Breastfeeding by Stage: Birth to 12 Months and Beyond

How Much Breast Milk Your Baby Needs & the Introduction of Solid Foods

Nine month baby boy lying down Breastfeeding Stages from Birth to One Year
What does your baby need at each stage of breastfeeding?. Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

When your baby's a newborn and a young infant, you just breastfeed, and if you need to or choose to, you may also supplement with formula. So, things aren't all that complicated. But, as the weeks and months go on, you may start to wonder what's next. When should you start cereal? When should you try baby food? Once you start cereal and other foods, how much should you breastfeed?  

It can definitely become confusing especially when you have family and friends telling you what they did and giving you their opinions and advice.

 But, don't worry we've got you covered. Here's the breakdown of what your baby needs from birth to 12 months and beyond. 

Breastfeeding from Birth to 6 Months

Exclusive breastfeeding provides your baby with all of the nutrients that she needs during the first few months of life. You don't have to give your baby water, cereal, or anything else unless you decide to give your baby formula in addition to breastmilk. If you choose to or need to, it's safe to breastfeed and give your baby infant formula.

But, as for other foods, you should not introduce solids including cereal and pureed baby food until your baby is about 6 months old. Studies show that waiting to start solid foods may prevent the development of eczema in high-risk babies. Your child's pediatrician will guide you and let you know when he or she thinks your baby is ready.

Breastfeeding from 6 to 12 Months

Breastfeeding is still very important as your baby gets older because it's essential to his development.

But, by six months of age, he will need more calories and nutrients than your breast milk can give him. So, by 6 months, it's time to begin introducing solid foods.

You should start to add solids slowly and patiently. Solid foods have such a variety of textures and tastes that your baby will need time to get used to them.

While you're adding new foods, continue to breastfeed normally, as you always have.

In the very beginning, when you introduce your first solid food (usually cereal) it's recommended to breastfeed before the new food, instead of after. It's also best to keep your breastfeeding routine the same for a while. This way, you will be able to maintain your breast milk supply. 

Start new foods one at a time and wait for 3 to 4 days between each new food before adding the next one so you'll be able to tell if your baby has a reaction to one of them more easily. And, don't worry if your baby doesn't take to a particular food right away. Just try again a few days later. It's a learning process, and your child will catch on at her own pace.

When to Start Certain Foods Based on Your Baby's Age

Here are some recommendations for the introduction of solid foods based on your baby's age. These are just guidelines, and every child is different so be sure to talk to your baby's health care provider for a more individualized plan.


  • Birth to 6 Months: Breast milk and/or infant formula are all your baby needs during the first 6 months. 
  • 6 to 7 Months: You should continue to breastfeed as you normally have, and slowly begin introducing iron-fortified baby cereal. Start with grains like rice, oatmeal, and barley since they're less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Then, continue with other grains. Remember that you should never give cereal (or any other foods, for that matter) through a bottle. You can, however, use your breast milk or infant formula to mix the cereal for your baby. You'll want to keep it somewhat runny at first. Then, as your baby becomes accustomed to the flavor and texture, you can make it thicker. 
  • 6 to 8 Months: You can add strained or mashed fruits and vegetables (yellow or non-bean green vegetables are best) between 6 and 8 months. When using jars of baby food, always remove the amount of food you want from the jar and put it a bowl for your baby. If you feed your baby directly from the jar, your baby's saliva will cause the left-over food to spoil. At this age, your child should also be able to begin using a sippy cup. So, you can give her water or juice. Just limit the juice to about 2 ounces a day. Breast milk should still be a major source of nutrition so continue to breastfeed your baby throughout the day. 
  • 7 to 9 Months: Between 7 and 9 months, you can add a small amount of meat to your baby's diet. Breastfeeding continues to be important and should make up, at least, half of your baby's daily calories. You can also add finger foods such as dry cereal, crackers, bagels, cooked vegetables, and soft fruits at this stage.

  • 9 to 12 Months: This is the perfect time for your baby to join the family at the table. Your baby can even eat some of the same food that the rest of the family is eating (meat, fish, poultry) as long it's mashed, pureed, or finely chopped. Seeing other family members eat different foods might also entice him to try new things. You should still be breastfeeding, too. Your baby should be getting approximately 24 ounces of breast milk or formula each day. 
  • After One Year: By the time your baby is a year old, she should be eating a wide variety of foods including the foods that are more likely to cause allergies such as eggs, fish, and peanut butter. Your baby can also have cow's milk after her first birthday. Breastfeeding is still beneficial after a year, so you can continue to breastfeed along with providing your baby with a healthy diet if you would like to.

Does Waiting to Introduce Certain Foods Help Prevent Food Allergies?

At one time it was recommended to wait before introducing your baby to foods that are more likely to cause an allergy. It was believed that holding off on foods such as eggs, fish, and peanuts (peanut butter), would help to prevent food allergies. However, more recent studies suggest that it's better for the prevention of food allergies to introduce these foods earlier rather than later. Unless, of course, someone in your family especially one of your other children has a food allergy. In that case, it is still recommended to wait before introducing that particular food to your baby. The best thing you can do is talk to your child's doctor. The doctor will review your family history and advise you on the latest recommendations. 

Foods You Should NOT Feed Your Baby

  • Soda
  • Hot dogs
  • Candy
  • Chips
  • Popcorn
  • French Fries
  • Raisins
  • Nuts
  • Cow's milk before her first birthday
  • Whole grapes (feel free to peel or cut in half)
  • Any foods that a family member is allergic to

Common Misconceptions About Cereal and Solid Foods 

1. "If a baby eats more often than every 3 hours, she is ready for solid foods." Babies are all different, as we know, but that includes their eating habits and the size of their stomachs. Some babies need to eat every 5 hours, and others need to eat as little as every 2 hours. The amount of time a baby waits between feedings tells us nothing about whether or not the baby is ready for solids.

2. "If you don't start solids early, the baby will be a picky eater and might refuse solids later." As stated earlier, babies do not need any solids before the age of 6 months. There is no research to back this statement. It's actually quite the opposite. Breastfed babies are more likely to accept different types of foods compared to formula-fed babies because breast milk takes on the many different flavors of foods a mother has eaten.

3. "A baby will sleep through the night if you give him cereal before he goes to bed." Cereal is a solid food. It's not healthy to give a baby solid food before he's ready. Also, a baby's stomach is about the size of a ping-pong ball—it can't accept that much food. Breastfed babies must breastfeed very often for this reason.  As babies get older, they sleep for longer periods of time, and as much as mothers crave sleep again, they should not rush this.

If you're worried about your baby's diet, or you have any questions about breastfeeding or the introduction of solid foods, you should contact your child's pediatrician or a lactation consultant for additional help.



Abrams EM & Becker AB. (2013). Introducing solid food Age of introduction and its effect on risk of food allergy and other atopic diseases. Canadian Family Physician, 59(7), 721-722.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy Statement. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. The Section on Breastfeeding. Pediatrics Vol. 129 No. 3 March 1, 2012, pp. e827 - e841:

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2010). Your Baby's First Year Third Edition. Bantam Books. New York.

Ananth Thygarajan A. (2008). American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on the effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 20(6), 698.

Greer FR, Sicherer SH, & Burks AW. (2008). Effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease in infants and children: the role of maternal dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary foods, and hydrolyzed formulas. Pediatrics, 121(1), 183-191.

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