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.

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