Solids: now or later?

by DaniGirl on June 11, 2008 · 21 comments

in Baby days, Mothering without a licence

As I mentioned, we had Lucas’s four-month checkup this week. He’s doing great! He’s maintaining his string-bean physique, bang-on the 50th percentile for weight, but 90th percentile for height at 14 lbs 12 oz and 27 inches long.

He’s still on the twice-daily rantidine for reflux, and still spitting up quite a bit. The ped asked me if I’ve considered starting him on rice cereal yet, as it must just help with the reflux. While I had considered it, I had pretty much decided to wait — but now I’m waffling. And now a certain influential person in my life has opined that Lucas might fuss less during the arsenic hours around dinner time if he had something to “stick to his ribs” and observed that I was on pablum at eight weeks and turned out okay. (Hi Mom!! *wink*)

Six years ago when Tristan was born, the wisdom of the time said start them on cereal at four months. By the time Simon came along two years later, “they” were advocating waiting until six months before starting on solids. I ended up starting him on apple sauce at four months anyway, because we were starting him on zantac for reflux and we sprinkled the contents of a caplet onto the applesauce.

I have also heard that the prevailing wisdom now says you start them on fruits or veggies first, then cereal. The ped said this is mainly for exclusively breast-fed babies, especially in families where allergies may be an issue, as there is formula in the rice cereal which can exacerbate milk allergies. We’re already supplementing Lucas with formula and have no known (touch wood) allergy issues, so he said to go ahead and start with the cereal when we do.

I may start him a little earlier, around five months or so, but he simply doesn’t seem to be ready to me. And, rather selfishly, starting solids is just one more extra bit of work and time in what’s turning out to be an incredibly busy time for us. That should start improving soon, now that Beloved is almost done for the summer. And watching a new baby eating from a spoon for the first time is one of mothering’s great pleasures, isn’t it?

(Ha, it occurs to me as I’m typing this that there may be psychological issues behind my reluctance to move Lucas on to the next phase. Think if I keep him off solids forever he’ll stay the cuddly, cute, bright-eyed little bundle that he is now for the rest of time? Never mind Lucas, it’s ME who isn’t ready to move on yet!)

Just curious — what did or will you do with your babies with regard to starting solids?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kathleen June 11, 2008 at 6:39 am

I completely understand your reluctance – it is both a practical issue (stuff to lug everywhere or else get home in time for the next solids) and an emotional one (my baby!). I started Anya in on solids at 6 months because 5 months was smack dab in the middle of Christmas and all that foofaraw. And no way was I ready at 4 months. But friends whose child had feeding issues had very good success introducing formula at about 4.5 months, they tried at 4 months and he kept sticking his tongue back out (a sensible reflex) but 2 weeks later, they tried again, and magic.
So, try if you want to – but if it doesn’t work, try later. Or wait. It won’t matter.

2 jennyandtim June 11, 2008 at 7:34 am

Jordan started a very small amount of rice cereal with his breast milk/formula at several weeks of age due to reflux. A small amount was mixed with the milk. After we had to start feeding him with the NG tube, we would spoon feed him a miniscule amount at various times through the day, gradually building up to a normal serving.

Ethan and Wyatt started eating rice cereal at the 4 – 6 month stage.

3 alison June 11, 2008 at 7:54 am

I have to admit that I can’t quite remember. I know I followed the feeding guide/calendar (handy, handy thing) that I was given at the Civic where both girls were born. I know it was cereal before veggies, probably around 5 months? Sounds about right. I still have the calendar somewhere, but not here at work. Good luck with this. If it’ll help the reflux, then I’d say go for it.

4 Marla June 11, 2008 at 8:22 am

What did we do, you ask?

Josephine told us what to do. She was showing signs of being ready around then – watching our food at meals, making mouth movements when she watched us eat, reaching for our spoons…so I mashed up a banana until it was practically liquid, and while I stepped out of the room to get the camera, my mother shoved it in her mouth and she’d had a few bites before I came back. She was fine. We moved to a rice cereal that was plain rice with iron – nothing else (PC Organic — there are lots without formula, what is your doc saying?!), and added foods one at a time like avocado and sweet potato and applesauce and stuff. I didn’t follow much of a schedule of introduction. As she got better at swallowing, we made the pastes thicker and thicker. I was happy that she was ready early, and it was no extra work – she ate what we ate, and I never bought a jar of food.

Of course, you know what’s best for your sweetie – but if he’s showing signs he’s ready, it’s a great time to listen to him. And just to be one of those fussbudgets that says stuff — I have read (likely in a blog) of a mom that did wait overlong to introduce her child to food (stuck to the breastmilk ONLY for the first year, I think), and her child has issues pertaining to texture and swallowing and then had to be de-sensitized to food. The other end of the spectrum.

