The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. That means no formula, no other foods, or water. The AAP encourages breastfeeding to continue after the introduction of food until at least 12 months, and longer if both the mother and baby are willing. The WHO recommends that babies be breastfed for at least 2 years or longer. This may be a shocker to some people who think it is “gross” after 12 months (before I was a mother I was one of you. once you know better you do better,right?). The AAP, also, recommends not feeding solids earlier that 6 months because feeding solids earlier 6 months can increase the risks of your baby developing food allergies. Also, Juice or water shouldn’t be given to infants it fills them up leaving little room for true nutrition, breast milk.
Here are some myths about introducing solid food That I hear all the time:
- “My baby isn’t sleeping through the night and is still getting up every 4 hours at 3 months old. My Grandmother told me to give my baby cereal to help them sleep”
- First, this is normal behavior and actually better for them, and is considered sleeping through the night at this age. Babies need to nurse often for nutrition and comfort. You can’t try to putt a infant onto a normal adult sleep pattern. They will naturally sleep longer stretches as they get older, but remember about 50% of toddlers still get up at least once a night.
- Second, There is no medical evidence to support this practice. The studies that have been done, even when reducing the definition of sleeping “through the night” by two hours, there was no significant or consistent trend found in increasing the baby’s sleep.
- What putting cereal in a bottle for your baby does do is it puts your baby at risk of aspiration (choking and then the cereal getting down the wrong pipe and into the lungs). If that happens nothing could happen or the baby could develop pneumonia, that could possibly permanently damage the lungs, or they could die from the infection. Lastly, if an infant experiences aspiration they could even die with in minuets of asphyxiation. In my opinion the risks do not out weigh the benefit.
2. “My baby is not gaining as fast as he was before”
- This is normal after about 4 months of age. The growth spurst come farther between and the infants begin to have more physical activity. During this time their brains are very busy and need fuel, but adding low nutrient dense foods is not the way to go. Breastmilk has plenty of carbohydrates to fuel yoru babies activities. Breastmilk has fat to fuel their brain growth. Breastmilk have plenty of vitamins and minerals to support the body. Lastly, and again, Breastmilk still has antibodies to keep your baby in their optimal health. The delay of foods and continued breastfeeding, or formula, is actually the healthiest choice.
Normal Growth spurt pattern:
- 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months
Average weight gain pattern:
- 0 to 4 months – between 5 to 7 ounces per week
- 4 to 6 months – between 4 to 5 ounces per week
- 6-12 months – Between 2 to 4 ounces per week
Readiness for food is more about the digestive tract maturity than weight.
3. “My baby is so big, there is no way he is getting enough from just me”
- The AAP, and WHO, state that solids should be introduced in the second part of the first year. There is nothing in their statement about a child doubling their birth weight, or even tripling their birth weight being an indicator of the need to introduce foods. The fact is the most foods that are introduced at and early age (cereals, fruits, and vegetables) contain fewer calories and fat than breastmilk, or formula. Also, there are no foods that can boast the same antimicrobial and antibacterial properties in breastmilk.
4. “My baby is always grabbing for my food, I’m sure he wants some”
- They are playing and interested in what you are doing. Yes, the fact that they can reach is a sign that they getting ready to be able to feed them selves, but there and several signs and physical milestones that your baby needs before adding food. Look for your baby being able to use the “pincer grasp”. Babies like to, and learn, from being tiny little mimes. Before sitting down at the table to eat nurse the baby and then hand them teething rings and a spoon they will probably be very content playing. You can even make momcicles to offer to play with and help with teething.
5. “My Pediatrician said my baby needs cereals and food to ensure they are getting enough iron, other wise they may be developmentally delayed!”
- Did your doctor to an iron test? Yes, then they should have prescribed you infant vitamin drops, not cereals.
- No? no testing? Unfortunately, the Doctor just used a scare tactic on you, I’m sorry. Mine tried this on me too, but I knew the AAP said wait, and I had just had my personal iron and my babies iron checked and both were great. When I told her that she was very upset that she was wrong, but still didn’t apologize.
- If your pediatrician tells you to add cereals before the age of 6 months for “iron needs”, ask for an iron test and see if your babies iron is perfectly fine before tiring to fix something that isn’t broken.
Remember, Food is just for play through the first year, and many children grow and thrive on breast milk alone, no foods or drinks, until a year old.
Starting foods too early risks possible food allergies. Children that have been feed earlier than 6 months have a higher rate of medical conditions such as asthma and the development of diabetes later in life. By continuing to breastfeed till the 2nd part of your babies first year before adding foods you are also reducing their risk of childhood cancers. Waiting until your baby shows all, or at least most of the signs of readiness for foods. There is no benefit to introducing solids early but there many benefits in waiting. This is not a race watch your baby they will tell you when they are ready.
Signs a child is ready for solid food
- They are six months old
- They can sit up without any support, more than just a second.
- he uses the pincer grasp, finger and thumb, to pick things up well
- They continue to be show hunger queues even though you have began nursing more often, and they are not sick or teething
- They no longer have the ” Tongue-thrusting reflex”. You can test this by spoon-feeding breastmilk if they poke their tongue out of the mouth and it all dribbles, the reflex is still there. Or after 6 months of age and all other signs have been met start placing soft foods in front of them and let them play and taste it. You could choose yogurt, a slice of well steamed and cooled apple cut into small pieces, a few small pieces bananas, a small bowl of avocado to play in and taste. Lastly you could try just waiting till they reach for something and eat it. Many moms choose this method and prefer it as it is much easier.