This article gives a very good overview, but it is worthy of a few comments. Introducing baby to solids for the first time can be confusing for parents.
Move over cereal, meat is the new fad
The recommendation to start babies with meat has actually been around for a number of years. About fifty percent of parents we’ve met in workshops have heard of meat as a first food, and the rest still are guided to give cereal.
Firstly, the scary part for parents is below, in italics:
“Iron is critical for a baby’s growth and cognitive development. By about six months, a baby’s iron stores start to diminish and those solely fed breast milk will not meet their iron requirements and are in danger of becoming anemic or iron-deficient.
Iron deficiency during infancy and childhood may affect proper brain development, which Kalnins said is irreversible.”
Saying that iron deficiency may affect proper brain development is accurate, but I still have yet to meet a baby who is significantly iron deficient, and as well as it being tied to a lack of brain development.
The statement that iron from breast milk will not meet baby’s iron requirements, I believe, is inaccurate. Breast fed babies have the best chance of absorbing and using iron in breast milk because of two proteins; lactoferrin and transferrin, which transport iron from the gut to the bloodstream. In certain instances, low iron is a possibility. Premature and low birth weight babies may need extra, and for most, supplementation is recommended from birth. In most other cases, feeding a small amount of cereal with a 5% absorption rate won’t impact iron levels if there are any digestive issues including colic, constipation, diarrhea or gassiness. Digestion and absorption of cereal, meat or other iron rich foods all comes down to how well the gut is breaking down that food.
Baby Led Weaning
A new feeding fad is to offer chunks of food for baby to explore tastes and textures with. Parents that I’ve met don’t seem so concerned with iron, although some give meat. Without teeth to break down the meat, most see it whole out the other end. The exploration of food with baby led weaning is fun, although most makes its way on the floor or mushed in between the fingers to start.
Iron rich goodness
Giving whole egg from six months is also a newer recommendation: the yolk offers iron, fats and B vitamins. I have seen more issues with egg whites, so do still recommend starting egg yolk first and looking for a reaction before giving the whole egg. When each mouthful has the potential to pack a nutrient punch, egg yolk will offer just that. Dark meat poultry rather than breasts or white meat not only offer more iron, but is generally well received due to it’s moist texture from a higher fat content. Other iron rich foods to give include green leafy vegetables, kelp, beets, asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, watercress, parsley, grapes, bananas, figs, dried fruits, cherry juice, beans, soybeans, sunflower seeds, fish, peas, eggs, whole grains, parsley, turmeric, seaweed, lentils, millet, pumpkin, sesame seeds and blackstrap molasses.
Statements like the new guidelines can be confusing for parents, especially when individual doctors don’t change their stance to be in line with these new ways of starting solids. My best advice: be guided by your baby, listen to your own intuition and do your own research, rather than following along with what doesn’t feel right.
A version of this post originally appeared on SproutRight.com.
About the author:
Lianne Phillipson-Webb is the founder of Sprout Right, a company that specializes in pre-conception, prenatal, and postnatal nutrition for women, as well as good food and health for the whole family. With over ten years of experience, Lianne is a registered nutritionist, author, member of the International Organization of Nutrition Consultants, and mother of two.