Breastfeeding 101: Starting Solids


The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, to name a couple, all suggest breastfeeding exclusively for at least the first six months of a baby's life. That means no water, formula, or anything else that could mess with the internal flora of baby's sensitive gut.

Eventually, they will start eating solid food called "complementary foods," which aren't there to provide too much for the baby yet, as breast milk is still their MAIN source of nutrition. The WHO says the transition period from breast milk to solids takes place between 6-24 months, meaning this isn't an overnight or quick process -- foods are meant to just be introduced slowly.

But when introducing solids to a breastfed baby, you have to find a good balance between the solids and breastfeeding, or your supply can take a hit.

Wait until your baby is ready to start solids: some will be ready at 6 months, others aren't yet. Some people think their babies are ready before, but often it's growth spurts or natural curiosity about Mommy's things they're seeing. Babies like to mimic mom and dad, but that doesn't mean their body's ready for food.

If your baby is under 6 months but wants to grab your plate, offer an empty bowl and baby spoon for them to play with (invisible dinner!), or even consider some frozen breast milk in a mesh feeder (great for teething!). Since we can't see into the intestines of every infant to see if the cell lining of the gut has closed up, we have to go by external guidelines. Your baby is ready to start solids if:

  • They're 6 months old or more.
  • They can sit up unassisted for a period of time.
  • They can pick up food and maneuver it into their own mouth.
  • They no longer have the tongue-thrust reflex where things put in the front of their mouth are pushed out instantly (putting spoons deeper into their mouth can bypass the tongue thrust, but doesn't mean they're ready).
  • You've accounted for growth spurts (common at 6 months) and baby still shows some signs of hunger.

If you've met all that, then go ahead and NURSE YOUR BABY FIRST (always nurse before offering solids) and then try a simple first food like sweet potatoes or avocado. Rice cereal really isn't necessary. If you're going the baby food route, consider making it yourself so you can find textures your baby likes best, or go the baby-led solids route and let baby start out feeding themselves whole, soft pieces with their hands.

Just like with breastfeeding, respect your baby's signals. If they turn their head away, don't open their mouth, or spit food out, just stop. Don't try to play games to get them to open their mouth so you can push food in. They don't NEED foods yet anyway. All food in the first year is really for learning, so the nutrition still is coming from you. Some babies don't want to start solids until they're closer to their birthday, and that's okay.

More than anything, keep up your nursing, always nurse before offering food, and if baby is eating solids well but nursing less, cut back on solids. The breast milk is much more important to their nutrition at this point, and even into the second year, it provides at least half of the nutrition they need, so you've got plenty of time to allow your baby to go at their own pace. Slow down and enjoy it.

How did you introduce solids to your EBF baby?

breastfeeding, natural parenting, solid food, breastfeeding 101, food


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Pua Smith

Thank you! My 10 month old isn't ready to start solids (still has tongue thrust and refuses to open his mouth when offered solids), but everyone keeps questioning why I have stopped trying. Part of me felt like I should keep trying, but a bigger part feels like everything is fine. Now I know I'm doing the right thing.

nonmember avatar Kate

6 months and one week and haven't started yet. She sits at the table with us and plays with a spoon, but were skipping purees and waiting for her to be ready to feed herself. She's doing just fine on what she supposed to be eating--breastmilk.

Kris Marie Mery

I have 2 kids and did things differently between the two.

My oldest we introduced them at 4 months (gotta love the pressure to do it). I pureed our own baby foods and absolutely loved making them. We had a lot of issues at the beginning though and she still has some food allergies.

