June 23, 2022
The Transition to Food from Breastmilk/Formula
Written By: Lexi C
Helpful tips on knowing why, when, what and how to transition to solids
Like anything new, the transition from formula/breastmilk to food can feel overwhelming. If you had questions about what to know about breastfeeding, you probably have the same, if not more, about introducing solid foods to your little one. Fear not. We've broken down the when, where, what, and how of the next step on your feeding journey. Buckle up…it’s about to get messy.
The Transition to Food from Breastmilk/Formula
I was never a particularly adventurous eater. That is until I started dating this guy who was a phenomenal cook. He savored the foods he knew while simultaneously hunting for new dishes to explore. His excitement for all things culinary was so endearing I couldn't help but jump on board and expand my pallet.
Now that phenomenal cook is my husband, and I will try almost anything. Do I love everything? No. But I've discovered things I never knew I liked because someone I loved (and trusted) introduced me to new tastes and textures and inspired me to enjoy food in a way I never had before. This is exactly what you are doing for your baby! So let’s dive right into the main course and break down the culinary curiosities and baby’s first foods.
When should I transition from breastmilk/formula to food?
Like everything else with babies, there are varying opinions on when to introduce solids. What to know about breastfeeding is that generally speaking, breastmilk or formula will be all your little nugget will need for the first 4-6 months. Somewhere in that time frame is great to start introducing solid foods. Coincidentally, babies begin to gain more interest in the world around them around this time, and this natural curiosity can make nursing/bottle feeding more challenging. They are often much more interested in what YOU'RE having, which is a clue that your little one may be ready for food! Be on the lookout for other signs like sitting in a high chair on their own with good head control, opening their mouth, and leaning forward when food is offered. If she pushes food back out of her mouth instead of swallowing, she may not be ready just yet. Speaking of not being ready, nothing can prepare you for the anxiety surrounding a choking baby. Familiarize yourself with the signs of choking to tell when there is an emergency and refresh your knowledge of infant first aid.
Why is it important to introduce solid foods?
As your little one's body grows and their brains develop, they require more nutrients than what is provided by breastmilk or formula alone.
Introducing solid foods between 4 - 6 months (weaning) provides these essential nutrients. Remember, this is all new to your baby, so don't get discouraged if they aren't super into everything you put on their plate. The key here is to stick with it. Continuing to offer your budding eater a variety of foods and textures often and early helps them develop their palate and increases willingness to try new foods later on.
A word on weaning...
Whether you are transitioning from breast milk to formula or formula/breastmilk to food, your baby will be nursing less. It's important to remember this is a transition for your body too. What to know about breastfeeding is that abruptly stopping can lead to some serious health issues. Take it slow, and take care of that beautiful body of yours.
What foods should I start with?
One of the key nutrients in your baby's development is Iron, and between 4-6 months, these levels start to drop. Foods like beans, poultry, and meat are excellent sources of Iron, plus they contain other vitamins like Zinc and B12, a bonus for your baby! My kids LOVED mashed avocados, steamed and smashed carrots, sweet potatoes, bananas, and soft fruits like peaches, pears, and strawberries. And remember, kiddos eat with their eyes, too, so keep it colorful to pique their interest. Have fun exploring foods with your new dining companion; just remember there are a few foods to avoid. Instead of spoonfuls of peanut butter, which are challenging for baby to swallow, opt to mix it with applesauce, mashed banana, or spread it thinly on a cracker. Also, grapes, olives, hot dogs, pickles, popcorn, nuts, chewy meats, and hard candy are choking hazards for children under three, so hold off on those. Of course, discuss introducing foods with your pediatrician first and include any concerns regarding family food history and/or allergies.
It's important to remember this is a transition for your body too. Take it slow, and take care of that beautiful body of yours.
How do I introduce solid food?
Set yourself up for success, and don't stress about how much your baby is eating since they are still getting most of their nutrients from breastmilk or formula. Early introduction of solid foods will help them make the leap to a solids-only diet later. Strained, pureed, or mashed foods are a great place to start. If you want to go with non-purees, cook or steam hard fruits and veggies like apples and carrots so they can be easily mashed. Cut round foods, like berries, cherries, and tomatoes, in half and cylindrical foods like string cheese and hot dogs in short strips to prevent choking. As always, when your little one is eating, stay close and make sure everything goes down smoothly.
Now get that future food critic seated safely in a high chair and put on your protective eyewear! Getting messy is part of the exploration process. After all, is there anything more delicious than the face of a baby who has FULLY explored a bowl of pasta, complete with saucy evidence all over her face? I think not. Enjoy the journey, embrace the mess, and Bon Appétit!