Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why the hurry with solids??

Preface: I know I have friends who read this blog, and I know that several of them started their babies on solids before six months. This entry is not meant to judge anyone else's decisions or make anyone feel bad. I just want to provide some interesting and important info.

Recently I learned of a few people putting rice cereal in their babies' bottles to "help them sleep better." Although we are still exclusively breastfeeding and Lucy only gets bottles while I'm at work, I was curious about this- is it safe? Does it really work? So I did some research...and although I understand that nearly every new mom is anxious to get more sleep, what I found out not only pretty much disapproves that theory, but even shows that starting solids early (whether given in a bottle or by spoon- whether to help him/her sleep or "just because") has several negative effects.

First, there are the negatives for the baby:
- Any food being provided to the baby besides breast milk is, in essence, taking the place of breast milk. Therefore, feeding solids to baby is denying him or her the most perfect food available and replacing it with an inferior food source.
- Did you know that breast milk protects baby's digestive system? The amazing properties of breastmilk helps protect baby from illnesses like diarrhea.
- Exclusively breastfed babies get fewer colds and ear infections.
- Feeding cereal in a bottle or by spoon is proven ineffective at helping baby sleep better. In fact, it actually makes the situation worse. Cereal stretches out the stomach, and baby becomes used to an unnatural feeling of "fullness." As a result, baby must eat more before bed to sleep as soundly. There are some indications that starting solids early can potentially lead to childhood obesity later. Adding cereal also creates a choking hazard, whether in a bottle or given by spoon.
- Baby's digestive system simply isn't designed to handle solids until about six months. Therefore, starting solids early can result in stomach upset, gas, constipation, etc. etc.
- Early introduction of solids can result in greater likelihood of food allergies.
- Forcing infants into a deep sleep in the early months can increase the risk of SIDS.

Then, there are negatives for mama:
- Trying to force baby into sleeping longer has a negative effect on breast milk production. When baby doesn't nurse as frequently, the body responds by producing less milk. This can further complicate things for mamas who already have supply issues.
- Did you know that cutting out nighttime feedings can actually result in returning to fertility sooner? Research shows that women who night wean get their periods back sooner than those who don't. In fact, LLL recommends night weaning for women who are anxious to become pregnant again sooner. I don't know about you, but I've been enjoying not having my monthly visitor, even if I can't take advantage of LAM or ecological breastfeeding (since I work during the day and Lucy takes a pacifier).

Organizations who recommend NOT starting solids until six months (breastmilk exclusively):
- World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, US Dept of Health and Human Services, among many, many others.

Bottom line: feeding cereal does NOT help babies sleep through the night. Worse, it has negative effects on both mama and baby and can even be dangerous. Children who are breast fed do not nutritionally require solids until long after many parents choose to introduce them.


Jenny said...

I think our culture likes to see fat babies with "healthy" appetites, and people so frequently worry needlessly that their babies aren't getting enough. Many people seem to think that size is a stand-alone sign of good health (I've heard things like "We had to use formula, but he's in the 97th percentile, so he's doing great!"). I've also met people who thought their babies were fussy due to hunger, which is why they started solids early--particularly rice cereal in the bottle.

I have to admit we foolishly started Suzi on rice cereal WAY too early. I can't remember when exactly, but it was long before 6 months. I knew so many people who had done it, including my mom, and was convinced it was okay. With Ivey, I doubt we'll even start her on solids at 6 months. We'll wait a little longer if she hasn't shown signs of interest yet. I've had to put up with annoying comments, such as the other day when my mother suggested that a banana popsicle would feel good on Ivey's gums. A lot of people from previous generations think I am being uptight, but this time I have confidence that she is getting all she needs from me!

SA said...

Amen! Breatmilk is *free* and always convenient (at least IMO). We're definitely waiting until that 6 month mark (or a little longer).

When do you plan to start Lucy?

Beth said...

I could have written this post a month ago. I was determined that Eleanor was NOT going to have solids until she was 6 months old. But around 4 1/2 months, she started getting a lot crankier and eating as often as every 1 1/2 hours. This went on for a couple of weeks, so I don't think it was just a growth spurt. I stay home with her and she has slept 10+ hours at night since she was 2 months old, so I don't mind feeding her often throughout the day. What concerned me though was that she kept having green poop. Like, multiple times per day. That's a sign of oversupply and I talked to a LC consultant several times, but we couldn't figure it out. I did block feedings and that would help some, but not completely. And again, she was getting so much fussier and screaming for an hour at a time for naps, as much as 3 times/day. So, as a last resort, we tried solids. (I started with sweet potatoes...I agree with you on a lot of the cereal stuff. I just think it's kind of unnecessary. Plus breast milk and cereal both have lots of carbs, so I wanted to do fruits/veggies.) The green poop stopped and the wonderful naps (no screaming) started. I have no idea if that's because of the solids or just a coincidence, but I'm happy.

