Baby’s First Foods…Why Rush??

by Patti Wardlaw, Marlyce Rankin and Riki Winkler

Your baby is now 6 months old. Time to introduce solids, right? Well, maybe not. Here are some reasons why you may want to consider delaying this important step.

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society your baby will be ready for solid foods somewhere between the ages of 4-6 months. They say that by 6 months most babies cannot get everything they need
from breast milk or formula alone.
It is recommended that parents start with iron-fortified rice cereal and then progress to fruits, vegetables and other foods. These guidelines are widely accepted and supported by most family doctors and community health nurses. Although many babies thrive under these guidelines, there are cases when it may be harmful to introduce foods this early.

We believe that breast milk is all your baby needs until at least 7 months for as long as 12 months. Although waiting this long is recommended by most pediatricians, a baby can thrive on breast milk alone until his first birthday. Most babies will not want to wait this long, nor is it necessary to do so. However, by waiting until at least 7 months or, better yet, 8 or 9 months you can reduce the risk of your child developing allergies, asthma, and digestive disorders. To understand how this may be true, it is helpful to gain a little bit of knowledge about the digestive system of an infant, and how it differs from that of an adult.

A baby’s system is designed for maximum absorption of breast milk. From the mouth to the colon, their system is designed to digest and absorb the nutrients found in breast milk alone. They do not produce sufficient enzymes to digest a wide variety of foods. Their stomachs produce minimum amounts of gastric acid to ensure the survival of the live immune cells and beneficial bacteria found in breast milk. Finally, and most important, their small intestines are relatively permeable and absorb foods with much less discretion than that of an adult.

Unfortunately, these enhanced absorption characteristics can also allow undigested proteins from other foods to pass into the bloodstream. This is where allergies can begin. When an undigested protein enters the bloodstream the body recognizes the substance as a foreign invader (or antigen) and produces an immune response to fight it. This immune response is what we recognize as an allergic response. The allergy can be permanent or the baby may outgrow it at a later date. Either way it is a stress that you and your baby can do without.