As we’ve mentioned before, breast-milk is the perfect food for a growing baby. It provides all the necessary fats and proteins needed to support rapid growth. But when it’s time to incorporate some solid food, which foods will still be able to support continual growth and mimic the nutrient profile of breast milk*?
When to Wean
The exact month to begin introducing solid foods will depend on the maturity and size of your baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for about the first six months of age, and then a combination of breastfeeding and complementary solid foods until 12 months. After 12 months, a continuation of breast-milk can be given if still desired.
In other cultures around the world, mothers continue breastfeeding until the average age of three years old, and UNICEF promotes breastfeeding up to 2 years of age and beyond.
According to UNICEF Data: Monitoring the Situation of Women and Children, “Ideally, infants should be breastfed within one hour of birth, breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life and continue to be breastfed up to 2 years of age and beyond. Starting at 6 months, breastfeeding should be combined with safe, age-appropriate feeding of solid, semi-solid and soft foods.”
If your baby stops pushing his or her tongue out when food or a spoon is put in their mouth, they are probably ready for some small bits of solid food.
Best First Foods
First, understand that your baby’s tiny digestive system is still developing. Infants have the digestive enzymes necessary for breaking down protein and fats (mother’s milk is about 50-60% fat); however, at six months of age, they still lack sufficient amounts of enzymes to break down carbohydrates. So, for example, introducing something like a cereal with a mix of different grains wouldn’t be ideal.
Because babies still need protein and fats for growth, it’s important to continue with breast milk as you introduce other foods into your baby’s life. Breast-milk will provide the fats and proteins that mashed peas alone can not provide.
Remember to take it slow. Your baby’s tolerance to food will be completely unique, so introduce one new food at a time, and wait at least 3-4 days to look out for any reactions, such as diarrhea, rash, or vomiting.
Some good starter-foods for babies include:
Cooked vegetables such as zucchini, squash, sweet potato, carrots or beets. Can be plain, or with small amounts of breast milk, which may help baby recognize the flavor and make a smooth transition into eating foods
Cooked, pureed fruits such as organic apricots, peaches, pears, apples and berries.
Raw mashed fruits such as banana, melon, mangoes, papaya or avocado.
Pureed meat, such as lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, liver or fish.
Organic chicken liver or duck liver, cooked and pureed.
Bone broth added to pureed meats and vegetables, or alone.
Egg yolk** (not egg whites) from pasture-raised chickens, lightly boiled and salted.