“Protein? Please help me to understand, Dr. Lightman.
I heard you say to start feeding my 4-month old pureed chicken from the chicken soup.
But my mother told me that rice cereal was the first solid food she gave me. What’s changed?”
What’s changed, Moms and Dads, is that I was not trained like American pediatricians.
In South Africa, we were taught to think outside the Gerber demarcated “box.” There’s a world of tastes and nutrients available to our infants.
All those years ago in that country on the other side of the world, our professors taught us that the earlier babies start eating healthy meals that are not from a box or jar, the better they will eat as toddlers.
Let’s remember to not start babies too soon on solids. As I have talked about before, breastfeeding is the gold standard for newborns to 6 months or longer. Around 6 months watch for signs and talk to your Pediatrician on Well Visits. Starting to eat solid foods (like baby cereal and baby food) is an important part of your baby’s development. But starting solid foods too early could lead to problems with overweight or obesity later.
Rice cereal has been the first solid of choice – or perhaps, default — for generations of American babies. It’s easy to understand why. It’s readily available. It’s easy to prepare and feed. It’s fortified with iron and other nutrients. It’s a habit that only recently is being questioned – and with good reason. Why?
Babies who first eat rice cereal are geared up to crave only carbohydrate-laced foods.
Furthermore, some rice is contaminated with arsenic.
Interestingly, recent studies demonstrate that children who first eat the pureed chicken from the chicken soup which has been moistened with cooled soup liquid tend to have fewer weight issues as children, adolescents and adults.
We want our patients to embrace different foods so that our bundles of joy play with different textures in their mouths. They will develop oral muscle strength and enjoy the beginnings pf the broadest palate range possible.
Further, feeding time is not clean time. Encourage your infant to mush up the food. He’s exploring his world and that’s a fun, safe thing to do. The benefits for intellectual and psychosocial development are untold.
The creativity we can employ with a food mill or mini food processor can embrace the colors of the rainbow. Melons, berries, avocados can all be pureed. Start with the pureed chicken. Then add the vegetables. Only afterwards, add fruit. No matter what, infants and children will always tend to prefer sweeter-tasting food items. Such is life.
Think Bamba. For babies in homes without significant food allergies, introduce Bamba when your baby is 9 months old. This peanut food will introduce your baby and his digestive system to peanuts. If you wait too long to introduce peanuts, your child may develop a peanut allergy. Bamba is less sticky than peanut butter and can improve hand-mouth coordination. People of all ages like to put food in their mouths.
Please never introduce raw honey to a baby under 12 months of age. Honey may contain harmful botulism spores that could make your child very ill.
Don’t panic if your baby makes faces when new foods are introduced. Remember, he’s learning and exploring. He will respond to your facial gestures and encouragement. If your baby senses you’re agitated, then he will respond in kind exponentially and the newly classified disorder of ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) may prevail. Let’s not go near there.
A fun, positive experience with eating as an infant will only prime the child for healthier eating patterns in toddlerhood and childhood. No doubt, there will be long term benefits for the entire family. Enjoy and explore.