Six months is a magical milestone for little ones. At this time, Baby's digestive system is ready for something new, something besides the breast milk that's been their sole source of nutrition for 180 days. It’s time for food! Let the buffets and taste tests begin ... or not.
While all three of my children have enjoyed their first food of avocado, I've always been really slow to introduce solids to my babies and have followed the baby-led weaning philosophy. Basically, baby-led weaning encourages parents to makes sure their babies are 100 percent ready for food.
This means they must be able to sit unassisted, have a strong tongue thrust and an effective pincher grasp. Most babies don’t hit these milestones until their sixth month. Not to mention that the cells in Baby’s guts don’t fully close until six months and open guts increase the risk of allergies, among other issues.
Baby-led weaning also skips most specific “baby foods” and purees and goes straight to modified table foods like avocados and steamed veggies in bits or slices that are easily picked up.
Overall, this method of introducing solids has been a good fit for us. One, because I’m a little lazy and would rather cook one meal that everyone in the family can have parts of and, two, because delaying the full meal experience has allowed me to continue developing a strong breastfeeding relationship to a year and beyond.
Exposure and experimenting are key, but full meals are not
Skip ahead to nine months, the age my son is right now, and he’s trying lots of new foods. He loves chicken, can’t get enough of sweet potatoes and mashed peas leave him licking his lips for more. But even though he’s been a little foodie for the last three months, he’s not eating three meals a day. Not even close.
With my oldest, I learned a little rhyme to guide food decisions during the first year: Food is fun until they’re one. This saying has reminded me that exposure and experimenting are key, but full meals are not. Between six and twelve months, there's still so much nutrition to be had from breastfeeding. Unnecessarily pushing lots of food—especially carbs—isn’t ideal.
Weaning is a slow and steady process that starts at Baby’s first bite. Breastfeeding doesn’t need to end for a long time though—a year, two, or even beyond is recommended by many experts. The benefits of breast milk are practically endless and no amount of steamed carrots can replace the nutrition breastmilk offers.
So say it with me: “Food is fun until they’re one!”
Offer your baby lots and lots of flavors, textures and food groups once they hit that six-month mark, but don’t feel rushed to serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't worry if they skip a meal or even a full day of solids. Little bites here and there go a long way in exposing your baby to food while allowing them to fully benefit from extra months of nursing.
And extra ounces of Mama's milk is always a win, right?