Question: My daughter is 11 months old. Extended breastfeeding is in my plan. She still nurses a couple times during the night. How many times a day should a toddler nurse versus eating solid foods?
Answer: How wonderful that you are aware of the many benefits of extended breastfeeding and plan to continue nursing after a year! Your daughter is a very lucky little girl.
Breast milk is a very complete food for at least the first 6 months of life. From 6-12 months, an “educational diet” is recommended. This means that others foods gradually begin to provide for nutritional needs that milk alone can no longer provide, and your baby gets used to different tastes and textures as well.
Breast milk or formula should be the main source of calories up till the end of the first year, and should still make up about 75% of her diet at 12 months (25% solids). The need for iron increases after the first 6 to 9 months, so it is good to include iron rich foods during the latter half of the first year. Doctors don’t recommend introducing cow’s milk in your baby’s diet until she is at least a year old, due to the possibility of allergic reactions.
Since human milk is the most nutrient dense food you can give your baby, solids should be started slowly and not over-emphasized in the first year when the baby’s brain is still growing so quickly. From 13-24 months, the amount of complementary foods increases. At 18 months, 50% of the diet should be milk (preferably breast milk) and 50% solids. By 24 months, toddlers should still have about 20% of their nutritional needs met in the form of milk, and about 80% by solids.
The article Starting Solids: Waiting is Worth It has more detailed information about this topic.
Anne Smith, IBCLC