Timing of Solids with Bottle or Breastfeeding

Through the first year of your baby’s life, the number one source of nutrition is breast milk or formula. Although you can start solid baby foods around 6 months old, it will be a long time before your baby is able to get all of the necessary calories, vitamins, and minerals for growth and health from solids. Therefore breastfeeding or formula remain vital to your baby’s health.

Solids: Before or After?

When you first start out with solid foods, your baby will likely take so little that it won’t really matter when you do the feeding. The small amount consumed won’t have much impact on your baby’s appetite for the breast or bottle. As your baby progresses with solids, however, and starts to take larger amounts, you will need to pay attention to make sure that solid feedings do not replace breast milk or formula feedings.

When your baby starts to take enough solids that it impacts appetite, you should be sure to feed solids after breast or bottle feeding rather than before. Wait a little while before offering the solids so that baby won’t be too full and will be interested in eating, but don’t wait too long. You want baby to have some room for solids, but not be on an empty tummy. If your baby is too hungry and fills up on solids, a missed formula or breast feeding may result. At this stage in your baby’s development, the nutrients from solid foods aren’t enough to make up for what would be missed by skipping a bottle or a nursing session. Furthermore, if you are nursing and baby starts to skip feedings, this will have an impact on your milk production. Milk supply will drop as the demand drops, so make sure baby is nursing often enough to keep your supply up.

When Solids Increase

When your baby increases solid feedings to twice and then three times a day, these meals (as long as they are healthy and balanced, and offer a wide variety of nutrition) will start to fill nutritional needs much better. This is the beginning of baby weaning from the breast or bottle, but make sure it doesn’t happen too fast! Continue to offer breast milk or formula prior to solid feedings. As your baby’s digestive system gets used to the solids, liquid sustenance won’t be quite as filling. It is likely that even after a whole bottle or regular nursing your baby will still have enough room for a solid meal.

As before, give a little time in between to make a bit more room, but don’t wait until baby is starving! As your baby’s first birthday approaches, solids will become more important and you will see a decrease in bottle and breast feedings. This is ok, as long as your baby is gaining weight appropriately and getting all the necessary nutrients for good health. This is also a good time to allow the less frequent feedings to slowly decrease milk production as you head towards weaning.

Remember, babies should continue to receive most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula until their first birthday, at which point you can switch to cow’s milk as long as your pediatrician approves. Up until this point, it’s best to follow the breast or formula first, solids second rule.

Preparing Baby for Solids

Every baby is just a little different as to when exactly they will be ready for solids. There is really nothing that can be done to quicken the process, because it requires the proper physical and cognitive development, and that will come only with time. There are some things you can do, however, to set the stage for your baby’s transition into the world of solid baby foods.

Bring Baby to the Table

Letting your baby join the family at the table for meals has many benefits. It will make your baby feel like part of the family, as well as allowing older siblings to feel that the baby is becoming a more active participant in family life. It will also give your baby an opportunity to observe and take in everything that is going on at the table.

Babies learn a lot by watching and imitating. Giving your baby the chance to watch how the older members of the family use utensils, chew, and swallow their food will give baby his first glimpse into what eating is, and how it is done. Simply pull baby’s high chair up to the table; or, if you really want him to feel a part of things, choose the type of high chair that straps on to a regular chair. Since baby isn’t eating yet, the tray won’t be necessary, which will allow him to be pulled even closer to the action.

Having baby at the table will give you an opportunity to watch for all of the signs of readiness for solids. You can observe how well he sits in his high chair, how stable his head is, and how much interest he shows in the process of eating. One of the important signs of readiness is when baby reaches for your food, and being at the table will allow him to display this sign and allow you to see it.

Give Baby a Spoon

Although the ability to hold a spoon doesn’t mean your baby is ready for solids – it will be a long time yet before she can feed herself in any real way – letting her hold a spoon and play with it will familiarize her with it. The opportunity to play with a spoon and also watch others at the table eating with one will help baby to make the connection. Give her a baby spoon that you plan to use when you do start solids, so she won’t be surprised by the appearance of something new and unfamiliar when the day comes.

Watch your baby for signs of imitating your eating behaviors. When she starts to bring the spoon to her mouth as though she is eating, this is a sign she might be getting ready to give solids a try. Don’t confuse this gesture with simply chewing on the spoon though! Especially if your baby is teething, the spoon will be a tempting object to chew on, and this doesn’t necessarily indicate readiness to start solids.

The AAP recommends starting solids at around 6 months old, but your baby may not yet be ready. Give her time to develop all of the physical skills needed to start eating new foods, and don’t push if baby isn’t ready. Instead, just introduce her to the idea of eating solids, and move on when she shows all the signs of being ready.

