When and how should solids be introduced?
Few things seem to cause moms more stress than a child’s eating habits. As parents it is up to us to teach children ‘how’ to eat – and I don’t mean how to use a knife, fork, and spoon. I mean how to appreciate foods that are common to their culture.
The first, most ubiquitously common food is colostrum. This is the first substance made by the mom’s breasts. It is of utmost importance that baby gets this. Colostrum lasts for two to five days only. This is such a small window of opportunity! Colostrum provides loads of protein, cholesterol, and fat-soluble vitamins that are critical for baby’s neural and immunological development. It is high in minerals, namely sodium, potassium, and chloride, that are key in the development of the heart, brain, and central nervous system.
Additionally, breast milk contains over 100 ingredients that are not found in formula, including enzymes that protect the baby’s gut, ears, nose, and throat from infections.
The chemical composition of breastmilk and lymphatic fluid is remarkably similar and not accidental since breast milk is made from components that are delivered to the mammary glands by the lymphatic system.
One of the strong similarities is the presence of immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are immune cells that seek out and fight off specific types of infective organisms. As such, it is important to know that the immunoglobulin content as well as the nutrient profile of breast milk changes to match the baby’s needs. The immunoglobulins reduce the risk of meningitis, diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and ear infections.
Consumption of breast milk also reduces the risk of the child developing asthma, protects against certain types of cancer later in life, and reduces the risk of the child becoming obese.
It is recommended by every medical association that has anything to do with pregnancy and babies that moms should breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months and continue breastfeeding while introducing solid food until at least twelve months. I recognize in saying this that there are four good reasons for a very small number of women to not breastfeed. If the mom had any type of breast surgery, there is a strong chance the milk ducts and lobules may have been damaged and ‘disconnected,’ so as to make lactation impossible; the mom may have a history of being sexually abused; the baby may, in very rare instances, be allergic to breast milk; and sometimes Mom doesn’t produce enough prolactin (the milk stimulating hormone) and her milk dries up. (There are herbs that can stimulate the milk supply and delay the milk drying up. This will be addressed soon in another article.)
The following chart shows a comparison of breast milk and other types of milk that are commonly fed to infants. I’ve included it to show the vast and important differences between the types of milk.
Comparing Human and Animal Milks (per cup)1
|Nutrient||Human Milk||Cow's Milk||Goat's Milk|
|saturated fat (g)||4.9||4.6||6.5|
|monounsaturated fat (g)||4.1||2||2.7|
|polyunsaturated fat (g)||1.2||0.5||0.4|
|vitamin c (mg)||12.3||0||3.2|
Note, especially, the protein levels and the carbohydrate levels. The elevated protein levels are much more difficult for the human baby to handle. Notice, also, the high carbohydrate count in human milk. It is primarily lactose. Lactose enables the assimilation of calcium. Notice that cow’s milk contains no vitamin C? That is because calves are often eating grass by the time they are two days old.
When should solids be introduced? Not until the first teeth start erupting. Why wait so long? What if your baby is a late teether? Can you safely leave him on breast milk only until he is nine or ten or eleven months old? Yes, indeed, you can, and in my opinion, you should. The teeth are meant to chew. If there are no teeth then chewing is not as effective. I know at this age some babies are being fed steak and potatoes pureed, as if the pureeing makes them more digestible, but many holistic teachers over the last 50 or 60 years have stated emphatically that the baby’s digestive enzymes are not in place until the teeth erupt.
When solids (pureed, of course) are first introduced they should be vegetables, not grains. Human babies, unlike calves, do not have the enzymes needed to digest grains at an early age.
Start with one type of veggie, only 1 tsp per day for the first week (in addition to breast milk, of course). In the second week increase it to 2 tsp per day and another new veggie may be introduced at this time also. By introducing veggies first, which tend to be less sweet than fruit, we can help reduce the risk of baby developing a ‘sweet tooth.’ I know breast milk is very sweet. By adding some contrast at an early age we also help the child to begin accepting foods that are not sweet.
The next food to introduce, and not until baby has had veggies for three full months, is protein. Chicken and lamb are the best first animal proteins. Beef is a little harder to digest, so delaying introducing it for a few months may be a good idea. Lentils and legumes can be very hard to digest with their abundant fiber, so it’s best to wait until at least 15 months to try these. Holding off on dairy until 12 months or later is also a good idea, unless you have access to quality raw dairy products, which some babies can handle in small quantities. Commercial dairy products that have been pasteurized are more difficult to digest.
Fruit is next, and is introduced in the same manner as vegetables and protein – starting with just one tsp per day. Grains are very last, and certainly should not be introduced until well after 12 months, even waiting until 18 months if at all possible.
By introducing foods slowly and methodically we can watch for any indication of allergies, and we allow the body more time to mature before stressing it with more challenging foods.
If you are having challenges or just don’t know where to begin and would like some help, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available. I also invite you to Follow my website (cobblestonehealth.com) and Like us on Facebook (Cobblestone Health Ltd).
Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).