I get a lot of questions about starting solids with a breastfed baby. It seems like there are a lot of “ways” to do it, and moms are worried that they are doing it wrong. A doctor might tell you that your baby needs two tablespoons of food three times a day. Your grandmother will have a different calculation. Your “crunchy/hippie” friends will tell you that you should only let your baby self-feed the food, and never spoon feed your baby.
Aside from waiting until the baby is about six months to start, serving soft, non-chokable foods, and avoiding allergens for a little while, (especially if you have a family history of food allergies), I would say there are basically two things you really need to know. The rest is up to you and your baby, and it’s not necessary to get bogged down in “methods.”
First, breastmilk should be a baby’s primary food for the first year of nursing. What does this mean exactly? Well, your nursing frequency shouldn’t change too much after introducing solids. If you are nursing on demand, this should continue. If you have more of a routine or schedule, then nurse your baby first and offer solids a little while later. Basically, don’t have the solids replace the breastmilk intake. As the year winds down, some babies will drop a few nursing sessions, and some working moms will stop pumping as much, and have their babies eat healthy solids and drinks when they’re away, making sure to offer nursing frequently when they’re home.
The other thing to keep in mind is that solid feeding should be “baby led” and FUN! Now, the confusing thing is that there is a term, “baby-led weaning,” which basically means giving your baby soft pieces of food that can be picked up and self-fed. This is a wonderful idea, and one that I highly recommend. It allows your baby to explore textures and exercise fine motor skills. It allows your baby to be engaged with food, and learn how to feed self-feed. It can be done as soon as your baby can pick up a soft piece of food. Here is my baby at six months feeding himself a stalk of broccoli.
But if you want to feed your baby purees, that is fine as well! As long as you are listening to your baby’s cues and not shoveling food into his or her mouth, then spoon-feeding is just fine. There is no set amount of food you should give your baby. Your baby will tell you when he or she wants more, or when he or she is just not interested to begin with. I know when my baby’s into it because he looks at the spoon, tries to grab it and has a pleasant expression when he’s eating it. I know he’s done when he tries to get out of his chair, or pushes the food away. But just watch out – spoon feeding can often end up like this:
Babies love to do things themselves!
I think moms these days can be so bogged down by how to do something, and whether they’re doing it right. You don’t have to pick a feeding method for your baby. Sometimes your baby can self-feed and sometimes you can spoon feed your baby. Go with the flow. And keep up the nursing!
Solids are just FUN. If you don’t have a particular goal in mind, and you accept that sometimes your baby will want to try things and sometimes will shun everything offered, and neither means your baby is a poor eater or you’re a bad mommy, then you can just relax and enjoy. Yum! But make sure you keep some cleaning supplies handy, because solids can get MESSY!