Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Solids Before 6 Months?

There is a lot of debate out there concerning when to start your baby on the path to solids via Infant Cereal. These days it is customary to exclusively breastfeed or give formula for the first six months of life before introducing rice cereal and deviating from this recommendation at all is met with some inappropriate outcry.

Our last check-up revealed that Jude, despite eating on demand every couple of hours like a happy piglet, was losing weight. He has always been a very active, engaged baby and other than the weight loss, there were no signs or symptoms of a problem. So, along with scheduling a follow-up in two weeks, our pediatrician told us to start him on Rice cereal, twice a day mixed with white grape juice.

This seemed weird to me, not because solids at four months but because of the white grape juice. So I asked Google to find out if this was common and if so, why? What I found boggled my mind. Countless posts from angry mothers claiming that those asking about the rice cereal should notify the health board and get their pediatricians medical licensees revoked because, "ur baby needs NOTHING BUT BREASTMILK for the first six months!!!" and, "recommending otherwise is sabotage!" or something. Along with accusations of being a lazy parent who "just doesn't wanna bf anymore." Now, as previous posts have stated: I am strongly pro-breastfeeding, but come on.

Also, somewhat hilariously one woman's ignorance answered her own question. She flew off the handle about how, "rice cereal is binding and will give such a young baby constipation!!!" followed immediately with, "and white grape juice is a stool softener, it'll give your baby diarrhea!!  your dr is an idiot!!!" Yes, what an idiot doctor to counteract the constipating effects of rice cereal with the stool softening effects of white grape juice... duh.

All of the inquiring women were in the same boat that I am: despite nursing on demand their babies just weren't getting enough. NOT offering solids at this point would be grossly negligent. Basically enforced starvation. Yet none of these other women took that information into account. I drink two litres of water per day and aim for more than two thousand and five hundred calories a day. I eat oatmeal and drink Mother's Milk Tea. I take my vitamins and fenugreek supplements to insure my milk supply is the best it can be. There isn't really anything else I can do outside of supplement his diet in some way.

I was worried that such a change to his diet would have a lengthy adjustment time. That it would upset his tummy for a number of days and make him fussy. But none of that happened! Jude took to the rice cereal immediately. Even so much as to open his mouth every time he sees the spoon, like a baby bird awaiting the worm. He was more than ready to start solids. He's always been a pretty happy baby but since starting solids he has been all around happier. His body is getting everything it needs, and it hasn't interrupted his breastfeeding. He still nurses on demand, the same amount as he had before.

I like to alternate. Two days of cereal mixed with milk for the added calories, followed by a day of cereal mixed with white grape juice just to be sure he doesn't have any trouble going potty. Though really, so long as you continue breastfeeding on demand, baby should be getting enough liquids to prevent constipation. If doubtful you can always give them a couple of tablespoons of water or white grape juice to make sure. Solids haven't changed his nursing schedule at all.

The box says that your baby is probably ready to begin solids once they can sit up with assistance. I'm not sure how accurate that is though because Jude has been able to sit up with assistance since he was five weeks old. Which definitely is too little for solids, but definitely a sign that he probably could have benefited from this change in his diet a few weeks sooner than nineteen weeks.

One thing I feel compelled to say however: despite popular belief the addition of rice cereal to your baby's diet does not make them stay asleep longer! I hear this so much from people wanting to be helpful to new moms unable to get a decent night's rest and it simply isn't true. Jude's sleeping habits have not at all been effected positively or negatively by the addition of rice cereal.

While it is true that cereal and also formula are harder for baby to digest thus leaving him feeling a little fuller a little longer, at the earliest you should be introducing cereal your baby should've already established its own schedule which involves sleeping for at least six hours per stretch with one 'midnight feeding.' Giving baby cereal in his bottle earlier than this will probably just give him gas -- meaning he'll sleep worse. Also, giving solids in a bottle is a choking hazard and should be avoided entirely, no matter what. Solids should be offered via spoon only. It takes longer, is definitely messier, but is indefinitely safer.

You're better off just sleeping whenever baby sleeps until he gets into his own groove. It'll be a hard couple of months, but it too shall pass.

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