How to Introduce Solid Foods While Breastfeeding

Funny close up of feeding baby with vegetable puree
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Offering solid foods to your baby while still breastfeeding is a great way to ensure that they receive the nutrition and other benefits of breast milk while beginning to explore the tastes and textures of solid foods.

Keep in mind that when you begin introducing solids to your baby's diet, solid foods are not meant to replace breast milk as a nutrition or calorie source. At this stage, your baby is simply experimenting and learning about new foods.

When to Introduce Solids

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast milk as the primary source of nutrition for about the first 6 months of life. Even after solid foods are introduced, breastfeeding should continue until at least 12 months of age.

How can you decide when to begin offering your baby solid foods? Watch for signs that your child is developmentally ready to begin manipulating solids in their mouth, and keep an eye out for their increased interest in what you are eating.

Signs of Readiness

  • Your child can sit up in a high chair and hold their head up without help.
  • They are interested in your food (and may even try to imitate you eating.)
  • They can grab things and bring them to their mouth.
  • They no longer have the tongue-thrust reflex that pushes food out of their mouth; they can now take a spoonful of food into their mouth and swallow. 
  • They are beginning to chew. 

Food allergies are an increasing concern among children today. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), the most common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, and wheat.

Contrary to past recommendations that advised waiting to introduce allergenic foods until babies are older, new research is showing that the early introduction of high-allergy foods can actually decrease the development of food allergies in high-risk children.

When you begin solids with your baby, offer one food at a time, waiting two to three days between each new introduction to watch for any allergic response such as diarrhea, vomiting, or skin rash. The AAP recommends stopping the new food and consulting your pediatrician if you see any of these signs.

If you have a history of food allergies in your family, talk to your doctor about how and when to introduce allergenic foods to your infant.

What Is Complementary Feeding?

Complementary feeding is the practice of introducing your child to solid foods as a complement to (not a substitute for) breastfeeding.

Keep in mind that breastfeeding and breast milk are still very important as your child transitions to solid foods. It may take them a while to accept solids, but be patient and allow them to progress at their own pace.

The start of solid foods is not meant to replace breastfeeding.

After a month or so of complementary feeding, you my find that your baby is eating more solids and beginning to drink less breastmilk. This is normal, and every child develops at their own pace, so be careful not to push solids too quickly.

Complementary feeding of solid foods is meant to supplement your breast milk and to keep your supply from decreasing.

How to Offer Baby Food

Start introducing baby foods gradually, beginning with foods high in iron and protein such as pureed meats (turkey, chicken, beef), and iron-fortified baby cereal. These can be followed by soft pureed vegetables and fruits.

You may want to consider baby-led weaning as a method of introducing solids. Using this technique, you provide your baby with age-appropriate forms of the food you are eating and allow them to explore it and decide how much they want to eat—or whether they want to eat it at all.

  • Try a few spoons of solids after breastfeeding so that your baby does not fill up on solids and not drink enough breast milk. At first, your baby may refuse solids or have trouble eating the new foods. It's OK, keep trying.
  • Be patient; your child will get it eventually. If they are not interested in solids, continue breastfeeding like normal and try the solids again in a few weeks.
  • Add your breast milk to baby cereal. Make it on the thinner side at first (about the consistency of buttermilk) so it's easier for your baby to eat. The AAP cautions against putting infant cereal in your baby's bottle because they could choke on it.
  • Offer foods one at a time and wait a few days between starting new foods so you can tell if your child has a reaction to a new food. 
  • Wait to offer finger foods such as dry cereal, crackers, cut-up cooked vegetables, and soft fruits until about 8 months of age. Avoid foods your baby can choke on such as raisins, nuts, whole grapes, hot dogs, and popcorn.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides tips for the safe preparation of your baby's first solid foods.

You may notice changes to the color and consistency of your baby's poop once he starts eating solid foods. It is usually thicker, more formed, and may take on the color of the foods that he's eating. Starting solids also increase the chances of constipation. Just keep an eye on your child's fluid intake during this time.

If too many breastfeeding sessions are replaced by solid feedings too quickly, your baby may not be getting enough fluid. To relieve constipation, put the baby to the breast more frequently.  

Complementary Feeding Schedule

Between 6 and 9 months, your baby will be learning to eat solids and you can offer baby food two to three times a day, gradually increasing the amount they are getting. By the time they're 9 months old, they may be on a more routine feeding schedule.

Between 9 and 12 months, you can offer solids three to four times a day. Here is a sample feeding schedule for an older baby (9 months to 1 year). Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feed meals to your baby.

Sample Schedule

  • 5 a.m. Breastfeed
  • 7 a.m. Breakfast - half a scrambled egg or a couple of ounces of pureed meat, veggies, or fruit
  • 8 a.m. Nap (with or without breastfeeding first, depending on your baby)
  • 10 a.m. Breastfeed
  • Noon Lunch - a couple of ounces of pureed meat, veggies, or fruit
  • 1 p.m. Nap (with or without nursing beforehand)
  • 3 p.m. Breastfeed
  • 5 p.m. Dinner - a couple of ounces of pureed meat, veggies, or fruit
  • 7 p.m. Breastfeed
  • Overnight, your baby may still wake to breastfeed once.

Solid Foods and Weaning

Over time, your baby will eat more and more solid food. By the time they are 1 year old, they will be eating a wide variety of foods. Solid food will become your child's main meal by the time about 18 to 24 months old, and breastfeeding will become the snack. Your child still needs breast milk, though.

At 1 year, children can begin drinking cow's milk or continue to have breast milk. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which were updated in December 2020, state that toddlers between 1 and 2 years old should drink 14-16 ounces (up to 2 cups) of whole milk per day.

If you'd like to continue to breastfeed, there's no need to wean your baby. Experts recommend the continuation of breastfeeding along with solid food for as long as you desire.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Starting solid foods.

  2. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Prevention of allergies and asthma in children.

  3. Perkin MR, Logan K, Bahnson HT, et al. Efficacy of the Enquiring About Tolerance (Eat) study among infants at high risk of developing food allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2019;144(6):1606-1614.e2. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2019.06.045

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. When can I start giving my baby peanut butter?

  5. Jonsdottir OH, Thorsdottir I, Hibberd PL, et al. Timing of the introduction of complementary foods in infancy: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2012;130(6):1038-45. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3838

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Working together: breastfeeding and solid foods.

  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition.

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your Guide to Breastfeeding.

Additional Reading
  • Eidelman, A. I., Schanler, R. J., Johnston, M., Landers, S., Noble, L., Szucs, K., & Viehmann, L. Policy Statement. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Section on Breastfeeding. 2012. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841.
  • Gahagan S. The development of eating behavior-biology and context. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics: JDBP. 2012 Apr;33(3):261.
  • Meek JY. The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding (Revised Edition). Bantam. 2017.
  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

By Melissa Kotlen
Melissa Kotlen is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Lactation Consultant.