First Foods For Baby: What and When?
- Tuesday, 05 July 2011
Many debates abound over what foods to introduce first and at what exact point we should introduce them to our growing babies. We often hear one opinion from our mothers and quite possibly another from our doctors. Our best friend can give us advice on what the moms in her moms’ group said and of course this will be different from what your baby nutrition book recommends. It’s enough to make a sleep-deprived new mother crazy. Rest assured that with a little common sense and objectivity you can sort through the discordance and ultimately come to a better understanding of what to do and when to do it.
The first major question moms have to figure out is when they should start introducing a food to their baby. This is a decision on which many moms feel pressure since there is a great divide between those that push introduction at 4 months and those that stress waiting until 6 months. Why the confusion around dates?
For many decades the circulating wisdom was that 4 months was a good time to introduce solids since by this time babies were more alert and had developed certain skills like swallowing. This idea prevailed for many years and was at the core teaching for most pediatricians. Therefore many doctors still recommend this schedule.
However research over the last decade or two has effectively shown that withholding solid foods until the age 6 months helps to reduce the likelihood of allergies, intestinal issues even weight issues. As a result the World Health Organization (WHO) and most pediatric associations around the developed world now recommend waiting until 6 months before offering solids.
The logic and science behind this shift rest on the fact that the intestinal tract is not sufficiently developed such that it can optimally digest solid foods. Because the intestines are quite permeable at birth, and remain fairly porous until close to 6 months of age, food particles can potentially leave the tract and enter the blood stream where they can trigger an immune reaction. If solids are postponed until after 6 months then they are better equipped to handle the breakdown of food.
What Comes First?
The second great debate revolves around which foods should be introduced first. The divide is usually over whether to start with cereals or fruits and vegetables. Then of course within each of those camps you have differing ideas as to which grains to commence with or whether vegetables should come before fruits.
The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong when it comes to which of these foods is better to introduce first. Both fruits and vegetables and warm cereals are good choices, obviously a focus on quality is important. But when it comes to which is the right food, arguments can be made for both sides. The reality is simply that different cultures have traditionally introduced certain foods first and those within that culture have assumed their tradition to be right.
Ultimately there is no better choice, but some parents do observe that one side can potentially be easier – particularly with sensitive or fussy babies. Cereals can be an easier food to start with because they can be manipulated. Mom’s can add breast milk to baby’s first cereals to create a familiar taste for them. Additionally, when first starting out with cereals, they can be liquefied so that they resemble the consistency of breast milk or formula. The more familiar a new food seems, the faster some babies will accept it.
As long as babies first foods are from within one of these categories then whichever food you choose – be it avocados, brown rice cereal or cooked apples – will be appropriate.