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.