Thursday, January 26, 2012

Healthy From The Start - An Intro To Solids

When an infant doubles her birth weight, weighs over 13 pounds, lifts and supports her head, may seem to be hungry after 8-10 breast-feedings, or ingests over 40 ounces of formula a day, she may be ready to start eating solid foods. Typically, the readiness to begin eating stage 1 baby foods takes place between 4 and 6 months of age.
Always talk to your health care provider before starting solid foods, as she may recommend waiting. For example, physicians may recommend a delay in solid foods for infants with an extensive family history of food allergies.
When you and your health care provider come to an agreement that it is safe to start solid foods, start slowly and enjoy the process! Start with single-grain cereals (rice, then oatmeal, and then barley), then move to vegetables and fruits. Introduce one new food at the time. Preferably, offer a new food to your baby 4-5 days in a row, so that you can observe her for allergic reactions (i.e. hives, abdominal pain, vomiting, etc.). Once you establish that the new food is safe, add a new one to your baby’s menu and repeat the steps.

After introducing cereals, you can start vegetables. Begin with green vegetables, as they are not as sweet as the yellow ones, and your infant may learn to like them faster. Remember that it may take several tries before your baby accepts new food, so don’t give up after the first rejection!

At about 6 months of age, you may start to feed your child meats and introduce juice (only for flavor!). Remember that juices are full of sugar (empty calories); therefore, it is a good idea to dilute them with water, and offer no more than 2-4 ounces per day.
Guidelines to introducing solid foods to infants

Infants are ready for stage 2 foods when they can sit independently, roll over, and can hold a small object in their hands. These milestones occur around 6-7 months of age.

Some sources recommend moving on to stage 3 foods when infants begin to crawl and pull themselves up to stand (at approximately 9 months of age). However, I never recommend that. Stage 3 foods can be tricky, as they are a mixture of smooth and chunky textures. Since it takes a coordination of several muscles in the mouth to chew and swallow foods, and your baby is learning the process, stage 3 foods may increase your baby’s risk for choking. To keep that risk as low as possible (prevention is the best medicine!), when your child begins to crawl and pull herself up to stand, start her on table foods. At that point, she can eat almost everything you are eating with some small exceptions and baby food is no longer necessary.
Foods to avoid in the 1st year of life
Karo Syrup
Cow’s milk
Peanut butter
Citrus products
Tortilla chips
Hard candy
Avoid honey and Karo syrup before your child’s 1st birthday, as they may contain spores of botulism (see below). Feed your baby breast milk or formula until she turns one. Afterwards, you may introduce cow’s milk. All she will need is 16-24 oz. per day. Until the second birthday, whole milk is preferred, as it contains just the right amount of fatty acids that are necessary for the proper development of the nervous system. After the second birthday, you can switch to whatever milk the rest of the family drinks. Also, do not rush your child into eating highly allergenic foods, such as peanut butter and citrus products. By delaying their introduction until your child’s immune system is a little stronger, you decrease your child’s chance to develop allergic reactions.

When feeding your baby, remember that she learns from you. If you want her to eat a certain food, do not wrinkle your nose! She will learn very quickly that you do not like that food and think that she should do the same. Also, respect your infant's ability to know when she is full. When she is done eating, she may turn her head away, cover her face with her hands, or simply spit the food out of her mouth. Watch for these clues and do not force her to eat more. Overfeeding may lead to overweight later in life, and we all know that it is easier to prevent it than to deal with it.

Overall, have fun introducing solid foods to your baby. It is a good way to interact and learn about each another.

What is infant botulism?
Botulism is rare but a very serious disease. It is caused by toxins released by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. Signs and symptoms begin after 18-36 hour after ingestion and may lead to death. The first sign of infant botulism is often constipation. Other signs and symptoms include: floppy movements due to muscle weakness, droopy eyelids, trouble breathing, weak cry, tiredness, difficulty sucking and feeding, and paralysis. Paralysis and other symptoms are caused by the toxins ability to disrupt the nerve function.

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