Introducing solids is a very important step in the health of a child. Usually, this is done at a certain time recommended by your health care practitioner and usually includes rice cereals. There is a better way to start your child on solids. I will go through a very common sense approach to optimize your child’s digestion and their health longterm.
Babies do not have a developed digestive tract until they are four years old. At birth, the digestive tract is designed to leak breast milk out of the intestines and into the body. It is a leaky system in the first months of life. This is how your baby continues to have an immune system after birth and after the mom’s immune cells are gone. As the digestive tract matures, it becomes less leaky and starts to learn how to break food down. This is a very important part of developing the immune system as it is in charge of making sure that no dangerous foreign objects get from the digestive tract into the body (such as viruses and bacteria). If food is introduced too early, the immune system will start to attack the food as foreign and this is one way that food allergies are started. This is also the beginning of immune problems that may not show up until adulthood.
There are a few important signs to watch for to know when your baby is ready for food. The first sign is teeth. Teeth are the body’s way to let you know your baby will be able to chew food soon. Until they have teeth, their digestive system still only wants breast milk. The next sign will be an interest shown in food. The baby will start to watch you eat, even reaching out for the food. The best sign will be the most obvious and that is that your baby will wake up in the night needing more calories.
The first foods should always be the most easily digested ones: vegetables. Remember that your baby does not have an adult system until the age of 4. Food introduction is the most important step in immune system development. Many ear infections, bowel problems, and colds will show up if you start foods too early or the wrong kind of food. The orange vegetables such as squash are a great first food. Stick too introducing one food at a time and start only vegetables. Extra virgin olive oil can be added to increase the calories and to help with assimilating the minerals and vitamins in the vegetables. Proteins can be added in slowly after the vegetables, and grains are the last food introduced. Grains, because they are short chains of sugars, are more inflammatory than the vegetables. They also influence blood sugar quicker than vegetables and therefor are not as good of a choice. Teach your baby to love vegetables by starting them on the food nature has packed with the vitamins and minerals your baby needs.
Many skin issues, immune problems, asthma, congestion, sinusitis, ear infections, bowel irregularities, gas, bloating, concentration, and focus are related to food choices and the introduction of solids. Many parents try to rush into feeding solids. A better way to help your baby be healthy long term, is to watch for the signs that your baby’s body is telling you the time is right. Until that time, breast milk is the only food that a baby’s digestive system can properly digest.
If you are struggling with food introduction and your child’s health, Dr. Scott will help you get a plan for better health for your child.