When to add solid food to your infant's diet?

I opened up my email this morning and checked through some research tidbits as I like to do to start my week and came upon an interesting article titled

"Recent evidence suggests that feeding an infant only breast milk for a full six months may be linked to rising rates of food allergy."

Throughout our training in school and continuing education over the past 15 years, we have always come away with the idea that it was healthier for the baby to breast feed as long as possible, due to nervous system developement, immune system development.  It seemed study after study suggested a stronger healthier and smarter child resulted from breast feeding for at least a year. 

So this struck me odd that a "recent study" was mentioned as supporting the contrary.  What was more interesting was the health professionals comments that followed this: (Their names are abbreviated to protect their privacy and are followed by their health degree credentials )

LP, MD- Jan 22, 2011
Babies develop swallowing reflex by 4 month of their age. I see they are ready to swallow somewhat semisolid stuff by then. I recommend baby food when they are ready to swallow something more solid then milk. It varies somewhat, but around 4 month of age. I am retired pediatrician.

JS, MD- Jan 22, 2011
Quite frankly it is up to my patients not up to me . I will give my patients advice but it is ultimately up to them. As for this study are the kids being fed real food (organic with no preservatives or artificial color flavors) or the stuff sold in most stores that have so many chemicals you could start a lab? If the kids are not being fed real food the study is flawed because you don't know if the food allergy is due to the food or the chemicals or processing. I want to see more info before I can make an educated decision.

KD- Jan 22, 2011
I'm very concerned about the message being dispersed by the major media and it's important that we continue stressing breast feeding as long as practical and possible and the critical importance. I suggest adding some solid foods when the mother is not producing enough milk and the child is healthy. A lot more information is needed before any broad recommendation such as this is even suggested. We still have a ways to go just getting U.S. mothers to breast feed. You also have the problem of the mother's milk production decreasing prematurely. This is too little information too soon.

M.B.A., B.S. Health Sciences- Jan 22, 2011
Feed when hungry. It is not difficult to determine when a liguid diet has become inadequate.

JR, MD - Jan 22, 2011
Frankly I'm surprised at this discussion though I really shouldn't be. In all fields, if you forget what you have learned many years ago this would not be a question. Breast feeding duration was once only determined by the baby and its mother (wet nurse, etc). When the baby could not be satisfied, and often before, it was put on semi-solid foods to start. In my childhood back in the 40's and 50's (I started practicing as a teenager in 1952), I never heard of allergies to peanuts or food of any kind. With the advent of artificial feeding, and the use of chemical additives to foods --- then allergies began to creep up on us. So now, we reap what we have sown.

Pamela McKimie,DCP(AAIM)- Jan 22, 2011
We know that breastfeeding has many benefits. I think mom and baby are the one's to decide when to introduce foods.Often times, once the baby reaches 4 or 5 months old, breastfeeding alone is not enough. If my patients do want to introduce foods, I recommend they introduce 1 food at a time, so that allergies or digestive issues can be determined.However, I still recommend that they continue with breastfeeding until the baby(or mom) decides to stop.

Judy RN- Jan 23, 2011
What recent evidence? You don't mean that research put out paid for by the formula companies do you????

DM RN- Jan 23, 2011
I am a certified breastfeeding consultant/teacher and have been for 21 yrs.I also manage Mother/Baby and am charge RN for NICU. I also breastfed all four of my kids exclusively for 6 mos, then added cereal on a spoon, etc. In my experience and teachings, breast milk can actually prevent asthma and food allergies. Of course, there's a chance for allergies to certain things, but that is more true in non-breastfed or supplemented with formula, made out of synthetic and animal ingredients.Human milk is amazing in that it changes as the baby does. Premature babies have moms who will pump very skim, digestable milk, thickening as time passes and the baby grows. At 6 mos the swallowing mech. is more coordinated and they can eat from a spoon, only organic ground/pureed food, but breastfeeding should go on for a year along with baby food after 6 mos. Cereal should never be added to bottles as this increases aspiration.

DD, MD- Jan 24, 2011
Breast feeding and it's duration is decided upon by the mother and baby.We the physician are only the consultant. We,all,have to stop and think:What are we missing when we switch to semisolid and solid food? The critical missing ingridient missed is Niacin! Niacin,why?Because is the best vitamin-nutrient to raise the H.D.L. What do you know about Niacin and H.D.L.?

MC, NP- Jan 24, 2011
My gosh. Once again man is trying to show that we know more than God! I've got to agree with Dr. Raitt. He is right on!

EM, FNP-C  - Jan 24, 2011
Agree with Judy! What recent evidence indeed!? Where is the study? N=? and what food allergies are considered? Every mother who has breast fed her baby knows when the infant requires cereal, fruit and a biter biscuit/teething ring. At that point I have always considered breast feeding 'breast drinking' - especially in moms who are fortunate enough to be home with their babies. Moreover, the quality of mother's milk changes along with the child's age and nutritional requirements which is why most pediatricians very correctly will call breast milk "God's elixir". Babies who nurse up till age two are also taking in a variety of solids which augment an support the breast feeding process, most significantly in the early morning and at night. Most babies are very busy during the day at that point and are most attched to the early morning, naptime and bedtime breast feed. Thereafter, a baby's diet will often reflect cultural and economic aspects of the family with consideration to a child's nutritional needs.

AA, MD- Jan 24, 2011
Sure... breastfeed until mom and child decide. Have you seen those kids who are still breasfeeding at age 4, and I mean 4 years ! I think some guidance is needed for those cases. What I tell my patients is when the kid is about 4 months it is time to introduce something more to the infant's diet.

So, it seems their may be an effort to push the idea of solid food earlier into our babies diets.  While one should always consider both sides of an argument and concede that things can and do change, I cant help to wonder as my many of these health professionals with countless years of experience seem to have done, that this may be more about 'pushing a product' rather than improving our childrens' health.  Stay tuned and dont be surprised if you see something like this on the cable networks "news ticker" or health related stories.


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