Youngest... I was determined to wait until 6 months and we did. I'd planned to do all the pureeing like before but learned about Baby Led Solids and went that route instead. I started with slices of avocado (yes slices at 6 months) and let him feed himself.  He didn't get a whole lot in him at first, but... more than we expected and he was only starting so we didn't worry about it either.  We're definitely planning to do this again with the next.

nonmember avatar Erin

My son started baby led solids at 8.5 months :) he will turn 1 in a couple weeks and he still breastfeeds 8-10 times per day, and eats solids 1-2 times per day.

lau55 lau55

Very good information! We went with the self-feeding route and DD wasn't really into solids until 12-18 months. She was probably 95% breastfed until 18-24months.  But by letting her decide what went into her mouth, I knew she would eat when she was ready.

Rice cereal should not be given to breastfed babies. The iron fortification messes with their bodies ability to absorb iron. It is over processed and void of any true nutritional value.

Dena Huff

Although I would have loved to do baby led solids, if I didn't introduce some pureed solids at 7-8 months, I would have had to start supplementing with formula (becuase I work full time and wasn't pumping the 16+ ounces he drank) and I really didn't want to do that. So, I started introducing pureed foods at 7 months and my son gradually started eating more and more and was a pretty good eater by 9-10 months. He still loves his milky (and with the solids, I have always had enough pumped milk) and eats pureed food at day care and baby led solids at home. It has worked out well for us. He has sustained my milk supply, he eats really nutritious homemade foods and he is a pretty adventurous eater.

Ashley Winblad

WIth our first we didnt' introduce solids until 6 months, and he really didn't eat them until around 7/8 months.  With our youngest whom is only 5 1/2 months I started solids much earlier.  I would nurse and nurse him and he was still acting hungry; so I mixed up some breast milk and cereal, sat him in the chair and he immediately opened his mouth and ate the whole bowl.  I did this every other day, until now he is eating pureed veggies and some cereal, as well as nursing every 2-3 hours.  I think all babies are different.  I would never have thought I'd be feeding my baby this much baby food already, but he is already taking the spoon and feeding himself.  Yesterday he was screaming at me while I wasn't feeding him.  It blows my mind also, but I know he's ready and he's doing great.  I think everyone needs to watch their babies cues and go with it.  There's not a set "age" for anything.  Allow your baby to help you and everyone will be happy!

nonmember avatar Lisa

I followed baby led weaning with all my babies. Each decided to start solids in their own time, anywhere from 6 months to 10 months. While my first child waited until nearly 9 months to start foods, my middle child was screaming for food in an airport and refused to nurse at 6 months old. Needless to say I did not have any "baby" food for her. My youngest was content to play the cup and spoon. My youngest had NO interest in the food. He was more interested the cup and spoon game for months. Well meaning friends and family would ask us if he wanted something to eat and he really only wanted a cup and spoon to play with. Each child develops on their own timeline.

Lisa Schmied

I didn't start my first til 6 months old and swore all babies must wait until then, then I had my lil guy and he is an eater. We started "solids" if you want to call it that at about 4 in a half months old. Mainly he was just playing with his food and it was maybe 2 times a week if that. I started out with earths best whole grain cereals and yogurt, yes yogurt whole milk to be exact. And he ate nothing but that when he did eat something until 6 months old. Mind you this did not affect my milk supply seeing as we are still nursing at 16 months old and counting :)

Even my pediatrician who is extrememly pro-breastfeeding was ok with this because every child is different. You just have to listen to your inner mama sometimes. My first didn't touch a thing until she was 6 months old and is now the pickiest eater you could ever find, but that's ok with me because her version of picky is tons of fruits and veggies and lean protiens. :)

Kristie Lee Snyder

My 11 month old twins are still 98% breastfed. We're going the baby led weaning route, and neither of them even showed interest in food until about 9 months. Now they want to hold it and taste it, but not eat it. It seems like almost every time they get adventurous and actually swallow-they get a look of disgust and spit it out! lol I have noticed though, since they've started cutting teeth the past 2 weeks, that their interest in food has increased and now they like to bite into things and have even started swallowing a few things. I can betcha people in the "olden days" didn't puree their babies food, so why should I when they will learn to eat solids in their own time? This route is SOO much easier! Even if people do think your strange some times ;)

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