If you have been breastfeeding and your baby is now ready to start solids, you may be wondering how you can start baby-led weaning whilst breastfeeding.
When you begin baby-led weaning, continue with your baby’s usual breastfeeds and when you have a meal, sit your baby in their high chair to begin exploring the world of solid foods. As your baby becomes more proficient at eating, they will begin to decrease their feeds naturally.
This sounds very easy but you may still have some questions. Read on for more tips on how to start baby-led weaning whilst breastfeeding.
For those moms who are formula-feeding, all of these tips easily apply to formula-fed babies too. The emphasis of this particular article is on breastfeeding but there will be many more articles focusing on formula-fed babies too.
Consider Baby-Led Weaning a Natural Next Step to Breastfeeding
As your baby begins to explore the world of solid foods, it is very easy to worry about how much food your little one is eating, if they have had enough food and if they are gaining weight. I remember having a lot of the same questions and concerns when I was doing baby-led weaning with both of my children too.
This is very normal but it can be helpful to see baby-led weaning as a natural continuation of breastfeeding as there are a lot of similarities.
|You cannot say with certainty how much your baby has had to drink||You cannot say with certainty exactly how much your baby has eaten|
|Your baby stops drinking when they have had enough||Your baby will stop eating when they are full and have had enough|
|You pick up your baby’s cues as to when they are hungry||As your baby gets more proficient at eating, they will begin asking for food or milk|
If you remind yourself that baby-led weaning is a natural continuation of breastfeeding, it will help you to trust the process and lower your anxiety levels when it comes to questions of if your baby has had enough, is gaining weight, or is on track with weaning.
Continue to Offer Breastfeeds as Normal when Starting Baby-Led Weaning
You may be wondering how you go about introducing solids and starting baby-led weaning with your breastfed baby.
It is important to keep offering breastfeeds as normal when you start baby-led weaning. This means that your baby will continue getting all of the wonderful nutrition found in your breastmilk.
What might this look like in reality?
Sample Schedule for 6 Month Old Starting Baby Led Weaning
|6:30 am||Wake up and breastfeed|
|7:00 am||Offer breakfast or solids|
|8:30 – 10:00 am||Morning Nap|
|12:30 pm||Offer lunch or solids|
|1:00 – 2:30 pm||Afternoon nap|
|4:00 – 4:45 pm||Short nap|
|5:45 pm||Offer supper or solids|
|7:00 pm||Breastfeed and Bedtime|
This is simply a sample schedule. Your schedule may look very different. But it is important to see that you need to keep going with breastfeeding and offer your baby solids regularly throughout the day, about half an hour after a breastfeed.
You may find that as your baby gets more and more proficient at eating solid foods they will naturally start dropping feeds and your schedule will change accordingly.
Don’t Feel Pressured to Stop Breastfeeding with Baby-Led Weaning
When you first start weaning, it can be easy to place a lot of emphasis on solids foods. But in reality, breastmilk is still going to be your baby’s main source of nutrition until they turn 1.
So, it is important to keep breastfeeding and don’t feel pressured to stop breastfeeding before you or your baby are actually ready. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep breastfeeding until your baby is at least one.
But there is some research that suggests that your baby can still benefit from being breastfed beyond one.
Benefits of breastfeeding beyond one
- Breastfeeding continues to support good nutrition in babies. In fact, after your little one turns one, 448 ml of breastmilk will provide:
- 29% of energy requirements
- 43% of protein requirements
- 36% of calcium requirements
- 75% of vitamin A requirements
- 76% of folate requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements
- The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that children who have stopped breastfeeding before the age of 2 are at higher risk of illness.
- Human breastmilk has numerous antibodies that provide protective features for your baby
- The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding until the age of two or beyond
Baby-led weaning and starting solid foods will complement breastfeeding, not replace it. So, don’t feel pressured to stop breastfeeding before you or your baby are actually ready.
Breastfeed about Half an hour before Offering Solid Foods
In this article, we have spoken about the importance of continuing breastfeeding while starting baby led weaning and we have spoken about a sample schedule.
Now you may be wondering when to fit the solid foods in.
Ideally, you should offer your baby solid foods about half an hour after a breastfeed. If your baby is hungry and frustrated when you place them in their high chair, exploring solids for the first time is not going to be enjoyable.
Also remember that at this beginning stage, your baby’s main source of nutrition is breastmilk and they are actually not going to be eating very much.
Feeding about half an hour before offering solids will ensure that your baby is satisfied and can explore solids without feeling hungry and irritable.
Remember that Breastfeeding is Still your Baby’s Main Source of Nutrition Until One
It can be helpful to remember the mantra “Under one food is fun”. Your mother or mother-in-law may really be encouraging you to feed your baby cereals and baby rice but your baby’s main source of nutrition will be breastmilk until they are at least one.
This can help to alleviate some of the anxiety about how much your baby is eating, if they are eating enough and whether they are getting the hang of eating fast enough.
You and your baby have plenty of time to get the hang of eating and while they are practicing this all-important skill, they will be happily nourished by the breastmilk you still provide.
Monitor your Milk Supply as Baby Begins to Eat More Solids
If your baby gets the hang of eating fairly quickly, they may start to eat more solids and breastfeed less. This has a number of implications for you and your baby.
Your breastmilk supply may start to wane as your baby feeds less frequently.
From a nutrition perspective, remember that breastmilk should still be your baby’s main source of nutrition under one.
One way to manage this is to cut back a little bit on the solids and offer more frequent breastfeeds. This will help to ensure that your baby is getting the best nutrition and will also help to maintain your breastmilk supply.
Increase Breastfeeding if your Baby is Constipated
The transition from breastmilk to more solid foods can be a huge adjustment for your baby’s digestive system which may lead to bouts of constipation.
If your baby is constipated, offer breastmilk more frequently. It is important for your baby to remain hydrated as this will help to loosen the stools.
Also, be sure to offer water when offering solids to make sure your little one is drinking enough fluids.
So, there are 7 tips for continuing breastfeeding as you do baby-led weaning. If you have any other tips or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below.