There was an article in The Toronto Star last week (on September 25, 2012) stating that the new Canadian guidelines suggest that parents should be introducing meat, fish, poultry or meat alternatives to babies for their first solid food. Health Canada said that these foods should be offered to babies two or three times a day to increase their iron stores. Previously, meat was one of the last foods recommended for introduction to babies.
Another new recommendation is that whole eggs, a common allergen, can be offered to a 6 month old if there is no family history of allergies. Previously, eggs were not recommended until a baby turned one year old. Carol Harrison, a registered dietician, was quoted as saying “There is no evidence that withholding whole eggs prevents allergies later on.”
Other iron-rich foods recommended for babies as first foods include tofu, legumes and iron-fortified infant cereals.
As a pediatric nutritionist, I am deeply concerned by these new guidelines. No babies are born with mature digestive systems. And the digestive systems of today’s babies are at even more risk than the digestive systems of babies born in previous generations, due to the toxicity of the world we live in today. And more babies than ever are being born by caesarian, which means these babies are already born with less good bacteria in their digestive tract than babies who go through the vaginal canal and collect good bacteria there. Because a baby’s digestive system is rapidly developing in their first year, the last thing a parent would want to do is to introduce hard-to-digest foods to a baby. All of the new recommended first foods for baby i.e. meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes and cereal are hard to digest compared to other foods.
We all know how much babies grow in their first year! We see the number of outfits that no longer fit them after just 3 months. We want our babies’ bodies to focus on growing, not on digesting hard-to-digest foods! And when babies do not digest their food well, they suffer from symptoms and eventually, conditions. Just a few examples of symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes/eczema, frequent waking, fussiness, gas, allergies, ear infections and other infections.
Health Canada does continue to stress the importance of breastmilk for babies, thank goodness and breastmilk is truly the best food for babies in their first year, if mother can provide it. Yes, the iron content of breastmilk does lower sometime after 6 months. However, feeding a baby hard-to-digest foods or common allergens in order to increase iron stores is NOT the answer.
Fruits and vegetables are the foods that are easiest to digest and are closest to breastmilk, in terms of their consistency and digestibility. They are the foods that need to be given to babies as their first foods. And certain fruits and vegetables contain iron! Some examples include prunes, watermelon, spinach, bok choy and other green leafy vegetables. There are also vegetables that babies can consume in order to increase their iron absorption. They include: broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomato, potato, green and red peppers.
The hardest foods to digest are fats, then protein, then starch – in that order. Please help me spread the word that none of these foods should be given to babies as first foods. Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter and via email. I am teaching a class at Prenatal Plus Parenting Centre in Newmarket and at the Early Learning Centres in Richmond Hill and Markham later this month, for any of you that are local and are interested in learning more about the healthy order of introduction of solids to babies. I also created a 2 hour DVD of myself teaching First Foods for Baby to a group of mothers and I have 50 pages of handouts on the subject, available for purchase by clicking here.
Every website will tell you a different order of introduction of solid foods. I teach parents the easiest to hardest-to-digest foods and which ones to stay entirely away from in the first year. I also explain exactly how to tell if a new food is not agreeing with your particular child.
Approximately 90% of all sickness begins with the digestive system being out of balance. If you don’t allow your babies’ digestive systems to grow and develop properly in their first year, your child’s health will be negatively affected. How you introduce solids to your baby is vitally important to setting up your child’s health for life.
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Until next time,