Now is probably an opportune time to be writing this because, as of today (March 1st 2011) we have been formula free for one week. Weight gain has been acceptable, and we’re seeing good bodily output. My baby is 7 and a half months old.
I must largely attribute this to my baby being a fantastic eater (so, uh, luck). I was hesitant about doing baby led weaning (though I tend to think of it as self feeding) because I was anxious to be free from formula. However much milk you produce it is important to remember that milk is an important part of a baby’s diet until around 1 year. I was concerned I would have to push things, but I will say it’s really satisfying after such a grief stricken breastfeeding experience to have absolutely no doubts, second guessing or unhappiness over weaning. So pick something YOU are happy with. Don’t pick something so you can get off the formula faster. I’m pleased to say that baby-led weaning worked excellently for us. I’d certainly try it again, but I won’t rule out the puree and spoon route as well. All babies are different.
So how do you introduce solids to the supplemented baby when you want to ditch the supplement and keep the breast?
Mine was ready to start shoving food in her hungry little mouth around 5 months. So I started off all milk as normal and afterward, between breast or formula feeds I would offer her some fruit or vegetable. As she got better at handling food we worked our way up to 3 meals per day. At six to six-and-a-half months (note: this time will vary. I should say, when she was solidly on 3 meals per day and I was confident in her self-feeding ability) we transitioned to doing breast feeds first, solid meals second, and formula supplement third. It was a remarkably rapid process after that. By seven months our supplement amount had decreased to around 2 ounces (50ml or so) in the evenings and for the rest of the day we were getting by on just breast. We had a few days of dropping the formula, then needing it again, until we were able to do completely with out. I admit an earthquake and not being able to wash things helped push me along, but at this point I was feeling like those 2oz were more of a crutch than a necessity. At our current time I sometimes offer breast before, sometimes after and sometimes before AND after meals. See what your baby needs and adjust accordingly.
Don’t be afraid to move back to the formula if your baby goes off their solids. Just follow your previous supplementing rules. Milk is important!