Introducing your Baby to Cereal

The traditional first food for babies, infant cereal is a great choice because it is easy to digest, unlikely to cause an allergic reaction and can be made as thin or as thick as you would like. Of the cereals on the market, rice is usually the best bet for a first cereal as it is the least likely to provoke any kind of reaction in your baby’s system.

Choosing a Cereal

The baby food aisle can be a bit overwhelming for a first-time parent. Today there are more choices than ever before available and even picking a cereal isn’t as easy as it used to be. There are multiple brands on the shelves and you can also choose from cereals fortified with supplements like DHA and ARA (fatty acids linked to brain and eye development) as well as organic cereals.

It is probably best to start with the most basic cereal you can find. Since your baby’s first feedings with infant cereal are less about nutrition than about introducing the concept of solids, you don’t need to worry about things like supplements just yet. Your baby is getting all the required nutrition from breast milk or formula and should continue to do so throughout the first year.

Whether or not you choose an organic baby cereal is a personal decision. Organic baby foods do not contain any different nutrition than non-organic ones, and carry a heftier price tag. For some parents who strongly believe in an organic baby food diet, this extra money might be worth paying. Either way, stick with rice cereal for your baby’s first attempt at solids, and see how it goes before you try something else such as oatmeal.

The First Feeding

The first time you offer your baby an infant cereal, mix it very thin using breast milk or formula. Then offer a small amount on the tip of your clean finger. Try putting the cereal on baby’s bottom lip to allow him to get a taste before he decides to open his mouth for more. If he makes a face, don’t worry. The taste is new and the texture is different, and many babies will give their first cereal a funny look the first few times they taste it. However, if he clamps up tight and won’t try any more, don’t push it. Your baby may not be ready yet, or just isn’t in the mood to try. Give it another shot the next day, or wait a few more days before trying again.

Once you get your baby to take some cereal from your finger and he is showing interest in having more, you can bring out the spoon. Be sure to choose a rubber-tipped spoon that will be gentle on your baby’s gums. As before, start with a very small amount on the spoon, and offer it to your baby. He might not open his mouth right away, even if the finger-fed cereal was a hit. He isn’t quite sure what the spoon is all about. Again, try putting a dab of cereal on the bottom lip. When he tastes it and decides it’s all right, you can proceed with another spoonful.

Stick to very small amounts for the first few feedings, but gradually increase the portions as your baby shows more interest in eating. Be prepared for a mess! Your baby may spit baby food out, turn his head suddenly when the spoon nears, or even try to grab the spoon and send the contents flying! It’s all part of the adventure, so buckle in for the ride.

Balancing Solids with Breast Milk or Formula

When your baby starts on solid baby foods, the process of slowly replacing breast milk or formula is begun – but it is a long, slow process! In the first few months of solid feedings, your baby won’t really be eating enough solids to replace any of the feedings from the breast or bottle. As you add more solids this will change; but remember that your baby needs breast milk or formula to get all of the necessary nutrients for life up until one year of age. Be careful not to start replacing those important feedings with solids too soon.

The First Feedings

When you start offering your baby solids, the amount will be so small that it is highly unlikely to have any impact on the breast or bottle feeding schedule. Still, make certain to offer solids after baby has already fed from the breast or bottle to make sure solid feedings are secondary.

Early feedings are not really about nutrition. They are meant to help baby learn how to use his tongue to move food to the back of his mouth for swallowing, and to get used to using a spoon. The first feedings are introducing baby to new tastes and textures that will eventually be a bigger part of nutrition. At first, however, it’s more about practice, so keep solids to small portions once a day and don’t replace any bottle or breast feedings.

Increasing Solids and Weaning

Over the months, your baby will begin to eat more and more solids. From that first meal of a tiny portion of very thin cereal or fruit, your baby will add more foods, eat larger amounts, and have more servings every day. Finger foods will add a new element to nutrition as well as the process of learning to chew and swallow. As your baby moves up to two and three meals of solids a day as well as snacks, she will start to get a lot more nutrition out of solid feedings. Still, the majority of her nutrition is still being provided by breast milk or formula.

Even at 9-12 months of age your baby should only be getting about 25% of her nutrition from solid foods. At this point solids are helping to fill baby up after nursing or a bottle, offering complementary nutrition to what is being provided by the breast milk or formula. If you are planning to wean your baby at a year old, you can start increasing solids and dropping breast feeding right at then end of the first year. Weaning is best accomplished after baby turns one and not before, to make sure she continues to get those important nutrients right through the first twelve months.

Solids After the First Year

If you are planning to continue nursing into your baby’s second year, prepare for it to take a secondary role to solids. As your baby cuts more teeth and can chew more foods, she will keep adding larger amounts of solids and back away from breastfeeding. While you can extend breastfeeding well into the second year (and some go beyond) it will soon be mainly a comfort for baby rather than a main source of nutrition.

