June 07, 2023 4 min read

As your little one grows, you may find yourself wondering about introducing solid foods alongside breastfeeding. Fear not, because we're here to guide you through the wonderful world of combining baby-led weaning with breastfeeding.

Understanding baby-led weaning

Weaning foods are generally introduced at around 6 months of a baby’s age. However, many mothers choose to continue breastfeeding even beyond 6 months.

Baby-led weaning is an approach that allows your baby to explore and feed themselves solid foods. As babies grow, they eventually reduce their dependence on breastmilk and start getting most of their nutrition from solid foods.

Combining Baby-Led Weaning with Breastfeeding: A Guide for New Mummies

The idea behind baby-led weaning is to understand your baby’s cues to reduce the dependency on breastfeeding gradually and in a holistic way. It’s all about supporting your baby through the transition. It also encourages independence and self-regulation.

Baby-led weaning lets your baby decide when they are ready to eat more solids and reduce breastfeeding sessions. It is a good way to help your baby try different foods.

However, remember, every baby is different. So, be patient and follow their cues.

How to gradually introduce solids?

Begin by offering your baby small, soft, and easy-to-hold foods, such as well-cooked vegetables, fruits, and finger-sized pieces of meat. Start with one meal a day and gradually increase as your baby shows interest and readiness. Read more about introducing solids here.

Continuing breastfeeding on demand

Introducing solids does not mean your baby has to stop breastfeeding. Instead, look at weaning as an extension of breastfeeding where you gradually start introducing solid foods, too.

Breastfeeding remains an essential part of your baby's nutrition and bonding experience. Continue to breastfeed on demand, offering breast milk before or after solid meals as needed. Trust your baby's cues for hunger and fullness.

It’s good to breastfeed the baby at their regular feeding time before introducing solids. Try to breastfeed about half an hour before letting them have solids. This ensures that the baby is not too hungry. If the baby is too hungry, they would not be willing to try new foods and might get progressively more cranky.

Breastfeeding offers nutrition and also lets your baby feel more secure. Since nursing is also about offering comfort, continuing to breastfeed will help your baby better adapt to the new food habits.

Combining Baby-Led Weaning with Breastfeeding: A Guide for New Mummies

In the baby-led weaning approach, it is recommended that you continue to offer breastfeeds as usual. When the baby starts eating more solids, they will gradually drop feeds. Eventually, you will see the breastfeeding and eating schedule changing.

Tips to manage baby-led weaning

As your baby starts eating solids, too, it’s natural to feel worried about whether they are eating enough, getting enough nutrition, and gaining weight. Here are some tips to help you start:

1. Encouraging exploration and independence

Allow your baby to explore food textures, shapes, and tastes at their own pace. Sit together during mealtime, offer a variety of nutritious foods, and let your little one experiment with self-feeding using their hands or baby-safe utensils.

Combining Baby-Led Weaning with Breastfeeding: A Guide for New Mummies

2. Be mindful of allergens

Introduce common allergenic foods one at a time, spaced a few days apart, to monitor for any adverse reactions. Examples include eggs, peanuts, dairy, wheat, and fish. Discuss any concerns with your paediatrician.

3. Follow a Balanced Approach

As you introduce solid foods, aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and healthy fats. Offer different food groups throughout the week to ensure your baby receives a range of nutrients.

Combining Baby-Led Weaning with Breastfeeding: A Guide for New Mummies

4. Trust Your Instincts

Remember, you know your baby best. Trust your instincts and follow their cues. Some days, your baby may eat more solids, while on other days, they may prefer breast milk. It's all part of their individual journey.

5. Continue your baby’s regular check-ups

As your baby gets evaluated by the paediatrician during regular check-ups, you will be able to see how they are gaining weight. The baby’s diaper output and general energy levels can also indicate that they are eating enough.

Breastfeeding your baby beyond their first year

Breastfeeding usually remains an important part of your baby’s life for the first year even after introducing solids. It’s only at about one-year-old that your baby typically starts eating more solids. However, again, this depends on the baby and might vary slightly.

Combining Baby-Led Weaning with Breastfeeding: A Guide for New Mummies

Many mothers feel pressured to stop breastfeeding at one year to encourage the baby to eat more solids. However, it’s completely okay if your baby is not yet ready to give up the breast. The WHO recommends breastfeeding until the age of two or beyond, depending on you and your baby. So, rest assured that you are doing just fine if you are nursing beyond the baby’s first year.

Managing constipation during baby-led weaning

As your baby transitions to solids, it’s fairly common for babies to get constipated. After all, their digestive system is still developing, and they might take time to adjust to new foods. One way to manage constipation is to keep offering water at regular intervals.

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The other way to manage is to continue breastfeeding. Breastfeeding ensures your baby gets enough fluids and remains hydrated. Offer breastmilk more frequently if the baby is constipated and not drinking enough water.

Final thoughts

The baby-led weaning approach lets the baby take the lead on when they want to reduce their dependence on breastmilk. It gives them a way to fulfil their nutritional requirements as they practice the skill of eating solid foods.

It also helps reduce your anxiety as a mother about whether your baby is eating enough. And of course, it’s an opportunity to continue your special bond with your baby and let them find comfort as long as needed.

As you start baby-led weaning, embrace the mess, celebrate their milestones, and enjoy the bonding moments shared during mealtime. Be patient, trust your baby's cues, and know that you're providing the best nourishment and love. Happy weaning and breastfeeding. ;)

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