Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Solids Starved baby - Waiting until 6 months at least for solids

Here is something I wrote back when our now 4 (and a half) year old was 4 months old.

Smily 4 month old, starved of early introduction of solids

It seems as though the idea of "getting older, younger" is more common. We want our kids to grow up, but at the same time we miss their newborn stage. V is almost 4 months old and so I am now getting two questions quite often: are you still breastfeeding? (why yes I am and no, I don't plan to wean her soon, probably not until she wants to, hopefully after age 2) and have you given her rice cereal yet? (no, and we plan to delay solids for quite a while.)

There are two main reasons: developmentally, a child doesn't needs solids as a baby, and in fact it may be harmful, and it may help prevent some food allergies. My nephew is allergic to dairy and eggs - he's suffered many illnesses and he was just diagnosed in the past few months. We must wonder whether or not some of the illnesses, colds, surgeries(!!) could have been prevented had the allergies been found earlier. I don't want to judge but also had he been delayed solids or breastfed. Anyway,

This question on when to introduce solids came up on one of the message boards I am on. Here was my response (slightly changed for clarity and this venue):

In regard to introducing solids to your not yet 4 month old, my opinion is that unless the baby isn't thriving or gaining weight then it is best to delay. Babies are born with an immature gastrointestinal track. I've seen research that indicates that most babies, even at 6 months, do not have a fully developed track, so instroducing more foods doesn't seem like it would be best. I would assume that since formula is hard to digest for an immature intestine, it would be even more havocful for the intestine.

The gastrointestinal system of a newborn baby is not yet mature. It is still permeable, allowing bacteria, viruses and toxins to pass through. This intestinal permeability decreases more slowly in formula-fed babies. According to Dr. Jack Newman "...certain hormones in milk (such as cortisol) and smaller proteins (including epidermal growth factor, nerve growth factor, insulin-like growth factor and somatomedin C) act to close up the leaky mucosal lining of the newborn, making it relatively impermeable to unwanted pathogens and other potentially harmful agents. Indeed, animal studies have demonstrated that postnatal development of the intestine occurs faster in animals fed their mother's milk. And animals that also receive colostrum, containing the highest concentrations of epidermal growth factor, mature even more rapidly."

According to Dr. William Sears, MD, cow's milk should not be given as a beverage to infants under one year of age. "Cow's milk can irritate the lining of your infant's intestines, causing tiny losses of iron. This can contribute to iron-deficiency anemia."

Also, there is some indication that delaying solids until at least 6 months can help ward off/prevent some food allergies. "The WHO, Unicef, the US Department of Health & Human Services, the AAP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Dietetic Association, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and Canada all recommend that babies not be given solids until they are six months of age. As Dr. Jim Sears said on the Dr. Phil show, ""The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that no foods are given before 6 months. And that's very, very important. Many of the books out there still say the old recommendations 4 to 6 months. Now it's nothing before 6 months." Those old numbers are outdated; six months is the new guideline."

I know some people who put rice cereal in formula bottles at or before 3 months -- I'm sorry but I really couldn't support this. If your baby really isn't thriving at this point, and isn't under the direct care of a doctor, I'd have to say that there's probably something more that needs to be looked in to. I am no doctor, but I haven't seen any research which indicates that a baby that young needs the more calories. Of course, if you're doing it so your child will sleep longer, perhaps you need to reconsider why you had that baby...  We'll leave that for another topic... on another day, when I'm not so tired :)

Resources

  • Catassi et al "Intestinal permeability changes coloring the first month; effect of natural versus artificial feeding." J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1995; 21: 383-386
  • Newman, J, MD, FRCPC "How Breast milk Protects Newborns" http://www.promom.org/bf_info/sci_am.htm 
  • Sears, W. & Sears, M (2003) The Baby Book - Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two, RN, Little, Brown &  Co.
  • Shulman et al "Early feeding, feeding tolerance and lactase activity in preterm infants." J Pediatr 1998; 133:645-649
Now over 4 years later, I know more, I've experienced more but I still believe in no early introduction of solids for young infants. Breast milk is perfect for growing babies. The calcium is more readily absorbed than that of cow's milk or formula, which is why BF baby poop is sooo much easier to deal with than a formula-fed baby or a baby who has had solids introduced! If you don't believe me, just smell the different diapers!  Research also shows that adding rice cereal to a bottle does not "coat" the stomach and in general babies do not sleep better/longer. I've also read comments of moms adding MORE cereal because baby is crying more and much want more of it... Maybe they're stomach is uncomfortable from the "food"?  

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