As you transition baby from breast or formula to milk, remember that milk should not be offered in the same amounts as formula or breast milk, as it doesn’t contain the same type of nutrition.

Is Your Baby Ready for Solids?

The transition to solid baby foods is the first major transition your baby will face, and everyone has an opinion on the subject. Knowing when your baby is really ready for solids can be a bit tricky, but there are some signs to look for. There is also a great deal of misinformation regarding the transition to solid foods that can cause mothers to add solids before baby is ready. Check your knowledge and find out if your baby is ready to try!

At What Age Should Solids Be Started?

Although traditionally the answer to this question has been anywhere from 4-6 months old, the AAP now officially recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Every baby is different, however, as you have heard on so many subjects, and there are better indications than age to determine when a baby is ready. While the 6 month mark is a good place to start, your baby might not be ready until 7 months, so don’t stress it! Eventually, your baby will get there.

What are the Physical Signs of Readiness?

There are some physical abilities your baby must master in order to be ready for solid foods. Until baby is physically ready, you won’t have much success and you risk choking. Watch for these signs your baby is good to go:

  • Able to sit up with moderate support, such as in a high chair. This means that baby isn’t just propped up in the chair, but can lean forward as well, and really only needs the chair to prevent falling over.
  • Able to hold up the head well – this should go along with sitting up, most babies who can sit up well enough to start solids have developed their neck muscles enough to hold their heads up well.
  • Losing the tongue-thrust reflex. Babies have a reflex that helps to protect them from choking by causing the tongue to push out foreign matter in the mouth. By 4 months old this reflex starts to fade, but it often isn’t gone entirely until 6 months old. This reflex will make it difficult to get baby to swallow any solid foods. Also around 6 months old, baby will start to master the ability to use the tongue to push food to the back of the mouth to be swallowed.

What Other Signs of Readiness are There?

In addition to the physical development needed to eat solid foods, there are a few other signs you can look for in your baby to tell if it’s a good time to start solids.

  • Baby shows interest in how the others at the table are eating and may reach for your food. The best way to watch for this sign is to bring baby to the table. Pull the high chair up when you are eating, so that your baby can watch what is going on and develop an interest.
  • Baby mimics your eating behaviors, such as bringing food to the mouth or opening up for a bite.
  • Baby has the ability to indicate yes or no either through gestures or simply opening or closing the mouth.

What is Not a Sign of Readiness?

There is some misinformation out there, mainly perpetuated by well-meaning friends and relatives, regarding a baby’s readiness for solids. Just because you have a large baby does not mean you need to start solids earlier. No matter your baby’s size, breast milk or formula are all that is needed for the first six months. Also contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that starting solids earlier will help a baby sleep at night. Night wakings are not a sign of readiness.

Watch for the above signs of readiness to make sure that your transition to solids goes smoothly for everyone!

Making Your Own Baby Foods

Preparing homemade baby foods is not as difficult as it looks. The good part of preparing your own baby food is that you can control what ingredients that go in. Besides, you can include limitless variety of flavor and texture in the home-prepared baby foods.

When it comes to making your own baby foods, the following tools can be handy.

  • A food processor or handheld blender
  • A wire sieve
  • A potato masher
  • Ice-cube trays
  • Freezer bags

Preparing Homemade Fruits or Vegetables

Most of the ripe fresh fruits, such as banana, avocado, mango, pear and melon, can be served once they are pureed or mashed. You do not need to cook them. Unlike ripe fresh fruits, you need to cook the vegetables before you pureed or mashed them. Here are the steps that will guide you on how to prepare your homemade fruits and vegetables for your baby:

  • Before you cook your fruits and vegetables, make sure you clean them properly. Peel, seed and slice them once they are clean.
  • Place the sliced fruits and vegetables in a small saucepan and cover them with water.
  • Cook the fruits and vegetables until tender.
  • Drain and reserving the cooking liquid.
  • Puree the fruits and vegetables until smooth, or mash using potato masher for a lumpier consistency. Add water or cooking liquid if needed.
  • Place in ice-cube trays and freeze. Transfer individual cubes to freezer bags.

Preparing Homemade Meat

  • Place a piece of meat in the saucepan. Cover the meat with water and bring it to boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is tender.
  • Drain and reserving the broth. Remove the skins and bone from meat.
  • Puree the meat until it is smooth using a food processor. Adding the broth or water as need to achieve desired consistency. You can use wire strainer to achieve a smooth texture.
  • Place in ice-cube trays and freeze. Transfer individual cubes to freezer bags.

Pureed baby food can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you need to use the food, defrost the frozen baby food overnight in the refrigerator or in a container of warm water.

When preparing your baby food at home, please avoid adding sugar, salt or honey.

Types of Solid Foods

Solid baby foods must be introduced gradually. During the initial transition period, breast milk or formula will continue to be your baby’s primary source of nutrition. As you introduce more solid foods, your child’s intake of breast milk or formula will decrease accordingly. Once they have learned how to swallow solids, the solid food will provide a nutritional complement to his liquid diet.

The chart below shows different types of solid food (in order of introduction)

Foods Birth to 6 Months 6-9 Months 9-12 Months
Breat Milk


Feed on cue

Bottle feeding on demand.

Feed on cue

Bottle feeding on demand.

Feed on cue

Bottle feeding on demand.

Iron-fortified single-ingredient food NONE Iron-fortified infant cereal (2-4 tbsp / 25-60 ml twice per day) Continue with variety of cereals
Vegetables NONE Pureed or mashed cooked vegetables of all color. (4-6 tbsp / 60-90 ml per day) Mashed or diced cooked vegetables (6-10 tbsp / 90-150 ml per day)
Fruits NONE Pureed or mashed cooked fruits or very ripe mashed fruit.. (6-7 tbsp / 90-105 ml per day) Soft peel, diced fresh or canned fruits. (7-10 tbsp / 105-150 ml per day)
Grains NONE Dried toast or unsalted crackers Cereals, bread, rice and pasta (8-10 tbsp / 120-150 ml per day)
Meat and alternatives NONE Mashed or strained meat, fish or poultry, mashed silken tofu, well cooked legumes or egg yorks (1-3 tbsp / 15-45 ml per day) Minced or diced cooked meat such as fish or chicken. Tofu, beans or egg yorks could be included. (3-4 tbsp / 45-60 ml per day)
Milk products and milk NONE Plain yogurt, cottage cheese or grated cheese (1-2 tbsp / 15-30 ml per day) Diced/grated cheese, yogurt (2-4 tbsp / 25-60 ml per day)


Please avoid honey, added sugar and salt.

Please consult your physician about when to start nut products.

Introducing Solid Foods

Solid baby foods mark a tremendous milestone for your baby and for you. It’s likely you have a photo or two of your first bites of cereal and you will soon have a page in your album dedicated to your child’s. Those first few bites of solid food are exciting, but can also be confusing.

Starting Solids

Until very recently it was recommended to start solid foods between four and six months of age. Now it is more often recommended to start solids closer to six months. Speak to your doctor about starting solids to determine if your child is ready and if it is an appropriate time.

You can look for indications your child is ready to start solid food:

  • He watches you eat your food with great interest.
  • He can sit up with support – preferably without.
  • He can hold up his head.
  • He open his mouth wide when offered food on a spoon.
  • He uses his lips to remove food from the spoon.
  • He turns his head away from food when he is full or disinterested.
  • He has lost the tongue-thrust reaction which pushes food back out of the mouth.
  • He can chew on his gums.
  • He seems to be hungrier more often for an ongoing amount of time.

You should start solids when your baby is ready, which might not be until closer to eight months, and not because you think solids are necessary for any other reason. Solid foods have not been shown to help babies sleep better. They also are not required because a baby is larger or smaller than average. The nutrition in formula and breast milk is enough to meet the dietary demands of a baby until eight or nine months, so there is not a nutritional reason to start solid before your child is ready.

The Solid Food Progression

Your child will work his way into solids by starting with just a few tastes of one item. The first item often given to babies is rice cereal. The rice should be mixed with formula or breast milk and should be just above runny in consistency. You don’t want to feed a thick spoonful to your child. Let your child practice with the rice cereal for three to five days before moving on. Rice is used because rice is not linked to many allergies.

You can introduce foods in any order, but meat and dairy product should be avoided until baby is closer to a year in age. Most parents opt to start with various grains followed by fruits and vegetables. You should wait three to five days after each new item to be sure your baby doesn’t have sensitivity to an item. Most food sensitivities at this age are resolved naturally as your child grows. If she does react, put that food aside for now and try again in a few months or a year. It will take months to make it through all the possibilities in grains, fruits and vegetables. When possible avoid using combination meals in baby food jars as these often contain filler items and are not as nationally sound as the straight fruit or vegetable.

You can make your own baby foods by pureeing cooked items with water to reach the right consistency. As your baby learns to chew and swallow more effectively you can increase the texture of the foods until you reach a mashed state – this is the ideal time to move to table foods.

Table Foods

Around nine months to a year your child will be ready for the same foods you’re eating at mealtimes with some exceptions. Avoid foods that are hard to chew, such as meat, as your baby is still forming teeth. You should also avoid foods that have a high risk of choking such as uncut grapes or hot dogs, popcorn, hard candy and peanut butter. Finally, delay the introduction to potentially allergenic foods until the first or possibly second year. These include strawberries, egg white, chocolate, nuts and honey – which is a health concern as well.

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