digestive health

Starting Solids with Baby

Solid baby foods

Last week, we looked at all the great benefits of making your own baby food from cost savings to reducing baby’s exposure to unnecessary additives and sugar. Now, you may be wondering when your baby will be ready to start solids. To learn the signs of readiness, where and how to start, and which foods to steer clear of, continue reading below.

When to Start:

While readiness will vary from one baby to the next, most babies are developmentally ready to begin solids sometime between 4 and 6 months of age. Gone are the days when pediatricians would recommend putting rice cereal in a young infant’s bottle to help them sleep better. We now know that their digestive systems are not mature enough to handle the complexities of different foods until they are a bit older. Also, by 6 months of age baby’s natural supply of iron has started to diminish and may not be met with breastmilk or formula alone. Here are some signs to watch for that may indicate your tot is ready to expand his palate. 

  • Baby has lost the extrusion reflex which is helpful for nursing but causes him to push food out of his mouth instinctively with his tongue.
  • Baby can sit up with support and holds up his head and neck with ease.
  • Baby’s birth weight has doubled.
  • Baby shows interest in what you eat and may grab for it.
  • Baby displays signs of still being hungry after nursing or finishing his bottle.

What to Serve:

Once you’ve determined your baby is ready to give solids a try, you have several options of where to begin. Many parents choose to start with a single-grain, iron-fortified rice or oatmeal cereal made with breastmilk or formula. While this option isn’t terribly nutritive, it is easy to digest and a good introductory food for baby to experience the basics of eating from a spoon. You can also choose to begin with pureed fruits or vegetables. Some of the best produce options for first foods include:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Peaches
  • Bananas
  • Prunes
  • Avocados
  • Pears

As your baby gets a bit older, you can move from purees to simply mashing food to allow exposure to different textures. And once your baby starts to develop his pincer grip around 9-11 months, you can begin to introduce small pieces of finger foods such as cheese, bananas, puffs, pasta, eggs, spinach, poultry, meat and beans. It’s best to wait until baby has a few teeth before introducing finger foods although some soft foods like bananas and avocados can be easily mashed with baby’s gums.  

Keep in mind with any new food introduction that it can take up to 12 times of being exposed to the food before baby will decide he likes it. So don’t be discouraged if your baby rejects his first solids meal, just wait a few days and try again. It’s also wise to only introduce one new food at a time in case an allergic reaction should develop and you need to identify the culprit. Waiting 3 days after introducing a new food should be an adequate amount of time to determine if your child has an allergy. For more information on food allergies, check out - Decoding Baby Poop: Everything You Need to Know

What You Will Need:

In addition to whatever food you have decided to serve baby, you will need to have a highchair or other upright and secure seat in which to feed him. You will also need soft-tipped spoons, unbreakable or plastic dishware and a bib to catch the mess that will likely fall. Introduce baby to his first meal when he is in a happy mood and isn’t overtired or starving for milk or formula. Allowing him to nurse briefly before or have a little bottle of formula is a good idea so he will be satiated but not overly full. It’s also best to try a new food in the morning or during the day in case an allergic reaction should occur.

When you first begin solids, you may only serve baby a meal one time per day or even once every few days. At this point, it is really just for baby to begin learning about food and exploring different textures and tastes. Once your little one reaches 8 or 9 months of age, you should be feeding 2-3 meals per day in addition to their regular nursing or bottle schedule. Always let your child determine how much they want to eat and when they are full. They are still receiving a large percentage of their nutrients from nursing or formula and the food they are eating is in addition to that. 

Some Precautions:

In addition to always ensuring baby is supervised and in an upright position when eating, never feed a baby food that may present a choking hazard such as whole grapes, popcorn or hotdogs. Foods that could potentially cause choking should be cut into small pieces until the age of four and popcorn is not recommended until preschool age due to the risk of it getting caught in the windpipe. 

Also, never allow a baby under 1 year of age to have honey or cow’s milk. Honey contains spores of bacteria that may cause botulism which can be deadly to infants. 

A Special Note about Breastfeeding:

Although the digestive system may be developed enough for baby to begin solids at 4 months, it should be noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and many other notable authorities on pediatric health recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed until they are 6 months of age. In addition to the multitude of health and emotional benefits breastfeeding offers to babies, extending exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months is associated with greater protection from illness, lower risk for obesity and a digestive system that is more developmentally ready for food. Solids during the first year should always be an accompaniment to your already established nursing relationship, not a replacement. 

Starting solids can be an exciting time for both parents and baby as you enter a new stage of development and baby begins to explore the wonderful world of food. Use this special time to allow baby to experiment with different tastes, textures and simple pleasures like holding the spoon as he learns what he likes and does not like. For questions about infant care or any and all pregnancy and natural birth related topics, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our birth center. We are here to support you during all the stages of motherhood.

Benefits of probiotics in pregnancy, postpartum and for baby

probiotics Probiotics (which roughly translates to “for life”) are beneficial forms of bacteria/microbiota that can assist the human body in preventing and treating many types of illness and disease—from cancer to diarrhea.  We have these beneficial bacteria in our body naturally, but supplementation can greatly support the body in health and healing.