Forget the wisdom of the time – all it’s shown us is that it will change from time to time. Trust your instincts and trust Lucas.

5 Sarah June 11, 2008 at 8:49 am

I started my daughter on rice cereal when she was four months old. My parents had been eager for it, as they were going to be babysitting for a weekend and they weren’t sure that she’d really be happy on expressed breastmilk without a mom for two days. 🙂 My pediatrician was all for it, though.

I, also, am not sure what your doctor is talking about with the formula? We mixed the rice cereal, which was just plain rice cereal with no formula added, to expressed breastmilk. No formula involved at all. So I wouldn’t use that argument to hold off. Some people say six months, some say four, I think it’s pretty much up to you. But, I’ll admit that the spitup went away once solids were a regular part of her diet (we didn’t have major reflux problems, but it’ll still help in that regards), and that was definitely really nice.

As the previous poster said, it’s definitely a bad idea to wait too long (I think they say longer than nine months?) because then they don’t tolerate the textures. But I don’t think you were considering waiting that long, just whether to start at four or six? This is such a great time of year to start, though, with so many great fruits and veggies in season!

6 mamaloo June 11, 2008 at 9:29 am

I don’t understand why people would start babies out on nutritionally void foods as a starter food when the babies are supposed to be learning to eat real food and supplementing their nutrition. I’m not ragging on you, I honestly don’t get it given what we now know about nutrition.

Part of the reason why we, as a culture, developed things like rice cereal is because we were feeding it to humans who were not yet fully capable (if capable at all) of eating and digesting real food. So, we took a foodstuff that was already pretty nutritionally bland, stripped out all the remaining nutrients by over processing it and then added specific chemical nutrients back into the formulation. Then we told parents to give it to their infants who were not yet developmentally ready to consume anything except breastmilk/formula.

I understand that thickening breastmilk/formula is one way of managing severe reflux in infants. In all other incidents, it is not at all recommended as it can pose health dangers to the baby. If your son is already taking meds to manage the reflux, is that not enough? Is it worth risking pre-disposing a child to diabetes, obesity, allergies and other gastro-intestinal problems to speed through these last couple of months? These are questions parents must process before deciding to start feeding (non) foods to their liquid diet eating child.

We know far more about infant nutrition now and we know that infant cereals are little better than ways to part you with your money. There is no reason why you can’t begin feeding your child, who is developmentally reading to consume solids, with the (whole) foods you already consume. Mash the veggies or potato you made for dinner with the back of your fork. Add some water or breastmilk to thin it out at first, and give it a try.

Most babies will not even take food until they are developmentally ready. Be prepared to respect signs like pushing the food back out with the tongue and don’t attempt to force feed that child.

As a doula, I know I get a little over excited about these sorts of issues, so I’m sorry if my comments sound a bit, well, over excited. Dealing with so many moms and hearing the advice given by many docs, friends and family, however, never fails to amaze me on how much people want to manipulate and accelerate the normal development of babies.

Good luck!

7 mamaloo June 11, 2008 at 9:38 am

Oh, and btw, just for the benefit of the other readers: in Canada the age at which infants are recommended to begins solids is universally stated as 6 months of age. Current research all backs this up. It is the official recommendation from the Canadian Pediatric Society and all other official sources of information on infant health in Canada.

8 MomOnTheGo June 11, 2008 at 10:17 am

We offered Reid cereal at six months but she wasn’t particularly interested and, really, who would be. At some point I read (Jack Newman, maybe) that we should just offer regular food mashed or ground and that is what she eventually ate. It was well beyond 6 months before she ate much but now she ates just about anything without complain.

I read an article about a newborn whale while waiting for this page to load and it is (sort of) appropriate:
A beluga calf may nurse for as long as two years. Weaning starts at about six months, when the calf starts eating a combination of food and mom’s milk.

If 6 months is good enough for a whale, it should work for Lucas, eh ;+)

9 Theresa June 11, 2008 at 10:26 am

My little dude took a long time to accept solids…not sure on the dates…but I know that it was around or past 5 mo. and he kept gaging on the tiniest amount of rice cereal. I stopped for a good 3-4 weeks and tried again and he was more than happy to eat.

I used mostly an unsweetened applesauce/gradually introduced rice/other grains cereals… It was a LONG time (he was closer to 9-10 mo.)before I could get him to accept the texture of any other food, pureed, thinned down, etc. He would just gag.

I’ve often wondered about why we give our little dudes and dudetts ‘rice’ cereal and the like – however as I found…my dude got most of his nutrition from breast milk, and was getting just a wee bit of something else to “stick to his ribs” as Dani put it. We had happier evening hours after that…little dude seemed more content and more relaxed, and generally a more satisfied baby. (and I used only a tablespoon or so at a time)

Follow your dude’s cues. If he really spits it out…well he may not be able to handle it yet…

Ohh and Dani, I now have a little jumping bean in the oven!! I am officially on my way to three-dome!…?…!

