To feed or not to feed, that is the question

Every new parent is often met with a multitude of questions and for many, a similar amount of answers or advisements from well-meaning individuals. But how do you determine what information is correct? In this selection, I’d like to look at starting solids with your little one.

As every parent knows, breastfeeding is the best option when it comes to nourishment for your little one however, not every mom is able to breastfeed for any number of reasons. Not being able to do so and turning to formula is not shameful and should not be a reason for judgment. Unfortunately, this is just one of a dozen reasons mommy-hate transpires and honestly, it needs to stop! Anyway, while “breast is best,” formula is the next best thing and any mom formula feeding should not feel ashamed if this is the route she has chosen or that has been chosen for her. All babies, regardless of how their nourishment is provided, should continue this path for the entirety of their first year of life. Typically, when your little one is around 6 months of age, solids will start to be introduced but in all actuality, “food before 1 is just for fun.” The second six months of a child’s life is a great time to learn about textures and taste but at the end of the day (cliche I know!), the best nutrition still comes from the breast or the formula offered.

The latest trend in baby feeding is this theory of “open-gut”. According to  Kelly mom , which is then backed up by various sources such as, World Health Organization and  American academy of pediatrics, open-gut is what your baby’s intestines basically represents. This is great for the passage of breast milk and formula, not so great for food matter that comes from baby food. Supporters of the open-gut theory basically blast anyone who attempts to feed their child solids as early as 3 months of age and while I am not a part of the mommy-shaming trend, I do agree that any attempt at giving a newborn food other than what has already been discussed is a no-no. It is important to point out though that this phenomenon of “open gut” is not new. We did all of a sudden develop this in our children. If this existed before, it simply wasn’t talked about. While I do believe it exists, I also believe that doctor and nutritionist approved foods would not be in that “approved” category if they felt infant cereals would cause a great problem. While the notion of “my great-grandparents did it and their kids turned out fine”

There are a lot of concerns regarding food allergies and I do agree that we as parents need to do more to combat this. Whether or not these stem from early feedings or not has yet to be proven. What I can tell you is that both my daughter and step-daughter began eating infant cereal at the age of 4 months and neither have developed any type of food allergy (18 and 5 now). The same can be said for myself and my brothers. What two of us did develop in terms of allergy took place in adulthood and has since dissipated. Many things in our environment may play a role in the allergies that are affecting people today. Pointing directly to infant feeding is part of the fear-mongering that is going on in the various mommy communities online. While introducing cereal prior to four months of age may be the culprit, there are also children who did not have solids until one year and still developed allergies.

At my son’s 4-month appointment, his pediatrician advised we start him on cereal. I brought up the open-gut theory and the concern with early-feeding. As my son’s doctor explained, as well as the other pediatricians in the practice, the concern with open-gut has taken on a life of its own due to inexperienced and uneducated parents offering food at very early moments in a child’s life. The general suggestion has been to start the offer when the child has either doubled his/her birth weight or reached 13 pounds, is able to hold their head and neck up and steadily and consistently do so, and shows an interest in food. Well of course, any infant who is given attention is going to show somewhat of an interest in what their parents or care-giver is doing. I know my son has watched us intently as we eat, smacking his lips as we do so! Does that mean he is ready for solids? I doubt it but at the same time, there are baby-approved foods for those over 4 months of age.

As your child continues to grow, so does their appetite and their readiness for what we call solids. Typically, we start those in the 4-6 month range with cereal but there is concern, especially with rice cereal when it comes to babies. Rice cereal has no known nutritional value but this does not have to be the go-to food for your baby. As my son is now four and a half months old, we have taken to offering him one half of a tablespoon of oatmeal cereal.  According toDr. Callahan, the issue seems to be over fortified iron in cereals versus those that are home made. We make ours from natural oats, ground down in the blended and then cooked on the stove top. Formula is then mixed in to make a smooth, thin consistency that my son can handle, and is also of an acceptable range of iron and nutrients.

Why are we making his food? I have taken to making my son’s baby food in order to avoid the over-processed food that is sold in stores. Unfortunately, as our children grow, they are exposed to more and more processed “junk,” marketed as healthy food. If the product is not all-natural and made from scratch, processing takes place to attempt to keep it fresh. This is how your boxed and canned goods have shelf lives for many months. In exchange, foods that are all natural and made from fresh ingredients have a much shorter “life” period. For instance, the sweet potatoes that I have prepared for my son can be frozen for a maximum of three months. I have spent the last week preparing food for my son so that when he reaches 6 months of age, we can start introducing new foods to him. As it stands now, he has 57 days worth of sweet potatoes prepared. Add to that the green beans, winter squash, carrots, mango, and banana and he is pretty well set up and all will be consumed prior to the three month expiration. As we near two months in freezing of these food items, I will take to making more as well as starting to make up for him what your brands list as “stage 2” foods.

Making your own baby food is rather easy and a number of recipes are readily available online. The best piece of advice I can offer is to not fall into the trap of needing to purchase some special equipment in order to successfully make your little one food. I am using the very same blender that my mom used to make my baby food (and I’m 40 years old!). For foods that need to be steamed, I simply use a double pan on the stove top and steam until tender, then toss everything into the blender, set on puree and add water until that smooth and thin consistency is achieved. Freezing is accomplished by measuring a tablespoon into each compartment of a clean ice cube tray and then freezing. Once frozen, I place each individual cube into a snack size zippered bag, label it with what it is and when it was made, and then place all these individual bags into a large gallon sized bag. That bag is then placed back into the large freezer until we will need it in another month and a half. In preparation for those feedings, we also picked up the little square tupperware style containers. Once removed from the freezer, the cube gets placed into the square container and then into the refrigerator to thaw. New foods should be introduced every four days once solids have been started in order to make sure that there are no stomach issues with the new food.

Despite the warnings from the sites noted above, we have done our research and have spoken with numerous doctors, nurses, and pediatric specialists about starting our little one on solids. For now, we are only feeding the homemade oatmeal cereal. Our little guy seems to like it and has not shown any problems having this introduced into his diet. They do suggest that when starting cereal, you do so with a 1/4 tablespoon the first week, 1/2 tablespoon the second week, and then move up to a tablespoon. Do not be discouraged if your youngster does not eat that full amount when starting out…this is new to them. They now need to figure out how to use their mouth in a way that is quite different from the breastmilk / formula they have become accustomed to over the last several months. Sine introducing both a new food and a spoon can be very strange to a little one, you can use your finger (clean hands only!) to allow your baby to get the taste and feel of the food first before using a spoon.

No matter what you decide…no solids until 6 months, no solids until a year, or sometime between 4 and 6 months, do not be ashamed of your choice. As a parent, you know what is best for your child. Don’t be afraid to do your own research and make your own decision! Happy eating!

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