Solids up, nursing down (5 months)

Luana is 5 months old today. Since she turned 4 months I have been giving her iron-fortified rice or barley twice a day (at breakfast and at supper), mixed with breastmilk. Ten days ago I started adding vegetables at lunch time. I continue to breastfeed her before the solids and when she wakes up and at bedtime. My concerns are:

  1. She has been drinking much less breastmilk since she started on solids. Sometimes I can't get her to stay more than two minutes on each breast. Is she getting enough?
  2. Because she has been drinking less, I have not increased the amount of cereal I give her. I started with two teaspoons at each meal, and that has remained the same, except that now I add less breastmilk to give it a thicker consistency. Should I be increasing the amount of cereal? I intend to start her on fruits next week. How much should I give her?
  3. I will be getting back to work in one month, and since my schedule is very irregular (day, evening and overnight shifts), I probably will not be able to maintain breastfeeding. We have started her on formula about three times a week for the last two weeks, but she does not like it at all. With a lot of crying and fussing, she takes about 2 ounces. We feel we are force-feeding her. It was the same when we were giving her my breastmilk in the bottle. Any suggestions?

Luana seems to be gaining weight and is an active child.

Thank you in advance.


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Denise,

1. Your daughter's decrease in nursing time may be the result not only of an increase in solid foods, but also a factor of growth rate and development. Food intake will often ebb and flow as growth spurts come and go. A voracious baby one week may be totally disinterested in eating the next.

In general, the older a baby gets, the less interest they take in nursing. There is just too much other stuff going on around them that they want to see. There were times I felt like sitting in a dark closet to nurse so that my baby would stay focused on the job. You are certainly providing Luana the opportunity to nurse if she is hungry, and only she can determine when she has had enough.

2. At her age, breast milk and formula will still be the mainstay of her diet, with solids coming in a close second. You do not want solids to displace breast milk yet. Simultaneously you do not want to discontinue the solids since she is obviously interested in them and is enjoying them. Eating solids is also important to her development.

For the next month or so, continue to do as you have in order to try and increase her milk consumption. If her appetite doesn't pick up for nursing, you will want to be sure that she gets the missed nutrition from her solids. That would mean allowing her to eat plenty of cereal that has been mixed with breastmilk or formula, and served with a vitamin C rich fruit to enhance the iron absorption. Start with a tablespoon of fruit and increase the cereal to 1/4 cup or more. Continue with fruits and vegetables, but not too many because they are so low in calories they may fill her up without providing the energy she needs.

3. Luana's crying and fussing over the bottle may just be her way of letting you know she much prefers the breast. With time and patience she should come around to it, especially once you are back to work and not available to nurse. Many babies balk at having to switch to a bottle, and who can blame them.

Perhaps you can try to save one or two times to nurse each day, pumping at those times if you have to be at work. Those few times will help supplement her milk intake as well as provide you both with some quiet time together on a regular basis.

She may now be introduced to a cup of fluid. Try serving formula in a cup at meal times and see if she takes to it better in that manner. The new way of drinking may disassociate formula with sucking and thus nursing, perhaps making her enjoy it more. Best of luck!

Thank you for writing.

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