10 Anonymous June 11, 2008 at 10:39 am

“but he simply doesn’t seem to be ready to me”

Trust your instincts!!

With DD#1 we held out until 6 months. With DD#2, she was just hungry, so we started at 4 1/2.

I had to laugh when you said that it’s more work. I think that’s one of the reason my girls were never on forumla…I’m just too lazy to make it! LOL!

11 mapsgirl June 11, 2008 at 10:40 am

That last comment was mine…sorry

12 smothermother June 11, 2008 at 11:02 am

Our ped suggested 5 months and if the little guy didn’t want it he would let us know. Well we couldn’t get the spoon to him fast enough. He was showing signs of interest at about 4 months and was always so hungry. So we decided to try it one day. Now at 13 months he is a great eater. Loves everything except avocado and eggs. Tomatoes seem to be his favorite at the moment. I have to agree with many of the moms here that said to just go with what feels right. You did it at different times for the two older boys and they are strong healthy kids. You’ll do it right again this time for Lucas.

13 Andrea June 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Your ped is wrong–there is no evidence that starting kids on solids earlier does anything for reflux. It can in fact make it worse–yes, you see less coming out of the mouth, but it still goes up and down the esophagus which is how the damage is done, and becasue it’s thicker it can hurt more. Google it. I did a lot of research on this when Frances was a baby with reflux and there’s no evidence at all that solids do anything for reflux.

Just so you know, even now Frances is susceptible to reflux incidents–tipping her over backwards slightly for a few seconds is enough sometimes to get her throwing up, as is coughing hard. It’s not a food thing.

14 bea June 11, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Hehe. I think this is a rite of passage for our generation. All of us are indoctrinated in the wait-until-six-months ideology, and all of us hear from our mothers that our babies NEED Pablum.

15 Karen MEG June 11, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Interesting, isn’t it? With all these new protocols that pop up every time you have a kid; and if they’re spread out a bit, then whoaaaaa!!
I gave my 8 yo solids at 4 months; rice, grains etc.. before veggies and fruit. he was a buddha baby though, and ate a lot!
And also, to Andrea’s point, pediatricians are NOT always right -one of my friends’ doctors told her very recently, as in last week, that she should consider formula for her 10 day old even though the baby had gained back to full birthweight within days (over 9 lbs now)… and to deal with engorgement just to pump and TOSS the breastmilk!!!! Sheesh!

Anyway, more about me… my 3 yo went on solids at 6 months as that was the prevailing wisdom then. This is the first I’ve heard about veggies and fruit before grains though. hard to keep up!

16 Rev. Dr. Mom June 11, 2008 at 2:24 pm

You know that my four kids are stretched over a 16 year period. In that time the advice for feeding solids changed 180 degrees. With my first it was at six weeks–six weeks!! and I did it not knowing any better. The other three started solids much later; iirc NSLS and the Kid didn’t have any solids until six months, and they never ate much “baby food”.

I guess if I were mothering an infant now I’d hold off as long as I could. Trust your instincts. You know Lucas best and you know your family situation best. He’s growing and healthy so what you’re doing now works.

17 Mac and Cheese June 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm

I waited until 6 months, but we didn’t have any weight or reflux issues. I don’t see the harm in starting sooner since the recommended age will probably change yet again some time in the future.

18 annika June 11, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Baby #1 (now almost two years old) – started cereal at 6 months
Baby #2 (due any day now) – we will wait and see

I think every situation and every child is different, so I won’t even dare to say what we will do the second time around. Good luck!

19 Marianne June 11, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Mamaloo gave some fantastic advice, which I heartily support.

We waited until 6 months before starting solids. We decided to do a combination of purees and a few actual solids (as in the baby-led weaning method). So our daughter started with rice mum-mums, then rice cereal and pears. She’s not a fan of pureed food except for oatmeal, although I’ve introduced most foods that way as we check for allergies. I hadn’t planned to do cereals, but my husband wanted us to so we did. She is 7 months and one week old now, and her favourite food is steamed broccoli.

Much current advice says that by waiting until 6 months to introduce solids you can be less picky about what order you introduce foods. If you have a history of allergies in the family you may want to be more careful, though.

Cereal can often cause constipation when it is first introduced, so a lot of the moms in my parent group started with pears first to help things keep moving and then did cereal with pears (either as 2 foods or mixed some pear puree into the cereal).

20 kgirl June 12, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Bee – sweet potatoes/rice cereal at 7 1/2 months; Dove just started the same a couple of weeks ago at six months. I’d wait until at least 6 months if you can.

21 Miche June 12, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Nothing concrete to add that hasn’t already been covered.

Isn’t it amazing how the simplest things in life can become so complicated! It can really make your head spin.

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