the solids in his/her 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 him/her.

Breast milk on its own, can exclusively feed and nourish a child, right up to the age of two. So, as long as your own 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.
  • Babies younger than four months, 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 4 months, some only after six or seven months.

Signs that a Certain Foods are Not Agreeing with Baby’s Tummy

  • Flatulence (gassiness).
  • A red rash on your baby’s face or bottom.
  • Diarrhea or explosive, frothy stools.
  • Extra fussiness.
  • Increase in spitting up (vomiting).

Read 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 on how much you like it.
  • Feed your baby when he/she is awake, alert and in a good mood.
  • Allow your baby to feed him/herself, 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. ;-)
  • Allow your baby to eat with you.
  • Offer your baby finger foods.

Baby First Foods Ideas

  • Protein: Chopped up meat or minced beef, fish (without bones) or fish fingers, cheese, scrambled eggs, yogurt, custard, boiled eggs, small sausages. (Beans, chick peas and Tofu are just some vegetarian alternatives) 
  • Starch: Pasta, rice, rusks, bread, oats and crackers.
  • Veg and fruit: Mushy peas, thick smooth soups, sweet potato or pumpkin, stir fried baby marrow, watermelon, mango, grapes (seedless), raisins or dried fruit.

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Moms who Want to Start Feeding Solids at 4 Months

Sometimes a mother might feel that her baby is ready for solids at 4 months, maybe because her baby is starting to demand more breast milk. This is usually due to a growth spurt. She should try breastfeed her baby as often as her baby needs, it is not necessary to start introducing solid foods yet. A growth spurt will only last about a week, after this, her baby should start to feed as usual again.

Some babies may start grabbing at food on plates from about 4 months, you can start 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. Read more about normal bowel movements after starting solids.
  • Always offer your baby new foods in the morning, this will give you some time during the day, to see if the food agrees with your baby's tummy, instead of having to wake up at night with a colicky baby.
  • Some babies may be allergic to fish, nuts, dairy or eggs. Introduce them slowly. Whole cow's milk should only be introduced after one year. Introducing them too quickly, can trigger an allergy. 

Other pages on “breastfeeding problems" in connection with this page on introducing solid foods.

  • Weaning foods
  • Solid foods for babies

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