Selah is now 8 months old, and pretty much everyone around me knows that she is a happy, breast-fed baby. I am beginning to get some questions about when I plan to wean her and how I am introducing solid foods. My plan is to nurse Selah for quite a while longer, and to delay most solid foods until closer to her first birthday. In order to have a well thought-out answer, I did a bit of research on extended breastfeeding and babies’ first foods. Here is what I found:

The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond. For some reason, our culture finds it strange to nurse a child older than one year. There is a wonderful article about extended breast-feeding in Mothering Magazine that discusses the benefits of nursing a toddler. Once a baby turns into a toddler and begins developing a mind of their own, they often become more choosy with foods, and it can be very difficult to make sure they get enough nutrition. Breastmilk can be the perfect supplement to a toddler’s unbalanced diet.

“Research shows that the fat and energy content of breastmilk actually increases after the first year. Breastmilk adapts to a toddler’s developing system, providing exactly the right amount of nutrition at exactly the right time.” Extend Breastfeeding’s Benefits By Kyla Steinkraus (Mothering Magazine)

During this time of extended breastfeeding, when and how do you introduce solid foods? Well, it seems that Selah has always been interested in solids. First of all, she has a big sister who finds great joy in stuffing anything from a goldfish cracker to an M&M candy into her mouth! Selah watches us eat, and typically she grabs at every plate, fork, and cup that is near her reach. The one thing that is really slowing her down is that she has NO teeth. The poor child who thinks she is already a toddler in every other area (waving, saying mama, trying to walk) cannot chew a whole apple, as much as she desperately desires.

We do give Selah many beginner foods to sample. Her favorites are applesauce, banana, Cheerios, and especially gumming/teething on the end of a loaf of French baggette bread. She has tried a little bit of mashed peas and sweet potatoes, but she does everything in fun, just to play and taste. I want her to experiment with age-appropriate foods, but I love the fact that she can continue to get the majority of her nutrition from nursing. Many people think that it is necessary to give babies fortified cereals, baby food, and juices. However, research always shows that breastmilk is the perfect food, and contains much more than just vitamins, minerals, and fat.

Once Selah has teeth, I anticipate that she will be able to, and want to, eat a greater variety and quantity of foods. Because she is such a happy nurser, I’m expecting that she will continue to at least nurse at naptime and bedtime for a while. That seems like a great way to ensure a little extra nutrition, as well as some snuggle time with mommy. We will see how it goes. If you have any experience with extended breastfeeding and introducing solids, leave a comment and let me know how it went for you!

Here are pictures of both of my girls, at about 6-8 months of age, self-feeding: