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How to start infants on eating solid food

How to start infants on eating solid food

Parents have many reasons for wanting to skip ahead to the milestone of starting solid foods for their infants. They may be eager to share the experience of eating with their child, or they may be hoping to speed along the weaning process. They may also have heard that introducing a cereal meal before bedtime can help in getting a full night’s sleep.

As many reasons as there might be to hurry this step along, there are some very good reasons why you should wait until your baby is showing all of the signs of being ready and able to ingest and digest solid foods.

Babies are born with what is termed a “leaky gut.” This means that their intestines are quite permeable, and are thus perfectly suited to absorbing nutrients from their liquid diet. Both breast milk, and hydrolyzed formulas are composed of individual amino acids, sugars, fats, and nutrients. This “pre-digested” style of food means that baby can easily use the nutrients that they are ingesting.

Solid foods (even if pureed) are composed of nutrient complexes like proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Prior to approximately six months of age, baby is not equipped to easily break down and use these complexes. The risk is that some of these complexes may pass incompletely digested into the blood stream where they can potentially set up the development of a new food allergy that would have other wise been avoided. This “leaky gut” undergoes a period of “closure” somewhere around six months of age. At this point the intestines become less permeable and are better able to digest solid foods.

As attractive as a night of unbroken rest may be for parents, moments of waking are crucial to a baby’s well being. Babies use the breathing patterns of their parents as guides to their own breathing. It is important that baby experience frequent episodes of light sleep or waking during their sleep period, in order to maintain a healthy breathing pattern. Prior to six months of age, you are better off offering a breast milk or formula feed directly before bedtime as opposed to adding a cereal meal too early in baby’s development. While the cereal may digest slower, resulting in a longer sleep, it can also keep baby from those light sleep breathing check-ins with Mom and Dad.

Luckily, nature has set us up with some very easy to signs to know when your baby is ready for solids. These signs should start showing up around the six-month mark. Some babies are ready as early as five months, and others not until seven months. Don’t worry about the timeline. Just follow your baby’s lead.

Here are signs that your baby is ready for foods
  • He can sit up in a highchair without support.
  • He is interested in watching you eat.
  • He may try to grab food off of your plate or out of your hand.
  • He may mimic eating behaviours
    (such as opening their mouth when you eat).
  • He is able to reach for things that they want, and push away things that they do not want.

Kim Niblett is a holistic nutritionist at Acorn Family Health & Wellness Centre. This article was featured in City Parent.

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