As the 6-month mark approaches, many moms have questions about how to balance starting solid foods while maintaining their breastfeeding relationship. It’s important to note that although your baby’s intake is going to start expanding to a variety of table foods, your breast milk remains a very important component of their diet during the first year and beyond.
The following guidelines will help you prepare to start solids with your breast fed baby. Keep in mind that it’s important to discuss your infant’s nutritional status and feeding expectations with your pediatrician before starting adding any new foods to baby’s diet.
- Know When Your Baby is Ready – The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that solids are introduced to infants around 6 months of age. Prior to that time, they need nothing other than breast milk. Your infant will begin to show signs that they are ready to try solids such as sitting mostly upright unsupported, having good control of their head and neck, and opening their mouth/showing interest in food when it is offered. This is a great time to have a discussion with your pediatrician about dietary needs of your breastfed baby.
- Start Slow – Even when your infant hits the 6-month mark, breast milk remains the primary component of their diet throughout the first year. As your infant approaches the one year mark, you will notice that their solid food intake gradually increases. When you begin solid foods, try to breastfeed first and offer solids 30 or so minutes after breastfeeding has occurred. Pay close attention to your baby’s feeding cues — if they turn away and seem uninterested in what you are feeding them after a time, it’s ok to stop.
- Look for Foods Rich in Iron – Around 6 months your baby’s iron stores are becoming depleted and adding solid foods to his diet will help ensure that he is taking in plenty of this vital mineral. Look for iron rich foods to offer your baby such as fortified infant oatmeal, ground/pureed meets, dark leafy greens, beans, and lentils. Talk with your pediatrician about which foods they recommend introducing first.
- Offer Baby a Variety – The flavor of your breast milk has been influenced by the variety of foods you have consumed while breastfeeding. It’s this reason that some researchers believe account for the breastfed baby being more open to a variety of tastes as they start solid foods. Help expand your baby’s food horizons by offering a variety of foods rich in nutrients. Talk with your pediatrician about how long you need to wait before introducing a new food. It may take 10 times of offering a new food before your baby accepts it, so don’t give up on a new fruit or veggie if baby does not seem interested in the first serving.
- Remember to Breastfeed on Demand – Breastfeeding will remain a very important component of your infant’s nutrition during the first year and beyond. Continue to offer the breast frequently and whenever your infant shows interest in nursing. Your infant does not require additional hydration beyond your breast milk, however you can offer a small amount of water with meals in a sippy cup, which some infants may enjoy.
Join us for the August 9 Breastfeeding Mothers Support group at 10 am in the Board Room at Lompoc Valley Medical Center for an additional discussion of this topic as well as mother-to-mother breastfeeding support and friendship.