A decade of change in infant feeding
A decade ago I started to introduce solids to my oldest child. I was lucky enough to have been able to breastfeed, but was nervous about disrupting that and starting solids. At the time I followed all the recommendations and I cannot believe how some things have changed ten years later. The following are some changes that have been seen in infant feeding recommendations in the last decade:
There is a recommendation to introduce meats initially to infants that are exclusively breastfed at around 6 months of age. The reason for this is to provide a better source of iron at 6 months of age when the infant’s iron stores are decreased. Iron is very important for infants. If an infant does not achieve adequate iron it may affect their immune system, development, and if the deficiency is severe enough it is believed it may have an impact on school achievement. Some of the commercial pureed baby meats are not palatable, therefore, would recommend introducing a few other pureed foods prior to meat and then the meat can soon be mixed in or families can see if there is improved acceptance of homemade baby foods containing meat. One question would be what to introduce to a breastfed infant if the parent desires them to be vegetarian? Some suggestions for plant-based iron sources for breastfed infants would be pureed beans, lentils, iron fortified cereal/grains or tofu. Plant based sources of iron are absorbed better when paired with a food rich in vitamin C (oranges, tomatoes, and berries are some examples). For more information on starting solids refer to this information from healthychildren.org (a website from the American Academy of Pediatrics): https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx
The method of Baby Led Weaning is gaining popularity. Baby led weaning (BLW) is a feeding method that encourages families to skip pureed food and delay starting solids until 6 months. At this time soft pieces of food an infant can try and pick up and hold are introduced. The food should not be something that would cause a hard piece to break off in the infant’s mouth. The reason for using this method is to help the infant learn to control their hunger, increase the variety of flavors they will eat, and some think it may decrease obesity later in life. When using this method parents need to monitor closely for choking and safety of feeding as you would when feeding any infant. If parents are considering this method it is encouraged that they be educated on all aspects of it. A great resource to learn about BLW is the book Born to Eat by Dietitians Leah Schilling and Wendy Jo Petersen http://www.borntoeatbook.com/
High allergy foods can be introduced before 1 year of age (including peanuts). The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology have updated their recommendations to state that foods children are commonly allergic to can be introduced prior to 1 year of age. See this document from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology for more information: http://www.aaaai.org/aaaai/media/medialibrary/pdf%20documents/libraries/preventing-allergies-15.pdf
There are many varieties and mixes of baby foods and they come in pouches. 10 years ago the stores were starting to carry some more baby food flavors, but the pouches were not really popular (or at least they had not come to my area yet). Many parents offer pouches hoping it improves their child’s acceptance of a greater variety of foods. When choosing a pouch make sure the ingredient you’re interested in is one of the first listed. Something may have kale in it but if it is mostly peaches your baby may not even realize the kale is there or that he is eating it. Also, encourage your infant to eat these pouches off of a spoon rather than sucking it up so they learn spoon-feeding skills. Some feeding therapists have expressed concern about frequent use of pouches. Refer to this blog post from ASHA (American Speech-Language Hearing Association) Leader that outlines the pros and cons of pouches: http://blog.asha.org/2017/03/30/the-great-pouch-debate-pros-cons-and-compromising/
A younger version of me feeding my son solids for the first time.
The changes listed are not inclusive of all the changes in infant feeding trends, but some of the more notable ones. I encourage parents to research infant feeding practices and discuss any concerns with your pediatrician or a registered dietitian. Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful.
The Smart Mom’s Guide to Starting Solids https://jillcastle.samcart.com/products/smart-moms-guide-starting-solids
Ellyn Satter Institute http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/howtofeed.php
Disclosure- I did receive a free copy of The Smart Mom’s Guide to Starting Solids in exchange for review of the book prior to the release.