While nearly everyone can benefit from consuming probiotics, using probiotics is especially important and advantageous during pregnancy and once baby is born.  Read on to learn all about the amazing benefits of probiotics for mom and baby.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria living in your body that help protect against illness.  We can take supplements of these beneficial bacterial or obtain them from some food sources.  There are hundreds of different strains of probiotic, which are all important to overall health.  Certain strains are particularly good for pregnant women and others best for new mamas and babies.

While we typically think of probiotics as being good for digestive health, they do more to promote health in the body.  Probiotics are found lining the mucous membranes of your digestive, urinary, and vaginal tracts.  This last one is particularly important in pregnancy, because we want to foster healthy vaginal tissues before and during delivery (more about why below).

Additionally, probiotics are key to a healthy immune system.  These beneficial bacteria make up approximately 70% of your immune system, making them an important part of your daily defense mechanisms.  Ensuring a healthy balance of good bacteria in the body can foster overall wellness.

 Probiotics in pregnancy

Regular use of probiotics in pregnancy can offer women many benefits.  These benefits include lower risk of:

  • illness (colds and flu)
  • constipation
  • gestational diabetes
  • preeclampsia
  • urinary tract infections
  • yeast infections
  • premature labor

Use of probiotics in pregnancy has also been found to keep levels of Group B Streptococcus (Group B Strep) low.  Group B Strep is a common bacterium of the vaginal lining, but if levels of these bacteria get too high at the end of pregnancy it can pose some risks to baby.  When this issue presents itself, it is often managed during labor/delivery with antibiotics.  However, steps in pregnancy, including probiotic use, can reduce the risk of this condition.

Healthy vaginal flora is crucial to baby’s health.  Babies are born with a sterile gastrointestinal system and exposure to mom’s vaginal flora is their first exposure to the bacteria their systems will be colonized by.  Healthy vaginal flora helps give baby’s immune system a good start.  Babies also continue to receive beneficial bacteria through breastfeeding, being held skin to skin, and via saliva exchange (think pacifier “cleanings,” shared spoons, and the like) in the first year.

Postnatal Probiotics Benefits 

Recent studies have found that consuming probiotic supplements beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy and continuing their use through at least the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding can help women lose weight after the birth of their baby.  Supplements with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were linked to less central obesity (defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more or a waist circumference over 80 centimeters).

Probiotic use can be especially important if you need to take antibiotics for any reason in the postpartum period (really any time you take antibiotics, you can benefit from use of probiotics).

When mamas consume probiotics, the health benefits also find their way into breast milk and are passed on to baby. Breast milk is actually the source of our first immune-building “good” bacteria.  Since baby’s gut bacteria continues to culture throughout the nursing time, it is great for mama to continue taking probiotics in the postpartum and as long as she breastfeeds.

Probiotics for baby 

In addition to receiving probiotics via breast milk, probiotics can also be given to baby directly.  Supplementation to baby can take a few forms: you can add a bit of probiotic to a bottle of milk, you can take a little probiotic on your finger to give to baby orally, or you may even put a little on your nipple and baby will ingest it during a feed.

Probiotics have numerous potential benefits for babies including the prevention and treatment of:

  • allergies
  • asthma
  • eczema
  • food sensitivities, especially in infants with a family history of allergy
  • colic, one study found decreased crying times by up to 75% (look for product containing Lactobacillus reuteri)
  • diarrhea
  • ear infection
  • illness (colds and flu)

Research shows that good probiotic exposure in infancy can actually help optimize baby’s weight later in life.  Early probiotic exposure may modify the growth pattern of the child by restraining excessive weight gain during the first years of life.

Probiotics: Sources and Guidelines

Different blends of different strains of probiotic may be optimal depending on whether you are pregnant or taking them in the postpartum (or giving to baby).  We have a few excellent supplements at the clinic and we can talk to you further about what to look for in a probiotic.

Generally speaking, recommendations tend toward 1 to 10 billion Colony Forming Units for infants, and 10 to 20 billion CFU for older children and adults. To achieve and maintain a therapeutic effect, probiotics must be used consistently to ensure a sufficient and consistent population levels over time.  It can be difficult to say exactly what dose is ideal, as products vary.  Different probiotics have been shown to be effective at different levels.  Products containing a higher number of live probiotics may not be better than one with fewer.  It’s best to go with a reputable high-quality brand, ideally one that has been vetted by your health care professionals (such as us!).

There have been no reports of adverse reactions to supplementation of probiotics in moms or babies.

Food sources of probiotics

While supplementation is great, there are also many foods rich in probiotics.  Fermented foods are particularly rich in probiotics.

Food sources of probiotics include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Spirulina (with other great benefits in pregnancy and in general)
  • Miso soup
  • Pickles
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha tea

If you have questions about probiotics, be sure to discuss them with your midwife at your next appointment, give us a call, or stop in.  We’d be happy to talk with you further about what to look for in a probiotic or connect you with a great supplement we carry.

Sources:

http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Probiotics-may-help-women-regain-their-figures-after-pregnancy

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20231842

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24164813

http://cdrf.org/home/checkoff-investments/usprobiotics/probiotics-basics/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=11172991&ordinalpos=36&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum