4 to 6 months

PLAYING: Starting Solid Foods and Breastfeeding – The Perfect Combination

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Starting Solid Foods and Breastfeeding – The Perfect Combination

Your baby’s first spoonful of food marks an exciting and important milestone in their development. Your little one has begun their journey of discovery into the world of food, and you have a precious opportunity to encourage a love of healthy eating that may last a lifetime.

4 mins to read May 2, 2023

When your little one starts complementary feeding, it’s important to continue to breastfeed as this will still be their main source of nutrition. The Australian Dietary Guidelines and Infant Feeding Guidelines recommend that you continue to provide breast milk until your baby is 12 months old, or for as long as both the mother and infant want to keep going. The introduction of solid foods is a gradual process, and this is why it is important to include breast milk during this time to help provide your little one the nutrients and immunity-boosting antibodies that they need... Confused? Follow these eight simple tips for a smooth transition: 

1. Continue breastfeeding on demand

At the time of introducing solid foods (not before 4 months), babies will still need to get most of their calories/kilojoules from breast milk and only a small amount from complementary foods. Since introducing solid foods to their diet, you may have noticed that your baby has started drinking less milk or needs fewer breastfeeds. However, the total amount of milk they drink probably won’t decrease significantly, especially in the early days. You should continue to offer your baby breast milk first before solid foods, and as often as they want, day or night. Breast milk contains unique ingredients such as antibodies, probiotics, and HMOs (human milk oligosaccharides). 

2. Choose iron-rich foods

Iron is an essential nutrient for your baby’s healthy brain growth and development. Your baby was born with stores of iron that they could call upon for their first few months, but these start to run low at around six months of age. Breast milk is also naturally low in iron, so it is important to offer first foods that are rich in iron, such as pureed meat and iron-fortified baby cereal. 

3. Offer a variety of flavours

Allow your baby to experience and learn different flavours, and later textures, so they can grow into a child who happily eats a wide variety of foods. 

4. Help avoid frustration

Especially in the early days of complementary feeding, if your baby seems extremely hungry, always breastfeed first. Breastfeeding and offering complementary foods don’t need to be separate events. Breastfeeding before offering foods helps satisfy your baby’s hunger and allows your little one time to adapt to spoon-feeding. Continue to breastfeed whenever your baby shows signs of being hungry.

5. Don’t give cow’s milk

Babies under the age of 12 months shouldn’t have cow’s milk as a drink. This is because its nutrient profile (e.g too high in salt and protein, plus lacks other key nutrients) does not suit the needs of your growing baby as breast milk can. Breast milk still provides excellent nutrition and support for your baby’s immune system. 

6. Make feeding fun!

As always, let your baby decide if they are hungry, and how much they want to eat and drink. Feeding should be a pleasant, positive experience for both of you, so avoid any pressure and enjoy it. Watching your little one’s expression as they taste a new flavour for the first time, or finally gets food into their mouth by themselves, are special moments to be cherished. This is their opportunity to learn about the tastes of different foods and, eventually, how to use a spoon—life skills that they will carry with them as they grow.

7. Remember your roles

You and your baby each play important roles during this complementary feeding stage. It’s your job to decide which nutritious foods to offer your baby and when. So choose healthy, nutrient-rich foods with plenty of variety, and respond to signs of hunger and fullness. Your baby is responsible for deciding if they want to eat, and if so, how much. If you both perform well in your roles, you will have started your baby on a healthy path. 

8. Help their taste buds

Don’t be fooled into thinking breast milk no longer matters when your little one starts complementary feeding. Breast milk is still important. Did you know flavours of the foods you eat can come through in breast milk? This might just help your little one adapt to new tastes of the foods you eat as a family, way before they are ready to sit at the table with the rest of the family. Ensuring your diet is filled with healthy options could mean you help your baby adapt to new food tastes easier.