Posted by: Admin | April 14, 2011

Dear LC – How do I breastfeed my baby so as not to disrupt the introduction of complementary (solid) foods?

Any food other than breastmilk, whether it is a solid or a liquid, is a complementary food. We must avoid all complementary foods – both solids and liquids – while breastfeeding exclusively for six months. Complementary foods include formula, cow’s milk, water, juice, cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), etc. However, vitamins and IV solutions are not considered complementary foods. An exclusively breastfed baby can receive vitamins or minerals, or be on an IV, and he is still considered exclusively breastfed.

Exclusive breastfeeding up to six months is recommended by most official authorities around the world. This is because babies do better when they receive breastmilk only for the first six months of their lives: no water, no formula, no solid foods! You might say we used to introduce solids much earlier in the past and everything was fine! Well, not really: we know that allergies and some chronic illnesses have increased. Naturally, not all increases in illnesses can be attributed to an early introduction of solid foods, but researchers are slowly coming to the conclusion that introducing solid foods early could cause harm. For example, we know the baby’s system does not have all the enzymes necessary to digest solid foods until he is about six months of age. What could be the effect of a baby receiving foods he cannot digest? It might cause him digestive problems; it could also trigger allergies. Furthermore, breastmilk protects the baby againt many illnesses, and this protection goes up the amount of breastmilk he receives. When we add complementary food early, the baby cuts down on the quantity of milk he takes, and he is left with less protection, with breastmilk replaced by a less calorie-wise food. He loses all the way. We also know that his bowels are not mature enough to deal with this food. They are still too permeable, meaning that the baby’s body might absorb foods that his sytem is not ready for. As his whole digestive tract is immature, he needs a food that can protect it until he is ready to receive other foods. Breastmilk does that.

So, we agree. No other foods but breastmilk for the first six months. And what happens when the baby reaches the six months mark? How should we go about introducing solid foods and at what pace? I will answer this important question in the next Dear LC Post.

But let’s answer today’s questions:

How do I breastfeed my baby to not disrupt the introduction of complementary (solid) foods?

The question should actually be the opposite: How can I introduce solids without disrupting breastfeeding?

It is essential to make sure the baby is getting a lot of breastmilk. You can do this by always breastfeeding your baby before offering him solids. Breastmilk is his essential food until he is 1 year old. During this initial period from six months to one year, we are ‘introducing’ him to solid foods. It is a period of experimentation for him. He will touch and taste the food, look at it intensely, manipulate it and, sometimes, eat it. Naturally, if you offer him puréed or mashed foods, he will swallow it more easily and will take a little more, but you need to be careful: breastmilk must be his most important food until he is 1 year of age. Complementary foods will take a more important place in his diet in his second year.

Once you introduce solids, his breastfeeding schedule should remain somewhat the same. By this age your baby might be slightly more regular in his habits. The morning and before sleep-time breastfeedings will always remain very important for both of you. All other breastfeedings should take place before his meals or at any time he asks during the day. Breastfeed him freely. Do not worry that he will not eat his next meal. You also need to remember that the more solid foods he eats, the less breastmilk he will take. Your breast might become engorged when you start giving him solid foods, and then your production will decrease. But you need to maintain a good milk supply at least until he is 1 year old. After that, you will always feed him his meal first and then have him breastfeed.

It is said that babies sleep better at night once solid foods have been introduced. This might be true for some, but most babies wake up anyway, from insecurity, tummy aches or teething. Solids or not, they will wake up! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news… 😉


  1. Thank you for the previous post. My son will be 6 months next week, I bought organic whole grain rice cereals and I am getting ready to introduce solid food… but when do I know he is ready to start? I guess it is not because he turns 6 months that he is ready. Now he can sit and he is starting to be a little interested to us when we eat.


    • Hello!

      No, you are absolutely right! It is not the exact 6 month mark that tells you your baby is ready for solids. The elements you write about, him being able to sit on his own and being interested in the food you eat are observations that will bring you to see if he is ready. I am going to write more on this in this Thursday’s Dear LC post.

      🙂 Dany

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