8 Foods That Help Wean Your Baby Off Breast Milk, According To Experts
When you're ready to stop breastfeeding, there will be a transition period for you and your little one. To make this process a little smoother, you can start to introduce foods that help wean your baby off breast milk. These foods will still give them the nutrients they need, get them excited about eating, and prepare them for success when you've reached a stopping point.
When you choose to wean your baby is completely up to you, but after age one the breast milk will be a supplement to a child's diet rather than the majority of it. "When babies turn 12 months old, their nutritional needs shift from liquids to solids," pediatrician Whitney Casares M.D. tells Romper. At that point they are commonly introduced to "cow's milk or other appropriate alternative milks." Before that, breast milk (or formula) is the main source of nutrition for a baby and "most experts recommend starting to introduce solid foods to your baby at 6 months of age," according to Jillian Kubala, M.S., R.D., and a Healthline Medical Advisor. Over the course of this time, you can start introducing your baby to different nutrient-rich foods to prepare them for the weaning process.
It's important to remember that weaning is not a cut-and-dry process. "Weaning should be a transition, removing a feeding every few days to help adjust the baby," dietician Anita Mirchandani, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., tells Romper. "Each baby is different and will respond differently." So, don't get discouraged if you hit some bumps in the road along the way. Dr. Casares recommends "cutting out pumping sessions or direct breastfeeding sessions slowly over time if possible to help your body and your baby handle this transition smoothly." Also, Mirchandani notes "weaning could make a child more clingy due to the fact they were used to more physical connection, so try to make it up with other physical interaction that’s similar such as hugging, cuddling, [and] one-to-one time."
As for what foods to give your baby, Dr. Casares says, "Introducing a wide variety of solid foods... during this transition helps kids develop a diverse palate and encourages healthy weight gain." That being said, Kubala recommends "Avoid[ing] foods that are high in added sugar or highly processed" and urges parents to speak to their child's doctor before "introducing allergenic foods like peanuts and shellfish." Otherwise, there are a lot of delicious foods for your little one to explore, and to get them one step closer to weaned.
Avocados are a good source of healthy fats, and are easy to smash up for babies at least 6 months old to eat. Both Mirchandani and Kubala recommend this as an early food for your baby.
2. Cooked Carbohydrates
Introducing your little one to some carbohydrates requires a little work, since they need to be cooked enough to be soft or smashed. If you're up for the task, Mirchandani and Kubala recommend butternut squash, pumpkin, and potatoes. Mirchandani suggests waiting until your baby is 9 months old for smashed potatoes, but says 6 months is a great time to start feeding them butternut squash and pumpkin.
3. Soft Fruits
Fruits are sweet and delicious, and they're a great way to get your little one excited for solids. Mirchandani recommends giving babies ages 6 months and up smashed fruits like apples and pears. Kubala suggests bananas as an entry-level fruit.
4. Whole Milk Yogurt
Yogurt will likely be something your little one will love. Both Kubala and Mirchandani suggest introducing whole-milk, unsweetened yogurt (a lot of yogurt has added sugar, so double check labels) at around 6 months old. As your baby becomes more able, you can add in some fruit, too.
5. Cereal Added To Milk
Mirchandani says, "Oatmeal cereal is a good choice or a mixed grain cereal" is a great early food. Even better, she says "you can mix that with breast milk" to help the weaning process. You can start adding this into their bottle when they are around 6 months old (which will also be a savior during growth spurts).
If you're looking to give your baby a little extra protein, Kubala suggests cooked egg yolks (like scrambled eggs). The AAP says you can introduce your little one to allergens as early as four to 6 months old, but Mirchandani suggests waiting until 9 months old for scrambled eggs so you know your baby is able to safely chew them.
At around 6 months old, Mirchandani suggests introducing most pureed veggies to your baby (with the exception of broccoli, which she suggests waiting until 8 or 9 months old). As your baby demonstrates readiness, and can eat more and more solids, Kubala suggests mashed and steamed veggies like broccoli, green beans, and carrots.
8. Omega-3 Fats
If your kiddo is open-minded, Kubala suggests giving them foods with omega-3 fats. She says, "fatty fish like salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fats, which are important for brain development." Because these tend to be more complex foods, Mirchandani suggests waiting until your baby is at least 10 months old before introducing this into their diet.
Whether it's fish, avocado, veggies, or fruit, don't panic if your little one turns their nose up to it. Kubala explains, "If your baby does not seem to like a specific food, offer the food again later in the week. Your baby may need to be exposed to a food a few times before they take a liking to it." As you start to introduce these foods as solids, Dr. Casares recommends eating them yourself, too. She says, "Eating a wide variety of foods while breastfeeding and throughout the weaning process, in addition to consistently offering healthy options to babies once they’re developmentally ready for solids, can make a huge difference in long term eating habits." No matter what, weaning won't happen overnight, but you can definitely set yourself, and your baby, up for success from their very first bite of solid food.
Jillian Kubala, M.S., R.D., Healthline Medical Advisor
Anita Mirchandani, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., Certified Fitness Professional, and Prenatal/Postnatal Exercise Specialist