Myths about your baby’s nutrition

Giving your baby his or her first taste of solid food is a major milestone.  Terry Harris, Vitality Dietician dispels some common myths about complementary feeding to assist you before your baby takes that first bite.

Myth 1: You should start introducing solids as soon as your baby reaches a certain weight.
This guideline is partly true, because as a general rule when your baby doubles their birth weight it is time to consider introducing solids.  This is only one of the factors to consider, however, and there are the other signs of readiness that are listed above that should be assessed before starting your baby on solid foods. It is important to discuss the optimal time to introduce solids to a preterm or low birthweight baby with your pediatrician or clinic sister as this weight guideline may not apply to these babies.

Myth 2: You introduce solids to your baby just because he or she is small
Breastmilk is the best choice for babies up until around four to six months of age and they provide all the energy and nutrients that your baby needs for optimal growth during this time.  Starting solids too early can increase the risk of your baby either sucking food into their lungs or not getting enough of the right nutrients as the intake of solids can compromise their intake of milk.  Introducing solids too early can also lead to an upset tummy for your little one, so it is best to hold out giving solids until your baby is at least 4 months. If you are concerned that you may not be producing enough breastmilk, have difficulties breastfeeding, or are concerned that your baby is not growing adequately. Speak to your doctor for further advice. 

Myth 3: Your needs solids in order to sleep through the night.
Although parents often believe that babies should be sleeping through the night by the age of three or four months, night waking is still a common and natural occurrence Some mothers start solid foods before their baby is ready in an attempt to get them to sleep through the night on a ‘full’ stomach.  However, this is not always effective and studies have shown that the early intake of solids has little effect on reducing night wakings.  In addition, there are many other factors other than hunger that can cause your baby to wake up at night –they may be uncomfortable, teething or they may be simply going through a growth spurt.

Myth 4: If you don’t start solids by a certain age your baby will have problems with solids.
One of the main reasons that your baby should be on a variety of solids by around 6 months is that he or she needs more energy as well as other important vitamins and minerals from food, in particular, iron and zinc to support their growth and development. Iron and zinc are found in pureed meats and chicken, egg yolk, iron-fortified cereal and legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils.

.. In addition, the late introduction of solids can delay oral motor function and possibly even an aversion to the acceptance of textured solid foods   As your baby masters the art of eating their first foods, it is important to slowly introduce more texture to his or her food by making it coarser.  Rather than pureeing the food, simply mash it with the back of a fork.

By the age of 8 to 10 months, your baby should be able to eat textured food such as finely chopped soft fruits, roast vegetable wedges, pasta, soft cheese, bread, toast, rice cakes, and crackers.  

Myth 5:  You should start with thin pureed foods when introducing solids.
It’s important to start simple when you are introducing solid foods to your baby. Initially, foods should be thin and soft as your baby’s ability to eat solids is dependent on their neuromuscular development. In the beginning, they are only able to suckle, followed by “munching”, and only then can they chew. Blend with expressed breastmilk to achieve the required consistency and texture.

Some babies are more reluctant than others to accept different textures. However, don’t worry about this and avoid power struggles with your baby over food. If your baby turns away from a new food, don’t push, simply try it again another time.

Myth 6: You should delay introducing peanuts to prevent a peanut allergy.
I know many moms are still very hesitant to give their little ones peanuts or foods containing peanuts when they start introducing solids.

To help prevent food allergies, parents were once told to avoid feeding young children highly allergenic foods such as eggs, fish, peanuts and tree nuts until they were over a year old. However, there is no convincing evidence that avoiding these foods during early childhood will help prevent food allergies.  New research also suggests that desensitizing at-risk children to peanuts between the ages of 4 and 11 months may actually be helpful in preventing an allergy to peanut.

Advice for getting started :

  • Be patient – if your baby isn’t interested, wait a day or two and try again.
  • Start with vegetables or avocado then introduce fruit as this is thought to discourage a preference for sweet foods.
  • Encourage exploration. Your baby is likely to play with his or her food. Although it’s messy, hands-on fun helps fuel development.
  • Introduce utensils. Offer your baby a spoon to hold while you feed him or her with another spoon. As your baby’s dexterity improves, encourage your baby to use a spoon.
  • Dish individual servings. If you feed your baby directly from a container, saliva on the spoon can quickly spoil leftovers. Opened jars of baby food can be safely refrigerated for two to three days.
  • From six months of age, give your baby meat, chicken, fish, liver, and eggs every day, or as often as possible. Blend with expressed breastmilk to achieve the required consistency and texture.
  • Avoid giving tea, coffee, sugary drinks including fruit juice.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

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