Babies need both milk and solid food when they start weaning, says GP Dr Philippa Kaye. Want to know how much exactly?
Although you’ll find that food will slowly become more important than milk in terms of nutrition- especially for providing key nutrients like iron - milk is still extremely important.
It’s also natural that your baby will be less interested in milk as he eats larger quantities and a wider variety of solid foods. But how do you get him to have more if he needs it?
3 ways to get your weaning baby to have more milk
- Leave a gap of two hours between a milk feed and a solid meal, rather than offering food closely followed by milk.
- Mix in milk to your baby’s meals; thin purees with milk, create dishes with cheese sauce, introduce porridge and cereals in milk.
- Offer dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, from 6 months to help your little one get enough protein and calcium each day.
If your baby is drinking less milk, it’s important to offer a drink of water with every meal or snack to make sure she stays well hydrated.
5 foods to boost your baby’s milk intake
- Rice pudding is a tasty and milk-rich baby food
- Cheese is high in calcium and easy to include in many dishes from mashed potato to pasta sauces
- Yoghurt is great at breakfast time and as a healthy snack. Opt for unsweetened varieties and use pureed fruit to sweeten if desired
- Offer custard as a pudding
- Fromage frais is a good base for many desserts
Our mums' experiences of weaning babies drinking less milk
Most of our forum mums found that everything sorted itself out after giving it some time...
Baby_B knows the struggle: "It's so hard and I think people who haven't experienced this can never fully understand what it's like.
"My LO barely drank anything, and even the small amount she took was such a struggle. She'd drink fine in the night though when she was sleepy. It was hell. No one else had a similar problem and HV etc was useless.
"We were advised to wean at 17 weeks but felt it was bad advice and held out to 24 weeks. She didn't get diagnosed with SR until 23 weeks when I switched to formula and they couldn't fob me off with 'oh it must be your flow/supply etc' anymore. By then she truly related feeding with pain.
"I won't lie, weaning was a nightmare. We did a mix of purees and finger foods. We had to do A LOT of persuading to eat. Making her laugh and quickly shoving a spoon in. Was awful and I didn't know what to do. BUT at about 10 months something just clicked.
"I think she finally 'got' finger foods, and by that age was able to eat more interesting things so it had more appeal. She's still a very fussy eater. Won't eat any veg, will only eat what she likes best. Won't eat anything wet and lumpy like bolognese. Everything has to be quite dry and bite-able. Like chicken pieces, waffles, toast, cheese etc.
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"But it's soooooo much better than it was and I don't feel as stressed about it anymore.
"He will get there. My main advice is to try to make feeding fun. My LO hated the highchair at first so we would let her eat on the floor and made it into a litle floor picnic event so it was fun to eat.
"And we make a massive fuss when she eats well, but try to ignore her when she starts throwing things. Also try to eat the same as him. Sometimes my LO won't eat something but if I take a bite of it she will then want it! hehehe!"
"Ethan only really got interested in food - taking off a spoon or feeding himself - at about 7.5 months. I'm usually so laid back I'm comatose when it comes to feeding issues and I'd never been worked up about his milk feeds - he was 90% BF till 6 months but when he took a bottle he'd only take an average of 5oz.
"But he just couldn't be arsed with food, ate tiny amounts, reluctantly, and point blank refused to pick anything up and put it in his mouth despite lunging for food on our plates when he was smaller. Oh, and he point blank refused any form of breakfast and only a mouthful for lunch, dinner was the only meal he'd really entertain.
"Then at 7.5 months it all just suddenly clicked and he started eating 3 meals a day plus snacks, feeding himself, and eating anything put in front of him. So you may find that going gently and just offering little amounts and not pressuring your LO will mean than in a month or so he will do exactly the same.
"Little buggers just like to wind us up I think," jokes Maenad_
Why do babies still need milk when they’re weaning?
At the beginning of weaning, and especially if you’re doing baby led weaning, your baby will still be getting most (but not all) of her essential nutrients from milk," says Charlotte Stirling-Reed, registered child nutritionist .
"Milk provides babies with an important source of calcium which is important for their growing bones and teeth. Milk also provides a source of protein and other essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A (needed for growth and eyesight), certain B vitamins (needed for blood cells and nerve function) and zinc (needed for growth and repair)."
Do babies need less milk once they’re weaning?
Which ever weaning method you choose, continue to offer the same amount of milk (20oz/600ml in a 24-hour period) when you begin weaning.
While milk is an important source of nutrients, at around 6 months babies need more nutrients than can be supplied by milk alone. Therefore all babies from 6 months onwards need to be introduced to a balanced and varied diet, whether by spoon-feeding, baby-led weaning or a combination of both.
As long as your baby’s weaning diet is varied and you continue to offer milk feeds at regular intervals (or on demand if you’re breastfeeding), your baby should get all the nutrients she needs.
When should you start cutting down milk feeds?
When weaning begins, you should continue to offer your baby similar amounts of milk to what she was having before you started weaning - roughly 20oz (600ml) in a 24-hour period, or breastfeeds on demand). Start to introduce milk drinks in a cup rather than a bottle.
Around 10 months, your baby’s milk intake should have reduced to 13-17oz (400-500ml) of infant formula a day, through 2-3 feeds/breastfeeds.
From 12 months onwards, all milk drinks should be offered in a cup rather than a bottle, limited to 2 times a day, and a maximum of 10-13oz (300-400ml).
When can you give your baby cows’ milk to drink?
Cows’ milk doesn't contain the balance of nutrients that a baby needs before 12 months of age, and isn’t as easily digested as breast or formula milk. For this reason, you shouldn’t offer it as a drink before 12 months, although you can use it in cooking. Breast milk is tailored to your baby’s needs, and formula milk is designed to mimic it and so offers better nutrition than cows’ milk, so these are the only milk drinks suitable before 12 months old.