I always feed her solids after a full nursing session, so at least as far as I can tell, she's still getting as much milk. She still eats every 2-3 hours like she did before this all started.

Oh, and I had heard that the AAP recommends waiting until 6 months, but then I found out that's not totally true. They have two different groups of doctors that have different recommendations. The group on breastfeeding (which I would trust more) says 6 months, but the group on nutrition...I think?...says 4-6 months and that every baby's needs are different.

So yeah, I mostly agree with you, but as a mom I'm learning that everything's not always so clear cut. I'm sure you've figured that out, too. :)

Ed and Elizabeth said...

Hey Em! I love that you're not afraid to put up controversial posts because it really gets people thinking about what they are doing as parents. I agree with some parts of your blog. I had to comment because I do have a little bit of a background in this both as a pediatric nurse and as a new mom.

First of all moms need to realize that for the entire FIRST YEAR breast milk (or formula...but preferably breast milk) is the primary source of nutrition. Anything else (i.e. rice cereal, baby food, finger foods, etc) is solely to help develop fine and gross motor skills.

As far as introducing some solids, I personally do not believe in basing any decisions about a child based on a number. What makes 6 months the magic number? It is probably based on an average of all other babies. Your baby is probably not average, nor is mine. I know this because you read the important things to do such as tummy time, different positions, etc to build muscles for later skills such as eating. I believe there should be criteria for your baby to meet before solids are considered.

When Jack was consistently sitting up in his bumbo chair for extended periods of time, could hold his head up without difficulty, and showed obvious interest when we were eating is when I considered it. We started around 4 1/2 months and only with a very small amount of rice cereal at first, once a day, always AFTER breastfeeding. I mixed the rice cereal with breast milk to reconstitute it.

This was only to help build the base of foods in order for him to advance to further skills. He was very good at moving the food around with his tongue and swallow it. If your baby shows any signs of distress or choking you should not start solids.

I think that starting a baby on solids in order to get them to sleep longer is ridiculous and completely unfounded. It is a complete MYTH. Also, putting rice cereal in a bottle is a very BAD idea. Solids should only be presented when a baby is sitting up and only from a spoon. This is to prevent confusion.

Breast milk is always the first thing to feed a baby and is the main source of nutrition. Foods help develop motor skills. Jack started the pincer grasp around 7-8 months and most babies can't master that until around 11-12 months. I attribute it to his interest in food.

I am not saying starting solids early is for everyone. Read your baby and judge accordingly. Every baby is different. :)

You are doing a great job as a mom. Lucy is beautiful!

Emily said...

Woo hoo! I love getting people talking!!! Sometimes I like posting controversial things just to start discussions ;-) I think that sometimes we can get lazy as parents and just follow the status quo, without doing the research behind it.

There were two things that happened that spurred me to write in the first place, and neither really had to do with KNOWLEDGEABLE MAMAS who genuinely deem their children ready, and are smart about introducing solids. Of course, there are also exceptions to every rule as well (thanks for pointing that out, too!) They were:

1. people giving solids SOLELY to get their kids "to sleep through the night"
2. people being pressured to start solids early

Thank you, thank you, everyone for your inputs. As was already mentioned by some very astute mamas, each baby is different. I mainly wanted to provide info for those mamas being pressured into starting solids early, or for those who felt like they "needed" to.

And, as for Lucy, I am planning to breastfeed exclusively as long as possible, and it's obvious to me that she's doing just fine. I'm especially cautious because I don't want to hurt my supply (a precarious situation, since I'm already pumping twice a day). She's already VERY interested in eating, though, and Brett and I occasionally will put a drop on mashed potato or something similar on her lip. I will certainly blog about it when we do start, though.

Ed and Elizabeth said...

Good for you! I agree that many moms are being pressured to start foods too early. And as for giving rice cereal to "make" babies sleep...it kind of makes me sick to my stomach. Kind of like in the hospital when I see a mom make a bottle and hand it to the baby in the crib or prop it up on a pillow. Who doesn't like to hold their baby when they feed him/her? LAZY PEOPLE!!

If only every baby had such thoughtful, educated parents like all of these mommies answering this blog. As a Peds nurse I don't worry about these kinds of babies.

Lucy looks like she is doing just fine. She is super-cute and before you know it she will be walking and talking. :) Whenever you are ready to try solids, do take pictures...they make hilarious faces.

For now...keep up the breastfeeding!