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Obstacles to Breastfeeding: Solid Food

September 3, 2010

Photo Credit: Cascadian Farm

Looks like I’ve got a theme going here, huh? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ve posted about Obstacles to Breastfeeding over the last week. I’ve been writing about some obstacles to breastfeeding that moms often don’t think about until it’s too late. They find themselves with a baby who weaned early and it may have been prevented if they had done something different.

These obstacles aren’t definite roadblocks to breastfeeding. Some babies and moms will continue to enjoy a satisfying breastfeeding relationship and the ‘obstacles’ won’t hinder them at all. Other moms will find that what they’ve done (or not done) has derailed all efforts to breastfeed their child.

I started feeding solids to my boys when they were six to seven months old. I know plenty of people who have started their babies on solid food before six months of age, some even at the recommendation of their family doctor or pediatrician, even though all of the following organizations recommend NOT feeding solids before six months. (If your doctor is one of the ones recommending early solids, please ask them why they don’t follow the guidelines.)

  • World Health Organization
  • US Department of Health & Human Services
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Dietetic Association
  • Australian National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Health Canada

I ran across this information when I was starting to think about adding solids to Baby #2’s diet. It was something I’d never heard before, though it makes sense.

Studies have shown that for a young baby (under six months of age) solids replace milk in a baby’s diet – they do not add to baby’s total intake. The more solids that baby eats, the less milk he takes from mom, and less milk taken from mom means less milk production. Babies who eat lots of solids or who start solids early tend to wean prematurely.

Interesting huh? There’s that supply and demand principle popping up again. Just knowing HOW breastfeeding works is half the battle. Read HERE for more info.

Even if you wait until baby is six-months-old to start solids you may have supply problems. I’ve spent way too much time on the community forums at BabyCenter over the past few years (anyone else?). I’ve seen moms post time and time again that they’re milk is drying up now that they’ve started feeding solid foods. After doing my research, here is the advice I usually give those moms.

Unless you’re actively trying to wean your baby, solid foods should never replace breastfeeding sessions. To further protect your milk supply and stave off early weaning, you’ll want to make sure you nurse your baby BEFORE feeding any solids. You should nurse about an hour before feeding a ‘meal’ and a half hour to an hour before feeding a ‘snack’. (Source)

When we nurse after a meal or snack, instead of before, baby tends not to want as much milk because he’s already full on solid foods. I love nursing first because I don’t have to worry that I’m giving him too much food. I can put a tray full of food out for him and he can eat all he wants.

Breastmilk is THE best source of nutrition for a baby throughout the first year of life. If you start feeding solid foods and notice a dip in your milk supply you can always alter what you’ve been doing. If the issue is related to starting solids, these suggestions should solve the problem.

  1. Stop feeding solids completely if baby is under six months of age.
  2. Nurse or pump at least six-eight times per day.
  3. Always nurse before feeding solids.
  4. You may choose to stop feeding solids even if your child is over six months of age. Please see this LINK for information on delaying solids.

My goal in writing about this (sensitive) topic is not to tell mothers who have fed solids to their babies before six months of age that they are bad mothers. You’re not. We all do what we think is right for our families and make decisions with the best information we have at the time. I write because I have (high) hopes that this post will keep at least one mom from the disappointment of having a baby wean early.

Did you know that these things can decrease your milk supply? Did it happen to you?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana Milan permalink
    September 3, 2010 10:11 PM

    I always have the opposite experience from what you write about! With my last, who was underweight at 4 1/2 months, I started giving him some rice cereal once a day. (My ped. did not recommend doing this but she was ok about it when I told her.) I actually found that it helped him put on extra weight and as a result he became a much stronger nurser and my supply seems to have increased. I do keep careful track of my nursings and if I feel that I am drying up during a certain time I try and pump during that time. I also, as you said, nurse first and then offer him cereal about 30-45 min later. I always nursed on demand with my kids so nursing, besides being their food, was also a source of comfort and a way to wind down before bed and naps.

  2. Sarah Marinig permalink
    September 28, 2010 2:25 AM

    As a nutrition counselor, I would be careful when feeding rice cereal. Fortified cereals are not that good for you or your baby. The “fortified” is synthetically produced almost all the time and then added to the food. This is harmful for not just your baby, but for you as well. Our food supply is extremely tainted and told that it is food, when in fact anything “fortified” is not actually food. Sad.

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