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Introducing solids to your baby, whether breast-fed or bottle-fed, brings many questions and can even stir up emotions. You might feel this will end your breastfeeding experience. Or you may receive conflicting advice from family and friends about when and how to introduce solids. So, how do you successfully introduce solids while continuing to provide breastmilk for your baby? And when do you start introducing solids? Here are some helpful tips from lactation consultant, Victoria Roselli.
When do you start to introduce solids?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that breast milk is the ideal nutrition for babies. It’s sufficient enough to support optimal growth and development for up to six months after birth. At about six months, your baby’s neuromuscular and gastrointestinal systems begin to mature and he begins to metabolize his own iron. However, nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin A, and calcium might be too limited in breast milk alone after six months.
How do I know if my baby is ready for solids?
Many moms believe their baby is ready for solids when they can reach for food from the table. However, this is not a clear indication of baby’s readiness. Most babies after four months will gum or mouth objects to discover more about them. Another misconception is that babies are ready to be introduced to solids when they are not satisfied after a nursing session. This is also unfounded. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you think your baby is ready to start solids:
- Is baby able to sit up (with little assistance)?
- Is baby able to reach and grab his toys?
- Does baby intently watch you eat?
Remember, you are beginning the transition to solids while continuing to nurse. Babies need to continue receiving breast milk until 12 months of age (if possible), when they can transition to cow’s milk. If your baby does not seem satisfied after nursing, rather than resorting to formula try these tips:
- Go back to skin-to-skin nursing
- Use breast compressions
- Allow your baby to sit up more
- Have your baby hold your other breast
Which foods are best to start introducing?
The good news is that breastfed babies transition easier to solids because of the various flavors of your breast milk, which is based on your own diet. In contrast, formula-fed babies have tasted the same flavor at every feeding since birth. Iron fortified cereals or other iron-containing foods are a great start. So are pureed meats, chicken, sweet potatoes, peas, eggs, and yolks. Some ways to increase iron is to introduce vitamin C, which can aid in the absorption of iron. Some foods rich in vitamin C are bananas, peaches, green vegetables, and tomatoes.
While making your own dinner, make food for your baby as well. I like the “ice cube” method, where I make sweet potatoes for two and place the baby’s in ice cube tray. It can then be freezed until ready to use. Once thawed, your work is done. For more on introducing solids, go to askdrsears.com or kidshealth.com
Can I give my baby water, especially on hot days?
Exclusively breast-fed babies don’t need to receive water during the first six months, as water makes up 87.5 percent of human milk. Instead, keep nursing on demand and know that your baby is receiving adequate hydration. After six months, you can start to introduce water.
Will rice cereal help baby sleep through the night?
Doctors recommend against introducing solids foods, such as cereal, via a bottle or before bedtime. There have been many discussions on this topic and research has found little significance with the need to offer cereal to help babies sleep through the night.
Victoria Roselli is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, International Board Certified Lamaze Instructor, and Newborn Care Specialist. Learn more at maternalblessings.com.