FOR THE NEW PARENTS…
Whether this is your first or your second child you are in for a surprise on how the world of child nutrition has changed just over the past few years. This article will give you the most recent recommendations, updates (and research articles for the keen ones) on how to get your child started on solids.
1. YOU MAY CHOOSE TO START SOLIDS EARLIER: BETWEEN 4 AND 6 MONTHS
Even though WHO, Health Canada, CPS and DC recommend introduction of solids at 6 months of age, there is also a recognition of potential benefits of earlier introduction of foods.
Firstly, there is no evidence that avoiding solids past 4 months of age benefits the child’s health
BUT, there are potential benefits of earlier introduction (4-6 months):
• decreased rates of allergies (peanuts, eggs)
• decreased occurrence of Caeliac disease
So how do you decide what’s best for your child? Every baby is different, here is how you know when yours is ready for solids:
YOUR CHILD IS READY FOR SOLIDS WHEN HE/SHE:
- Sits up with little support
- Holds the head up
- Shows interest in foods that you are eating
- Opens the mouth wide when food offered on a spoon
- Uses lips to remove food from the spoon
- Turns the face away to show that he/she is not hungry
- Has better tongue control (does not push the food back out)
2. START WITH A VARIETY OF FOOD GROUPS, NOT JUST FRUITS AND VEGGIES
You do not have to start with fruits, vegetables and fortified cereals as traditionally promoted in North America. In fact, you should be motivated to start protein rich foods early on. Here are the reasons why:
• Protein rich foods are often iron-rich foods. The baby’s iron stores run low by 6 months of age and the breast milk does not supply significant amounts of iron
• Proteins are the building blocks of the body, your child needs protein for development of all organ systems and tissues and will yield better weight gain
• In addition, regular consumption of fish in the first year of life has been associated with reduced risk of allergies at least in the first four years of life
So what foods should you start with? (aside from pureed fruits, vegetables and baby cereal)
• Pureed poultry (better dark chicken meat)
• Pureed beans (lentils and split peas may be easier to start with as they have thinner skins)
• Pureed tofu
• Pureed fish: salmon, white fish and even shrimp! (see below)
• Pureed eggs (mixed with breast milk or formula)
3. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO AVOID ALLERGENIC FOODS LIKE PEANUT BUTTER
Here is what we know:
• There is no evidence to support that later introduction of allergenic foods lowers risk of allergy, whether child is at high or low risk for allergy (High risk = parents siblings have allergies)
• Typical allergens include: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs
• It remains unclear what the optimal timing is for the introduction of allergenic foods, but waiting beyond 12 months may increase the risk of allergies.
How do you try an allergenic food?
-if you are very anxious to try these foods, seek the help of your pediatrician or an allergy specialist
-if you do it yourself, follow these steps:
a) put food, like egg or peanut butter on cheek first and wait for 20 minutes
b) if there is no skin reaction, place the food by the mouth and wait for 20 minutes
c) if there is no skin reaction, proceed to actually tasting it
d) have children’s Benadryl on hand, follow dosing instructions on the package
If you feel your child is ready and displaying all the readiness cues, you can start solids between 4 and 6 months of age.
Do not shy away from protein rich foods. Go ahead and offer your baby fish, chicken, beans and tofu early on to ensure adequate iron intake, good weight gain plus intake of other numerous nutrients that these foods offer! Just make sure the texture is right
Do not wait to introduce any foods, including allergenic foods, even if you have allergies in the family! Seek help if you need support in trying these, but do not avoid them in the first year of life.
Note: two food you do want to avoid is cow’s milk until 9 months of age and honey until 12 months of age
If you need further assistance with feeding your child, whether it is constipation, allergies or a vegetarian diet, contact me to guide you through this process.
. Julia Stanislavskaia, MSc, RD