By: Vanessa Thornton, Pediatric Dietician and Tinyhood Introducing Solids Instructor
When your little one shows they are ready for starting solids, you’ll start feeding them “real food” more and more frequently until they are getting most of their nutrition from solid foods, like adults. This transition usually happens over a matter of months, sometimes longer, often leaving parents wondering how to balance breast milk or formula intake with solid foods. Here are some of the most-asked questions about milk intake and solids I get from parents, answered.
Q: Do Babies Drink Less Milk or Formula After Starting Solids?
Yes, babies drink less milk or formula after starting solids but this transition is very gradual. You likely won’t notice a big change in their breast milk or formula intake for 1-2 months after you introduce solids. Even at 12 months old, most babies are still taking 20-30 ounces of breast milk or formula per day.
Q: How, as a parent, can you ensure your baby is still getting the milk/formula they need when introducing solids?
Start by offering solid foods just once per day and keep your bottle/feeding schedule the same. As your child becomes more interested in solid foods, increase to 2 solid foods and then 3 per day. You can either drop a milk or formula feed with each new meal introduced or keep your schedule the same but offer fewer ounces at each milk or formula feed.
If you’re breastfeeding, just let your child be the guide! Try to offer solids at least 30 minutes after and 1-2 hours before bottle, breast or chest feeds to make sure your child is hungry when you are offering any nutrition.
Q: When is the best time in the day to give solids to a child who is still drinking formula/breast milk?
The best time to offer solids is whenever you feel the calmest and engaged: breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Feeding solids is time-consuming with more food prep and clean up than you are used to. In order to keep your child safe and create a positive mealtime environment, offer solids at a time when you can sit with your child, eat with them and enjoy this time. There’s no wrong time!
Q: How much solid food should you give your child when they are still drinking breast milk or formula as their main source of nutrition?
Your child’s main source of nutrition will continue to be breast milk or formula for the first year of life. Their intake from bottles, breasts or chest, will gradually decrease over that first year as the amount of food they eat slowly increases.
A general rule of thumb is to start with one meal per day at 6-7 months, add a second meal at 7-8 months, and increase to three meals per day around 10 months.
As far as how much food to offer at each meal, let your child be the guide. Never force your child to eat if they aren’t hungry and allow them to eat as much as they would like.
In most cases, your child will decide when they are ready to eat larger volumes of food and will adjust by drinking less formula or breastmilk later that day. As long as your child is drinking at least 20-32 ounces of formula or breast milk per day, this is totally normal.
Q: When should you transition to mostly solids?
Most babies have developed the physical skills, mature GI tract, and large enough stomach size to be relying mostly on solid foods by around 12-15 months of age.
At this point, they are able to get adequate, balanced nutrition from solid foods and no longer need breast milk and/or formula as their primary source of nutrition. Your child will still need 10-16 ounces/day of cow’s milk or some alternative to ensure they are staying hydrated and getting adequate vitamin D, calcium, and protein. However, if desired, you may continue to breastfeed.
Overall, let your baby be the guide! Some babies are very interested in solids and will pick up these skills quickly. Other babies prefer to explore food slowly and rely on breast milk or formula a little more and longer. As long as your child is growing, gaining weight, and is making some progress on exploring new textures and tastes, this is totally normal.
To learn more about how to introduce solids to your baby, check out our class, Introducing Solids 101. Vanessa will walk you through a comprehensive guide to starting your little one on solids as well as different feeding philosophies, how to introduce allergens, avoid picky eating and more.