Saturday, January 22, 2011

Starting Solids

Prior to Tyler's birth, I was determined to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months.  I read books, reviewed studies and sought advice from other moms.  I knew there was nothing more nutritious or protective than breastmilk.  I knew there was no substitute that could pass on a mother's immune system to baby.  When I asked the advice of parents that exclusively breastfed, the most common thing I heard from them was "my baby has never been sick".  On top of being best for baby, it was free, finally a financial break in this process!  It was a no-brainer, this is what I was going to do.

What I wasn't even remotely prepared for was how hard it was going to be.  I had a lot against me; severe latch issues, initial weight gain issues, nipple shield hell, low supply and several bouts of excruciatingly painful blocked ducts.  I went through 5 lactation consultants.  It was a lot of work.  Many early nights I bawled my eyes out feeling like my body was failing me.  I really do understand why so many women give up when faced with these issues, but I'm stubborn and wasn't going down without giving it everything I had in me.  

Well here we are 6 months later and... I did it, I DID it!!!  I haven't had one single night of good sleep for over 6 months due to having to nurse/pump every 2-4 hrs 24/7 to keep my supply up.  But, as a lot of new parents discover, providing baby with the absolute best can tend to take precedence over your own needs.  Add what it cost to get baby here and that drive to provide the best goes into overdrive.  It blows my mind that I was his sole source of nutrition.  It was both amazing and exhausting.  Amazing that only I could be that for him.  Exhausting that only I could be that for him.  Coincidence or not, Tyler (currently 7 months) has never been sick.  Not a single earache, runny nose, nada.  Knock on wood!!!

Now onto the subject of this post, starting solids.  For anyone who has googled or been given advice regarding when to start a baby on solids and which solids, there's a good chance you found the advice pretty conflicting.  I sure did.

As any parent, I wanted to make the best decision for my baby.  What I feel is best may not be the same as the next parent and vice versa.  I believe that each parent should decide for themselves what is best for their baby.  I'm sharing what I found during my research and what decisions I made.  If this conflicts with your decisions, that's cool, you know what's best for your baby.

Most pediatricians recommend starting solids at 4-6 months.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Canadian Paediatric Society and World Health Organization all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months.

I wanted to understand why so many pediatrician's recommendations conflict with the above organizations when it's these organizations they follow.  I never did find an answer, but I did find the following info which I found very interesting.

After extensive research and reviewing studies, they're finding that 4 months is too early.  A baby's digestive system is open/unsealed, meant for fully digesting breastmilk.  It is lacking in digestive enzymes.  They're finding that a baby's digestive system is immature until at least 6 months.  There's speculation that in several years after more research, even 6 months will be considered too early.

So what happens when solids are introduced before the digestive system is mature?  The risk of allergies, food sensitivities and digestive disorders goes way up.  The body absorbs way more than it would if it was mature/sealed.  For example, large proteins can pass through that normally wouldn't with a mature system.  The body sees these proteins as foreign and produces antibodies against them.  When foods with these proteins are consumed later, things like gas, indigestion, heartburn, skin rashes such as eczema or hives, etc can occur.  Asthma, obesity, lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance are a few other problems that can result from starting solids too soon.  Many times these problems don't show up until adulthood.  Some foods have more risk than others.  Cow's milk and peanuts (peanut butter) have a high risk and are therefore not recommended until a year old.

To rabbit trail for a moment, this is what happened to my husband when he had a vasectomy.  There's a blood-testes barrier and the blood system never sees sperm.  When the tubes are cut, sperm enters the blood stream for the first time.  The body sees sperm as foreign and produce antibodies against them.  These antibodies prevent sperm from swimming by sticking them together like glue.  Any man that has a vasectomy has a risk of developing these antisperm antibodies (ASAs).  While we had his vasectomy reversed and there was a return of sperm, we found that a significant level of ASAs was the culprit for why we hadn't conceived and needed IVF.  End of rabbit trail.

In the end, I decided to follow the pediatric organizations since their recommendations are based on extensive research in this field.  Also since there's no nutritional benefit to starting earlier, there was no need to take the risk.

On Christmas day, at 6m2d old, Tyler had his first taste of solids.

