WHAT YOU SHOULD AND SHOULDN’T BE FEEDING YOUR BABY
There are many feeding recommendations for infants—it can be hard as a parent to keep up with all the latest research and advice. Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner shares the facts about the most recent feeding recommendations and debunks some of the more popular myths about what food is best for your baby.
Gellner: There are a lot of old wives’ tales out there when it comes to babies and feeding. I’ll let you know which ones are true and which ones need to be updated myths on today’s Scope. I’m Dr. Cindy Gellner.
Announcer: Remember that one thing that one person told you that one time about what you should or shouldn’t do when raising your kids? Find out if it’s true or not. This is “Debunking Old Wives Tales” with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.
Gellner: It’s hard to keep up with changing feeding recommendation sometimes, even for pediatricians. One common myth is that baby should be given rice cereal to help them sleep through the night. Truth is there is no great data to support early introduction of solids before 4 months old. In fact, studies have found that babies who were started on solids prior to four months old were actually worse sleepers because their stomachs weren’t ready to digest food.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying introduction of solids to at least four to six months of age, depending on the child. The World Health Organization recommends not starting solids until 6 months of age if that baby is exclusively breastfeeding. One big reason for this is that babies who are fed solids prior to 4 months old tend to be more obese by three.
Another myth is that babies need water when it’s hot outside. While many parents are concerned that their baby will be dehydrated without water, they often forget that most of the baby’s diet is straight liquids or pureed foods. A baby doesn’t have fully functioning kidneys, and so extra water can actually cause those electrolytes to become out of balance. This is especially true of sodium. And if a baby’s sodium gets too low, it can trigger seizures. Babies can start occasionally sipping water around 6 months old, but really shouldn’t drink water regularly until after age one.
Parents often want to put ice on their baby’s gums, too, when the babies are teething. Despite some providers still recommending it, there are better ways to help. There are teething toys that are meant to go in the fridge or the freezer to be cold, and you can put an ice cube in a washcloth and briefly rub it on the baby’s gum. Giving babies ice or popsicles can cause something called cold panniculitis, which happens up to three days after they’ve been sucking on frozen items. It causes redness and swelling in the deep layers of the skin due to inflammation from the cold. Luckily, this clears up on its own in a few weeks.
Another old wives’ tale that is even perpetuated by some pediatricians is to start your baby on solids with veggies first to keep them from having a sweet tooth. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics published an update saying there is no evidence that a baby will develop a dislike for veggies if fruits are given first. This is because babies are born with a preference for sweets, and what order you introduce foods to them does not change this.
What about spicy versus bland foods for babies? Americans traditionally start babies off with bland foods and then introduce spicy flavors a bit at a time. But that’s not really necessary. Many cultures give their babies spicy foods as soon as they start eating solids. Go with what your family eats. Just be careful about giving too much added sugars or salt.
Finally, is it okay for a mom to nurse a baby if she’s tired? Well, let me just say that all new moms are tired. It’s exhausting to take care of a new little person, and it’s exhausting to make their food. However, if a mom is so tired that she’s afraid she will fall asleep and drop the baby or roll over on to the baby if she brings the baby to bed, then that’s a concern. If a baby is breastfed, it’s best if a mom does something extra to help wake her up so she can safely nurse, or even, if possible, pump extra breast milk so dad can feed the baby and mom can get some extra sleep.
If you have more questions on what is true and what is false about feeding your baby, ask your pediatrician who can help you sort out the facts.
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