Breastfeeding helps reduce babies’ risk of being exposed to enteropathogens and decreases the risk of infection (pneumonia, meningitis, bacterial, urinary tract infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis), offers higher levels of immunologic factors, and lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Children who were breastfed are also less likely to be obese.
Breastfeeding can also benefit the mother’s health. It elevates maternal oxytocin levels, decreases postpartum bleeding, helps the uterus shrink faster, decreases menstrual blood loss, improves bone mineralization, decreases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, increases mother-baby bonding, and saves on the costs of formula.
After six months, breastfed babies require more energy from iron-rich food sources, fluoride, and around 400 IU/day of vitamin D to continue to grow and develop. While some parents continue breastfeeding their child at seven months, it’s typically a good time to introduce complementary solid foods into a baby’s diet.
Before starting a solid food feeding schedule for a 7-month-old baby, it’s important to be sure they are physically able to eat solid foods. A baby is ready to eat solid foods if they can:
- Sit upright on their own
- Hold their head up unassisted
- Open their mouth when food is presented to them
- Swallow easily
Another good guideline for knowing if a baby is ready to eat solids is if they have doubled their birth weight. This generally indicates that their digestive system is sufficiently developed to process solid foods.
These are just guidelines, and it’s important to speak with the baby’s pediatrician to be sure that they are ready for solid food.