Recently, I have seen too many things that make me completely uncomfortable.
So uncomfortable, in fact, that I have to bite my tongue to ensure nothing escapes out into the open air.
(So naturally, I’ve decided to blog about it instead)
I have seen a major flood of photos posted online in recent weeks. Photos of beautiful, new babes that have only recently been brought earthside. Dressed in warm, soft fabrics while their chubby faces light up with glowing smiles.
So what’s the problem?
In these photos, these sweet infants are posed in their highchairs (while some cannot even sit up unassisted yet) and they are being fed solid foods. Foods ranging from cereal, to canned, processed ravioli. Some are only a mere two months old.
Now, don’t jump down to the comment section with insults and accusations quite yet. Set your pitchforks aside.
I made the mistake myself. When my oldest child was a baby, I was so excited to begin feeding her solid foods. So the moment her pediatrician (stupidly) suggested I begin rice cereal, I ran to buy some. She was only 3 months old at the time. She had some stomach problems (which I later realized were from solids too early) but she adjusted alright.
However, I now know far more than I did nearly five years ago. I’ve done extensive research on infant and toddler nutrition, and I’ve learned so much about how to properly and organically feed your child to ensure proper absorption of the “good stuff” and when they actually need it. (Spoiler alert: Not until they’re a year.)
Now, some of you may be saying to yourselves “My child’s pediatrician suggested I begin solids at 3-4 months! It must be okay!”
Unfortunately, many pediatricians are not up-to-date with the recommendations for introducing infants to solid foods. Many still suggest beginning to offer a basic white rice cereal around 3 months either in a bottle or by spoon as a “filler” or as baby’s first food. That has been the wisdom for 60 years, and it is finally being recognized as a hidden danger and passed around the medical community. Why?
“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.”
It is known as a “nutritional disaster.”
“Once Again, The “Experts” Have it All Wrong
If there is anything that our modern culture gets totally wrong, it’s how to feed babies and properly introduce solid foods. Pediatricians, dieticians, and other “experts” are quick to recommend that the perfect first food for babies at about the age of 4-6 months is rice cereal. Not only is this advice completely misguided, it is also extremely harmful to the long term health of the child, contributing greatly to the epidemic of fat toddlers and the worrisome childhood obesity problem in general.
Rice cereal is not a healthy first food for babies.
Not only is it an extremely high glycemic food (spikes the blood sugar) but it also contains ample amounts of double sugar (disaccharide) molecules, which are extremely hard for such an immature digestive system to digest. The small intestine of a baby mostly produces only one carbohydrate enzyme, lactase, for digestion of the lactose in milk. It produces little to no amylase, the enzyme needed for grain digestion.”
Offering rice cereal is a danger that can easily be avoided by pureeing your own produce for your baby. For more information on the dangers of rice cereal, feel free to check out the links below.
So when should infants begin consuming solid foods?
According to Dr. William Sears, not until 6-7 months or later.
1. Baby’s Intestines Need to Mature
The intestines are the body’s filtering system, screening out potentially harmful substances and letting in healthy nutrients. In the early months, this filtering system is immature. Between four and seven months a baby’s intestinal lining goes through a developmental growth spurt called closure, meaning the intestinal lining becomes more selective about what to let through. To prevent potentially-allergenic foods from entering the bloodstream, the maturing intestines secrete IgA , a protein immunoglobulin that acts like a protective paint, coating the intestines and preventing the passage of harmful allergens. In the early months, infant IgA production is low (although there is lots of IgA in human milk), and it is easier for potentially-allergenic food molecules to enter the baby’s system. Once food molecules are in the blood, the immune system may produce antibodies to that food, creating a food allergy . By six to seven months of age the intestines are more mature and able to filter out more of the offending allergens. This is why it’s particularly important to delay introducing solid foods if there is a family history of food allergy, and especially to delay the introduction of foods to which other family members are allergic.
2. Young Babies Have a Tongue-Thrust Reflex
In the first four months the tongue thrust reflex protects the infant against choking. When any unusual substance is placed on the tongue, it automatically protrudes outward rather than back. Between four and six months this reflex gradually diminishes, giving the glob of cereal a fighting chance of making it from the tongue to the tummy. Not only is the mouth-end of baby’s digestive tract not ready for introducing solid foods early, neither is the lower end.
3. Baby’s Swallowing Mechanism is Immature
Another reason not to rush introducing solid foods is that the tongue and the swallowing mechanisms may not yet be ready to work together. Give a spoonful of food to an infant less than four months, and she will move it around randomly in her mouth, pushing some of it back into the pharynx where it is swallowed, some of it into the large spaces between the cheeks and gums, and some forward between the lips and out onto her chin. Between four and six months of age, most infants develop the ability to move the food from the front of the mouth to the back instead of letting it wallow around in the mouth and get spit out. Prior to four months of age, a baby’s swallowing mechanism is designed to work with sucking, but not with chewing.
4. Baby Needs to be Able to Sit Up
In the early months, babies associate feeding with cuddling. Feeding is an intimate interaction, and babies often associate the feeding ritual with falling asleep in arms or at the breast. The change from a soft, warm breast to a cold, hard spoon may not be welcomed with an open mouth. Introducing solid foods is a less intimate and more mechanical way of delivering food. It requires baby to sit up in a highchair – a skill which most babies develop between five and seven months. Holding a breastfed baby in the usual breastfeeding position may not be the best way to start introducing solid foods, as your baby expects to be breastfed and clicks into a “what’s wrong with this picture?” mode of food rejection.
5. Young Infants are not Equipped to Chew
Teeth seldom appear until six or seven months, giving further evidence that the young infant is designed to suck rather than to chew. In the pre-teething stage, between four and six months, babies tend to drool, and the drool that you are always wiping off baby’s face is rich in enzymes, which will help digest the solid foods that are soon to come.
These are just some of the many reasons to wait to introduce solids.
And always remember, when you do begin to introduce solids, you begin with fresh, organic produce that has been pureed. Feeding baby processed foods with chemicals increases the risk of allergies or other digestive issues, on top of poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies.
In conclusion, feeding our infants is fun! It is an exciting experience for both the parents and baby, and it can be easy to rush it! But always remember, you will be setting your child up for better nutrition by waiting. The best saying to live by?
Food before one is just for fun!
For more information on infant nutrition:
“Get the White Rice Cereal Out of Baby’s First Foods.” Mercola.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2015.
“The Right Way to Feed Babies | The Healthy Home Economist.” The Healthy Home Economist RSS. N.p., 12 May 2010. Web. 12 Sept. 2015.