Monday, August 4, 2008

On Delaying Solids

People have started asking about this, so I thought I'd make a post to clarify our plans regarding introducing Carter to solid foods. The short version is, we are delaying solids until he is at least six months adjusted age. That means we won't even start thinking about starting solids until the end of September, at the earliest.

There are many reasons to delay solids until after six months. All the major health organizations (WHO, AAP, and so on) recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed (or formula fed) for at least six months, and that solids be introduced after that when the baby shows signs of readiness. There are a lot of reasons for this recommendation, and you can read about them here if you're interested.

The short version is that research has shown that most babies are simply not physiologically ready for anything other than milk before six months, and introducing solids before that can be harmful. On top of that human milk is the perfect food for babies for the first year of their lives, and no solid foods can match its nutritional content. So the more solids a baby eats too soon, the less milk he gets, meaning his overall nutrition is compromised.

I've been doing a lot of reading on infant nutrition in the last few months, and most of what I've read has been very consistent in this recommendation. It's interesting that many doctors still suggest babies are ready for solids at 4 months, because that practice is way out of date, and not in line with current research and recommendations. Something else I've learned is that the purpose of introducing babies to solid foods in their first year is not to shift a certain amount of their caloric intake from milk to solids, but to get them used to the taste and texture of food. Breastmilk (or formula) is all babies need for the first year of life, and in many cultures babies don't start eating solid foods until well into their second year.

Another interesting fact is that there is no "right" way to introduce babies to solids. In our culture babies usually get cereals first, and then pureed veggies and so on, but there is absolutely NO scientific evidence to support that practice. In fact, I've read that it is a holdover from the days when people started feeding babies solids when they were a matter of weeks old, when they could obviously only swallow things that had a similar consistency to milk. If you think about it, it makes sense that babies would get teeth, be able to sit unsupported, and develop an interest in food around the time they became physiologically ready to digest it.

A lot of people skip cereals and purees and introduce finger foods when their baby is ready. I'm finding that approach very appealing, and so that is what we are planning to do. It's called "baby-led weaning"; you can read more about it here.

So that's the scoop. :-)

1 comment:

rita said...

At the risk of being smug, I think the reason why Sam has proved to be such an "easy" baby is that I've for the most part managed to ignore other people's advice and have relied instead on reading Sam's "cues." He was interested in playing around with food long before he was actually interested in eating it. I still don't get why they tell you to cut up food into small pieces - even into the second year. It seems to me that just *invites* a choking hazard. Instead, give him a big piece of whatever that he can't possibly suck accidentally down his throat. If he gets any pieces off of it, they will be small enough for him to swallow without problem.

Okay, now I'm getting smug. :D At any rate, I hope the baby-led weaning thing goes as well for you as it did for Sam.

(I'm just hoping that potty training will be as easy as everything else. So far Sam seems to show no interest, so I'm trying to trust his lead.)