Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Great Baby Food Debate.

Now that all of our babies are either at or nearing four months, I thought I'd ask my fellow mommies opinions on cereal. When are you planning to start your little sweetie on solids? Are you starting with cereal, or just going to mashed up solids? Are you going with store-bought or homemade?

I'm reallllllllly leaning towards putting off solids until six months. I love breastfeeding, and Ava has no complaints either, particularly now that I've given up dairy, so I don't see why I can't continue to exclusively breastfeed until she's at least six months.

Here are some of the benefits, and the argument for postponing solids until at least six months of age, per Kelly Mom, an absolutely terrific source of information for the breastfeeding mother:

Delaying solids gives baby greater protection from illness.
Although babies continue to receive many immunities from breastmilk for as long as they nurse, the greatest immunity occurs while a baby is exclusively breastfed. Breastmilk contains 50+ known immune factors, and probably many more that are still unknown. One study has shown that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 4+ months had 40% fewer ear infections than breastfed babies whose diets were supplemented with other foods. The probability of respiratory illness occurring at any time during childhood is significantly reduced if the child is fed exclusively breast milk for at least 15 weeks and no solid foods are introduced during this time. Many other studies have also linked the degree of exclusivity of breastfeeding to enhanced health benefits.

Delaying solids gives baby's digestive system time to mature.
If solids are started before a baby's system is ready to handle them, they are poorly digested and may cause unpleasant reactions (digestive upset, gas, constipation, etc.). Protein digestion is incomplete in infancy. Gastric acid and pepsin are secreted at birth and increase toward adult values over the following 3 to 4 months. The pancreatic enzyme amylase does not reach adequate levels for digestion of starches until around 6 months, and carbohydrate enzymes such as maltase, isomaltase, and sucrase do not reach adult levels until around 7 months. Young infants also have low levels of lipase and bile salts, so fat digestion does not reach adult levels until 6-9 months.

Delaying solids decreases the risk of food allergies.
It is well documented that prolonged exclusive breastfeeding results in a lower incidence of food allergies. From birth until somewhere between four and six months of age, babies possess what is often referred to as an "open gut." This means that the spaces between the cells of the small intestines will readily allow intact macromolecules, including whole proteins and pathogens, to pass directly into the bloodstream. This is great for your breastfed baby as it allows beneficial antibodies in breastmilk to pass more directly into baby's bloodstream, but it also means that large proteins from other foods (which may predispose baby to allergies) and disease-causing pathogens can pass right through, too. During baby's first 4-6 months, while the gut is still "open," antibodies from breastmilk coat baby's digestive tract and provide passive immunity, reducing the likelihood of illness and allergic reactions before gut closure occurs. Baby starts producing these antibodies on his own at around 6 months, and gut closure should have occurred by this time also.

Delaying solids helps to protect baby from iron-deficiency anemia.
The introduction of iron supplements and iron-fortified foods, particularly during the first six months, reduces the efficiency of baby's iron absorption. Healthy, full-term infants who are breastfed exclusively for periods of 6-9 months have been shown to maintain normal hemoglobin values and normal iron stores. In one study, the researchers concluded that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 7 months (and were not give iron supplements or iron-fortified cereals) had significantly higher hemoglobin levels at one year than breastfed babies who received solid foods earlier than seven months. The researchers found no cases of anemia within the first year in babies breastfed exclusively for seven months and concluded that breastfeeding exclusively for seven months reduces the risk of anemia.

Delaying solids helps to protect baby from future obesity.
The early introduction of solids is associated with increased body fat and weight in childhood.

Delaying solids helps mom to maintain her milk supply.
Studies have shown that for a young baby solids replace milk in a baby's diet - they do not add to baby's total intake. The more solids that baby eats, the less milk he takes from mom, and less milk taken from mom means less milk production. Babies who eat lots of solids or who start solids early tend to wean prematurely.

Delaying solids helps to space babies.
Breastfeeding is most effective in preventing pregnancy when your baby is exclusively breastfed and all of his nutritional and sucking needs are satisfied at the breast.

Delaying solids makes starting solids easier.
Babies who start solids later can feed themselves and are not as likely to have allergic reactions to foods.

All of these seem like valid arguments to me, not to mention that continuing to exclusively breastfeed is:

*convenient (no cereal to mix, meals to be home for, etc)
*a great way to use up extra calories!

As far as the baby food goes, I think I've mentioned before that I intend to make Ava's baby food at home...anyone else planning to do this? Anyone with experience with this that can suggest some helpful resources?


  1. I see no reason to start solids before 6 months. I'm curious to see what our ped recommends tomorrow because Jack is showing all the signs. Not to mention that he has nearly tripled in weight and one sign of readiness is that the baby has doubled their birth weight. I *may* start cereal at 5 or 5 1/2 months and just give him that for a couple weeks and then start veggies at 6 months. But I'm definitely not doing anything until 5 months and probably later. I do plan on making all my own food and using Earth's Best when I need something while traveling or on the go. Here is a wonderful website that comes highly recommended:

    I also have 3 or 4 books with lots of recipes and will be posting ones I like from time to time. If you'd like the names of any of the books I have, let me know. I'm sure I'll be making a post as we get closer to introducing solids!

    Only you can decide what will be best for Ava and I know she'll be just fine either way!

  2. I have strong feelings about this particular subject. Marianne is formula-fed, due to me losing my milk early on, which made me very sad. She however, didn't seem to care one way or the other, so long as the calories came from somewhere.

    But she started out drinking so much formula, by 3 months she was sucking down 40 oz or so a day, and still by 4 months I started her once a day on cereal.

    She ate the cereal and showed zero loss of consumption of formula. She drank 40 oz of formula a day pretty much until she got to the two baby food containers a meal phase. I flat out ignored her doctor's complaints over the cereal at 3.5 months, because I knew she needed more to eat.

    I started baby food fruit and veggies at 5 months, mixed with cereal.

    By 7 months she was eating stage 3 size jars, and able to down two thickened baby food containers PLUS an 8 oz cup of milk in one sitting.

    8 months, I said to hell with it and put her on table foods + baby foods, and now she's 10 months and eating only table food, drinking about 24 oz of formula a day, and a random cup of water or juice as well.

    When I took her out to CA to visit your mom, everyone was convinced she had a tapeworm or something because of how much she ate...and yet she's TINY...28 inches tall, barely 17 lbs. And she eats more than most kids I know in one meal.

    Whether to feed your kid baby food early or not is really up to YOUR kid. If they're happy nursing till then, then fine. If they're like Marianne and clamoring for more food at 3 months, then start em on some rice cereal, and hang what the doctors say.

    The only reason I get upset about this topic is because I got endless amounts of crap from her doctor over giving her solids early, for the very reasons you post.

    I will end with saying, hun, if you have time to make your own baby food, more power to you. I never did, so I went with the jarred stuff and got off baby food as soon as I could, or supplemented as much as I could with real food blended in a blender.

  3. I really appreciate what Xar has said. Adelle is eating about 30 - 35oz a day of a combination of breast milk and formula. I have to do both because I still produce milk, but not enough to satisfy her.

    Some days she eats almost 8oz at each sitting!! We can't help but wonder if we should be doing more for her. We don't want to give her things too early, but we also don't want to starve our little girl.

    We go to the doctor for her 4 month checkup this week.


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