The New Rules for Starting Solids

Starting solids is an exciting time for your baby and the entire family.  Now your little one can join the rest of your clan for family meals at the table.  She may not be able to feed herself right away like everyone else, but she’s on her way to learning to enjoy food, meal time togetherness and healthy eating habits.

The rules about starting solids have changed in recent years.  What once were rigid instructions that disregarded a family’s and baby’s preferences are now replaced with a more flexible timeline and options for introducing solid foods.  Today we’re reviewing the new rules for starting solids.

Timing

The American Academy of Pediatrics once recommended starting solids at six months and to exclusively breastfeed up until that time.  Now the guidelines have been revised to starting solids between four and six months if your baby shows readiness.  What does readiness look like?  If your baby can sit up with assistance (as in, sit in a high chair), can hold up her head and shows interest in food (like watching you eat or reaching towards food), she’s probably ready to give it a go.  Exclusive breastfeeding should continue until you start solids and breastfeeding along with solids should continue until at least one year of age.  At one babies can start drinking cow’s milk if you choose to discontinue breastfeeding.

Where to Start

The New Rules for Starting SolidsThe old method of starting solids suggested beginning with rice cereal and other grain cereals, followed by vegetables, meats and then fruits.  This strategy reduced the risk of allergic reaction since rice and other grains are less likely to be allergens.  Also, starting sweet fruits later was believed to encourage a palate for vegetables and meats.  Now, almost anything goes.  You can start with meat, fruit or vegetables if you like, and you can skip the grains altogether.  Grains tend to be high in iron which many breastfed babies lack, but so are other healthy lean meats and produce.

Allergies

New studies show that delaying the introduction to foods due to potential allergies does not reduce risk of reaction.  Rather, introducing nut products, eggs and fish sooner can actually decrease risk of allergies.  There are only a few exceptions here:  If a close family member has allergies, consult your physician about your baby’s risk as allergies may be genetic.  Also, never give honey to a baby under one and beware of foods that are choking hazards like whole nuts or grapes.

The Wait Rule

Experts have varied opinions about waiting three or four days between introducing new foods to your baby.  On the one hand, waiting several days can help you identify an allergy if your baby does have a reaction to something she’s eaten.  However, that prolongs the process of trying new foods, drawing it out over many many months.  You will have to be the judge of what makes you comfortable and how your baby responds to various foods.  Remember, she will have her entire life to eat so rushing it is not necessary.  However, if she is enjoying food, experimenting can be fun and exciting.

A Chow Schedule

Shortly after your baby starts solids is a great time to initiate a meal schedule.  Your baby may be ready to eat during normal meal times with a set breakfast, lunch and dinner time as well as two snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  This consistency will help acclimate your baby to socialized eating and help ensure your baby isn’t grazing all day.  Constant snacking can result in poor meal-eating and picky eaters because they fill up on less healthy snack foods and aren’t hungry from substantive foods during meal times.

Starting solids is a wonderful opportunity to begin a lifetime of healthy eating.  Help your baby enjoy the flavors of fresh produce, lean meats and delightful food combinations.  Health is a journey which you started off on the best foot by breastfeeding.  Continue your hard work as your baby begins a new adventure with solid foods.

 

Fighting the Peanut Allergy

You may have noticed more and more children are being diagnosed with a peanut allergy. In fact, in the past decade allergies to peanuts have doubled. For years scientists have been working hard to find out how to explain the increasing rates of food allergies. In the past, pediatricians have cautioned parents not to feed their babies peanut products until they’ve reached three years of age because they feared their immune systems could not handle an allergic reaction. However, new information from the American Academy of Pediatrics recently stated introducing peanuts to your child sooner may be the key to crushing this allergy.

According to the article “Is It Really Safe to Give Babies Peanut Butter?” by Adrienne Lafrance, featured in The Atlantic: Health online magazine, researchers are now saying they may have made a mistake. Scott Sicherer, a pediatrician and researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergry Institute at Mount Sinai, was part of a team of doctors formed in 2008, who believed parents didn’t need to wait to introduce peanut products to their otherwise, healthy babies. Sicherer and the rest of the team came together because they challenged the fact that there was no significant evidence supporting the idea that children who waited until an appropriate age to try peanut products, would not obtain the allergy. In fact, they argue not giving your child these type of products earlier on may be the problem all together.

In their study, Sicherer and the other doctors tested more than 500 infants who were at high risk for peanut allergies. At random, they picked who would consume the peanut products and who wouldn’t. When the children reached the age of five, both groups were tested to see how their bodies reacted, and Sicherer and his team found an astonishing discovery. Those who had peanut products in their daily diet beginning at an earlier age were far less likely to react compared to those who didn’t.

Does this mean it’s safe to give our babies small amounts peanut products right away? Further in Lafrance’s interview with Scott Sicherer, he goes on to say that every baby is different and many factors play into what is appropriate for each child. The American Academy of Pediatrics is not promoting feeding your infants peanut butter, but to discuss the possibility with your pediatrician because they know you and your child the best.

 

 

Reference

Lafrance, Adrienne. “Is It Really Safe to Give Babies Peanut Butter?” The Atlantic: Health. Feb. 2015. The Atlantic. Aug. 2015.

 

The Rise of Food Allergies in Children and Babies

Dairy, eggs, peanut butter, strawberries, soy—it seems as though every year the list of common food allergies grows longer and involves more food groups. Food allergies appear in babies and children without much real explanation. Doctors and lactation experts agree that a mom’s diet while breastfeeding does not create allergies in a child. How can you anticipate you child developing food allergies?

Some scientists believe that the rise in food allergies may be connected to overall improved public health. Because our sanitation systems are effective, scientists think that our immune systems are more susceptible to food allergies and other diseases. Without a clear picture though, parents worry about what kinds of food to feed their children.

The Rise of Food Allergies in Children and Babies

In general, pediatricians recommend not feeding a child peanut butter until he or she is at least three years old. Other advice advocates introducing new types of food slowly to a baby—over the course of a week—to give your child ample time to show an allergic reaction if they are sensitive to the food type. This practice will make it more apparent which food set off a reaction if a child should display signs of food allergies.

Food variety is not as important to a baby as it is to an adult, so don’t worry about diversifying meals at the risk of exposing your child to a food allergy. Doctors do attribute 90% of food allergies to the following 8 food types—peanut butter, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, shellfish, wheat—so be cautious and make sure to talk to your pediatrician before letting your baby try these foods.

With the rise of food allergies, gluten intolerances, and other dietary issues it’s hard not to wonder if food processing techniques and ingredients are actively altering our allergy tolerances. Soy products have become increasingly more prominent in our national diet as a substitute for cow’s milk.

Kids with food allergies are susceptible to anaphylactic shock and other health issues, so it’s important to have the necessary inhalers and medications ready if your child does have a food allergy. A talk with the babysitter or preschool teacher will let them be aware of your child’s condition and what steps they should take to help in an emergency situation.

Do you have a child with a food allergy? What steps have you taken to avoid certain foods in your child’s diet? Share your advice with us in the comments.

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