Baby-Led Weaning and Introducing Solids to Baby

Introducing solids is a necessary step in any breastfeeding journey. Learn when to introduce solid foods, how it can affect breastfeeding, what baby-led weaning entails, and more.

Introducing solids to baby is a necessary step in any mom’s breastfeeding journey. However, the experience and timing can be different for every mom and baby. Like anything new, it’s common to have questions and concerns about introducing solids and complementary foods, baby-led weaning, and other ways of teaching your little one to begin self-feeding. Medela is here to help, so we've answered some frequently asked questions to make the transition easier.

How to Introduce Solids to a Breastfed Baby

Introducing solids to baby can be a fun and exciting milestone! Watching your little one's expressions as they discover new tastes and textures is always a joyful experience and a big step toward independence.

When Should I Start Introducing Solids to Baby?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life. However, don’t be concerned if your little one is ready to try solids a little before or after the six-month guideline.

If your baby refuses solids the first time, take a break and try again with a different food a few weeks later. Remember, patience is key. It could take a few tries to get your baby comfortable with solids. Besides, the “what the heck is this?” face can be so cute!

What Solid Foods Should I Start Feeding My Baby?

It’s best to talk to your pediatrician about what foods to introduce to your baby first. Your doctor may recommend pureed food or single grain cereal to start. Many moms may try to puree foods like sweet potatoes, squash, peaches, pears or apples at home.

If you choose to try cereal first, mix it with breast milk. This will make it soft and creamy for your little one. If your baby isn’t interested in eating right away, try giving them a chance to taste or smell the food. That will help your baby become more familiar and comfortable with solid foods.

Should I Stop Breastfeeding Once I Introduce Solids?

There is no need to stop providing breast milk when solids are introduced. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you continue to provide breast milk for the first year of life or longer, if mutually desired by mother and baby. At first, start out by offering solids once per day. It may be helpful to offer solids when your baby isn’t ravenously hungry, so try breastfeeding first. However, if that doesn’t work, feel free to try offering solids first. Remember, each mom and baby is different. Once your baby grows more comfortable with solid food, you can schedule more solid feedings as time goes on.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Like introducing purees and solids, baby-led weaning is another method of progressively adding new foods to your little one's diet while gently weaning them from breast milk and/or formula.

How to Start Baby-Led Weaning

When starting this process, parents typically don’t try purees or spoon-feeding and instead wait until their little one is ready to self-feed. While breast milk and/or formula will continue to be a major component of your baby’s nutrition, allowing him or her to explore, taste, and try the new foods – typically starting with soft, easy-to-manage options first – can help parents rule out any food allergies. This also promotes important skills early, such as chewing, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and learning to not overeat.

During baby-led weaning, your little one should be allowed to reject foods and decide for themselves how much they wish to eat. Offering meals at the same time that you and the rest of the family are eating set an example for your baby, encourages behavior mirroring for proper eating, and allows them to explore their foods without being hurried or stressed.

How Old Should My Baby Be When Starting Baby-Led Weaning?

If considering baby-led weaning, your little one’s overall development and readiness are most important. Your baby should be able to sit upright without assistance in a high chair, have full head and neck control, and have some oral motor control. Most parents start baby-led weaning around 6 months of age, though some babies may require a few more months for some of the above-mentioned skills to fully develop. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of your little one’s life and then gradually introducing solids to baby around 6 months old.

Can I Combine Spoon-Feeding and Self-Feeding?

Yes. Only you and your baby know what works best for your situation and what you are ready for, whether this is an equal combination of spoon- and self-feeding or primarily utilizing one method while gradually introducing or removing others. In fact, pureed foods fed by spoon can be a great supplement to baby-led weaning, particularly in the beginning, when your little one is more likely to simply explore and taste foods rather than eat for sustenance.

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