Introducing solid foods

BY PENDA HONEYGHAN

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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WHETHER your baby is interested in the food that you are eating or he/she is no longer showing interest in breast milk and formula, sometimes you may decide to introduce solid foods much sooner than is recommended. One of the most common items for Jamaicans, according to nutritionist and dietician Jenelle Solomon, is porridge.


"The digestive organs and excretory organs, like the kidneys of an infant, are not fully developed or functional until about 12 to 15 months of age, and this fact is singularly important when it comes to a weaning programme for a baby," Solomon said.


She explained that the mother’s milk is perfectly adapted to a baby’s needs, and even though efforts have been made to develop formulas to match the composition of breast milk, even these can cause problems. This means that introducing things like porridge to your young baby can cause more harm than good.


"Proteins in mother’s milk are produced with the necessary enzymes for easy digestion and assimilation. But when proteins that have been altered, as happens to milk protein in pasteurisation (milk-based infant formulas generally use pasteurised milk), are given to an infant, the enzymes needed for proper digestion and absorption are missing. The baby’s stomach does not produce sufficient quantity or quality gastric acids until the second year. The end result is that the complex dairy proteins are only partly digested, leaving long chains of amino acid structures undigested," Solomon explained.


She further outlined that undigested amino acid structures can pass through the semipermeable gut and into the bloodstream, causing an immune reaction, initiating an abnormal production of inflammatory mediators such as leukotrienes, prostaglandins, histamine, kinins and auto antibodies. These will attack susceptible tissue like bronchial tissue in the lungs and pancreatic tissue which produces insulin. This, Solomon noted, predisposes the baby to allergies and sensitivity reactions of the skin, gut (including reflux), bronchial tissues, or other organ tissues.


"Poor weaning encourages feeding the baby dairy milk-based formula products and other solid foods including porridge, which predisposes the baby to childhood asthma and possibly causes it; type one diabetes, and many other diseases as well," Solomon cautioned.


Proper introduction of solid foods can begin at about five to six months. Porridge, when made of light and healthy ingredients, can be very beneficial to a growing child. But, as with every other food to be introduced, care must be taken to record the child’s reaction to it.


Below, Solomon shares a list of rules that parents need to follow when introducing foods to babies:


• Do not start weaning or supplementing breast milk until the baby is ready. Children introduced to solid foods before four months of age are three times as likely to develop recurrent eczema.


• Keep the weaning programme to single food types only; do not mix different foods. Tolerated foods can be combined later on, but not initially.


• Use fresh vegetables and fruit that’s in season (organic, if possible). Juices can be made and diluted with pure water.


• Avoid creating allergies and sensitivities from commonly known allergens such as dairy, wheat, corn, tomatoes, peanuts, and oranges. These should be introduced much later.


• Introduce one food at a time, preferably four to five days apart, so that any allergic reactions can be observed.


• When introducing a new food, give your baby only one teaspoon the first day, two the second, and so forth, until a full serving is taken.


If the baby rejects the food or an allergic response occurs, stop the food and look at what baby’s body is telling you. Allergic reactions vary. They can include hives; flush on face, mouth, or buttocks; eczema; wheezing/asthma; runny nose; diarrhoea or constipation; fever; headache; irritability; tiredness; and abdominal pains (restless sleep, etc.).


• If a reaction occurs, stop offering the food, and wait one week before introducing any other new food. It may be that the offending food can be reintroduced and better tolerated later on.


• Never add salt, sugar, yeast (eg, Vegemite) to a baby’s food, as these foods can lead to allergies and addictions later in life.


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