Solid foods introduction: What is the best approach?
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
WHAT ARE COMPLEMENTARY FOODS?
It is really just a fancy word for introducing solid foods to your baby's diet. Your baby's diet should be exclusively breastfed, or formula, until the age of 6 months. Thereafter, you will begin to introduce solid foods. However, the majority of your baby's diet should still be composed of breastmilk.
Complementary foods are done for two reasons:
Starting to feed begins to develop motor skills, specifically ones that have to do with self-feeding coordination.
As much as we want breastmilk to feed our babies forever (or maybe we don't) , at some point, the mill will not be enough nutritionally and the child will have to get the calories and nutrients elsewhere.
But when does this transition occur and how long should you be breastfeeding for?
The answer is that it differs for everyone. Some babies after 6 months are done with breastfeeding and some breastfeed for years. However, there are a couple of different ways that different entities recommend beginning solids foods.
Four of the main entities are the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Johns Hopkins, Similac, and Enfamil. The first two are hospitals/Universities and the other are formula companies. Most of the recommendations that they have are quite similar. All start solid foods at the age of 6 months and they all start with the introduction of semi-solid grains as well as vegetables and fruits. However, there are some minor differences.
CHOP recommends that protein and fruit juice should be introduced at 8 months ---the only entity recommending the introduction of fruit juice at all.
Johns Hopkins introduced protein at 9 months.
Similac begins proteins at 10 months--- they also have lower grain recommendations and the highest levels of fruits and vegetable portions.
Enfamil begins proteins at the early age of 6 months. If you want to look more into the differences, review the table at the end of this blog.
A study looked at the BMI of infants that followed each of these guidelines. Interestingly enough, each of the above guidelines caused every infant to have out of normal BMI at some point during the guidelines. Normal BMI is suggested anywhere between the 5th and 85th percentile. This means that every infant was either underweight or overweight at some point between the age of 6 months to 1 year. While weight fluctuations are definitely normal, it is very hard to fall into the extreme ends of the categories.
So what does this mean?
For one thing, it means that potentially cutting infants off from breastmilk early may be harmful for their weight gain. Breastmilk, even after 6 months still provides so many nutrients and is still jam packed compared to most solid foods.
On the breast, a baby is better able to self regulate which in turn means that they are listening to their feeding cues.
Many parents following these or other recommendations want to give the amounts recommended, when their baby may not need as much food. This messes with their own ability to self regulate and may cause further weight gain in the future.
So what do we recommend?
We recommend baby led weaning. What is that? Well in short it is allowing your baby to decide when to stop breastfeeding and begin their transition into solid foods. To learn more about baby led weaning, check out our blog post here!
For more hands on help with how to introduce solid foods into you baby's diet without taking away from breastfeeding, check out our website and see how Mamas Maternal Health can help you!
Until next time!
Mikayla and Cassie
Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors
Ferguson, M. C., Oshea, K. J., Hammer, L. D., Hertenstein, D. L., Schwartz, N. J., Winch, L. E., … Lee, B. Y. (2019). The Impact of Following Solid Food Feeding Guides on BMI Among Infants: A Simulation Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 57(3), 355–364. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2019.04.011
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