There is a lot of information out there about starting your baby on solid foods, whether you do research or just follow what your child’s pediatrician says. Therefore, most people know the basic, commonly accepted ideas on starting solids so I am not going to rehash all that. What I want to share with you today are some alternative tips for starting solid foods.
What does that mean exactly?
I am pretty “crunchy” when it comes to eating healthy and overall nutrition (for myself and my family). Part of that ‘crunchiness’ was a deep desire to breastfeed my baby for a long time (which is actually not so radical but rather the way humans were meant to be fed). This belief led me to research my choices when starting solid foods for our baby and led me to new information and a new way to approach introducing solid foods that is compatible with my health-focused attitude towards food – and led me to introduce solids differently than most people do.
I exclusively breastfed my son and we waited to start solid foods until he was eight months old. We skipped rice cereal completely; his first food was some avocado that I mashed. Waiting the appropriate few days between new foods, we then tried mashed bananas. No need for anything from a store-bought jar! We also made sure that “food was fun” for the first year, meaning that it was just for experimenting with, getting familiar with, learning hand-eye coordination, but absolutely NOT to replace any breast milk or become regular stand-alone meals.
I want to remind you to read my disclaimer. I am not a medical doctor and you should always consult your physician for medical advice and opinions before you try any of these ideas. I am providing this information for educational purposes and sharing what worked for me.
1. Delay Solid Food Introduction
Health experts and breastfeeding experts recommend waiting until your baby is at least six months old before starting solid foods. In fact, many organizations (such as the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend that all babies be exclusively breastfed (no cereal, juice, or any other foods) for the first six months of life (not the first 4-6 months). Even with the new recommendation of six months, many health care providers still share the old recommendation of starting solids at four month old.
When most people hear these numbers, they think it’s when they HAVE to start their baby on solid foods, when that’s not really the case at all. Six months is the minimum age to start solids, not the mandatory age.
Watch the baby, not the calendar
From Kellymom.com: Solids readiness depends on both the maturity of baby’s digestive tract and baby’s developmental readiness for solids. Research indicates that 6 months appears to be ideal for avoiding the allergies and other health risks of too-early solids. Most babies are developmentally ready for solids somewhere between 6 and 8 months.
Kellymom.com (one of my favorite sites) shares in great detail why many experts recommend delaying solids. Here are a few of the top reasons:
- Delaying solids gives baby’s digestive system time to mature. Their digestive system is still pretty immature at four months. Digestive enzymes don’t reach adequate levels until 6-9 months (depending on the enzyme). If solids are started before a baby’s system is ready to handle them, they are poorly digested and may cause unpleasant reactions (digestive upset, gas, constipation, etc.). Remember, “outward” signs of being ready for solids do not mean that your baby’s inner digestive system is mature and ready.
- Delaying solids decreases the risk of food allergies. Babies possess what is often referred to as an “open gut” from birth until somewhere between four and six months of age. This means that the spaces between the cells of the small intestines will readily allow intact macromolecules, including whole proteins and pathogens, to pass directly into the bloodstream. Introduced before the gut closes, solid food can irritate the gut leading to allergies or food sensitivities.
- Delaying solids helps to protect baby from iron-deficiency anemia. The introduction of iron supplements and iron-fortified foods, particularly during the first six months, reduces the efficiency of baby’s iron absorption. One study found no cases of anemia within the first year in babies breastfed exclusively for seven months and concluded that breastfeeding exclusively for seven months reduces the risk of anemia.
- Delaying solids helps to protect baby from future obesity. The early introduction of solids is associated with increased body fat and weight in childhood.
- Delaying solids helps mom maintain her milk supply. Studies have shown that for a young baby solids replace milk in a baby’s diet – they do not add to baby’s total intake. The more solids that baby eats, the less milk he takes from mom, and less milk taken from mom means less milk production. Babies who eat lots of solids or who start solids early tend to wean prematurely.
2. Skip the Cereals
If you ask most pediatricians, childcare books, and other parents they will say to start baby on rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. This thinking has been around for 60 years! But would it surprise you to know that there is no scientific basis for this recommendation? None at all.
If you delay starting solids until six months or later, you can skip the rice cereal and start with foods that actually have nutritional value. More health experts are now becoming concerned about babies getting used to the taste of highly processed white rice and flour, which could set them up for a lifetime of bad habits (such as a weakness for cakes and cookies).
But what about the iron?
People will say that babies need rice cereal due to the added iron content. It’s debatable whether healthy breastfed babies need the extra iron (you can get baby’s iron levels checked). Human milk does not contain large amounts of iron, but iron in breast milk is better absorbed than that from other sources. Approximately 50 percent of the iron in mother’s milk is absorbed, compared to only a 7 percent absorption from formula, and a 4 percent absorption from infant cereals.
- After processing strips away fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients, white rice is a nutritional disaster, as processed as anything in the food supply, and the nutritional equivalent of table sugar.
- White rice is a refined carbohydrate, a group of highly processed, nutritionally devoid foods that have been linked to increased rates of heart disease, insulin resistance, eye damage, and cancer in adults, and are worthless nutritionally for infants as well.
- Feeding infants cereal has been associated with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes and may prime your baby’s appetite for a lifetime of processed carbs in the form of white bread, cookies, and cakes.
- Ironically, the introduction of iron supplements and iron-fortified foods (such as cereal), particularly during the first six months, reduces the efficiency of baby’s iron absorption.
3. Keep Breast Milk Primary Source of Nutrition
When you introduce solid foods, breast milk consumption should not diminish at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics as well as breastfeeding experts worldwide agree that breast milk should be the primary source of nutrition/calories in baby’s diet for the first 12 months. Solid food is mainly for practice/exploration and teaching them to eat, not to get nourishment.
Food is fun for the first year.
For those of you with well-meaning but uninformed family and friends that ask “when are you going to feed the baby real food“, remember that breast milk and/or formula IS real food. These will be enough to sustain your baby’s nutritional needs up to one year old.
- Introductionof solids before 6 months of age generally does not increase total caloric intake or rate of growth and may displace the important nutrition your baby needs to receive from breast milk and/or formula and onlysubstitutes foods that lack the protective componentsof humanmilk.
- Babies need fat and breast milk is the best source. Solid foods (from a jar, especially) do no contain enough fat and calories to replace breast milk. Check out the comparison: Human milk has 22 kcal/oz and 1.15 g fat/oz while applesauce has 16 kcal/oz and 0 g fat/oz, carrots have 10 kcal/oz and 0 g fat/oz.
- Is my baby ready for solids? on Kellymom.com
- Myths about solids readiness on Kellymom.com
- How to start solids on Kellymom.com
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Wendy – ParentingTips365.com
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