When and how you introduce solid food to your baby can be an important factor in how you child reacts to foods throughout his life. Starting solids too early can trigger food allergies, eczema and asthma, as can exposing your baby to viruses during the first three months of his or her life.
When a baby is small, his gut is more porous, causing food proteins to leak into the bloodstream. The baby’s body will not know if these proteins are “friend or foe,” and may attack them, causing an allergic reaction to the food. As a baby is older, the proteins stay in the gut and are broken down by enzymes.
When you are deciding whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed, keep in mind that introducing formula so early in life can cause unwanted formula proteins to leak into your baby’s blood stream. His or her body may see the proteins as a germ and fight them, therefore resulting in your baby having a food allergy, that he or she normally would not have had.
It is best for both you and your baby to breastfeed, and can significantly reduce the chance of your baby having food allergies, eczema or asthma in his or her life. If anyone in your family suffers from allergies, food allergies, eczema or asthma, you should avoid eggs, peanuts, nuts, fish, wheat, citrus fruits and shellfish during your first three months of nursing. If you choose to bottle-feed, do not use cow’s milk formula, but rather a hydrolyzed formula in which the milk protein has been altered. Nutramigen, Alimentum and Good Start are examples of this type of formula.
In the last five years, the prevalence of peanut allergies has doubled. Nursing mothers are strongly urged to stop eating all peanut products while they are breastfeeding their babies. This is especially true in families that have a history of environmental or food allergies.
Once your baby’s system has had time to mature, it will be time to introduce solids. This is an exciting time, which might make it tempting to begin early. It is best to avoid temptation and wait until your baby is six months old. Do not feed your baby eggs until two years old, and do not feed peanuts, nuts, fish or shellfish until three years old. If your baby refuses a particular food at least four times, he or she may have a sensitivity to this food. Do not make your baby eat it – your baby just may be telling you something.
When beginning your first solids, give only one teaspoon the first day, two teaspoons the second – adding one teaspoon a day for seven days. If your baby does not react, this food should be safe to eat. Begin with the following foods, only feeding ONE PER WEEK: rice (however some babies may react to added iron in the cereal) or barley cereal, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, pears, applesauce and lamb. If your child does not want a particular food, do not feed that food. His or her body may be telling you it is not ready for that food.
Watching your young baby grow is an exciting time. Congratulations on researching what is best for your young one!