Our pediatrician said we could skip cereals since they're not necessary and are just empty calories.  We're starting with stage 1 fruits and veggies.  We're taking it very slow by introducing 1 tbsp a day to give his digestive system time to learn how to process these strange new substances.

Day 1.  I prepared 1 tbsp of mashed banana mixed with 1 tbsp of breastmilk.  We let him go at it himself.  All he wanted to do was play with it.  For the first time ever, he didn't try to put his fingers in his mouth.  We even guided his hand to his mouth and he would not put it in his mouth.  I put a little on the tip of my finger and let him suck it.  He ate about half of it this way.  It was very uneventful, really no reaction either way.  He always enjoys sucking on a finger, so I don't know if he liked it or not.

Day 2.  We tried banana in one of those mesh paci feeders.  He sucked on it for a little bit and seemed quite undecided about the whole thing.  He refused it when I offered it again a few mins later.  In hindsight, I believe it was too cold as it was the other half of his banana from day 1 and was stored in the fridge.

Day 3.  We tried mashed avocado.  He was very unsure about this one.  I think the texture was a little too bizarre for him.  He dry heaved a few times.  In hindsight I should have pureed and thinned it out with breastmilk.

He definitely lets us know when he doesn't like something.  He dry heaves, spits it out and refuses more.  We don't force anything and give it another go another day.  I can only imagine how bizarre this is for him considering he's never known anything besides breastmilk.

I plan to continue to follow the AAP guidelines.  They recommend continued breastfeeding to at least 1 year of age, with breastmilk being his main source of nutrition and solids being supplemental.  While a 1 yr old can manage without human milk, they really weren't designed to.  Their digestive and immune systems are still under mature and can greatly benefit from breastmilk.

So I'm not off the hook and I don't foresee a full nights sleep for at least another 6 months.  I hope and pray that I can maintain my milk supply!

It's amazing how full circle we're coming when it comes to caring for a baby.  Our grandmothers exclusively breastfed, kept baby with them all the time and co-slept.  Our parents faced completely different times.  Breastfeeding was uncool, looked down upon.  Babies were expected to sleep through the night, formula and early solids were given to make that happen.  My mom was given a shot the day after I was born to dry up her milk.  Kerry's mom was told her milk had no nutrition and wouldn't be able to breastfeed.  At the advice of their pediatrician, I was given jello water, Kerry was given Carnation instant milk and Karo syrup.  Today's generation is being encouraged to go back to what our Grandparents did.

Here's few good links from Dr. Sears if you're interested:

Starting solid foods
Food allergies

This is a good one for you if you're really wanting to wait 6 months but tempted to start early:
Early solids?

This is a good one if you're receiving pressure from others to start your baby on solids earlier than you'd like:
Does eating solids too soon result in digestive problems later in life?


  1. So interesting, Jill. Thanks for writing this. I too plan to exclusively BF until 6 months, but then have to wean to start for #2 - but I'm hoping to have pumped enough to supplement breast milk for a few weeks/months. I'm hoping you continue to do well with Bfing, and your supply stays strong.

  2. I am very proud of you and Kerry and your dedication to Tyler. You never know what kind of parent your child will be until it happens. I know you are always doing what things are best from him. VERY PROUD! LOve you as big as they sky, Mama

  3. Totally agree with exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months! I also fed banana first and then some rice cereal with breastmilk and then avocado...its actually hard to tell what was exactly first. I will say this, T hated avocado that first time...but can't get enough of it now. She LOVES it. I cut it up and put it on her tray and 5 minutes later she is crying for more (she tries to shove handfuls of it in her mouth! Surprisingly, she is still a skinny baby...?).

    Enjoy the solids, but poopy diapers will never be the same. They get nasty..and you can tell exactly what you fed your baby, lol.

  4. What a great and informative post!! I too am going to BF exclusively til 6 mos... I don't know however, if I can keep up the supplemental feeding with solids til a year!! You go girl!! I keep saying I'll BF til Colton gets teeth. :0)

    I got a baby food maker for Christmas, and am excited to use it. Thinking I will start soon and freeze some things ahead of time. We'll see if that actually happens. I got the mesh paci feeders for Christmas too... Very interesting!

    Ty is getting so big! Saw the FB pics-- he is just adorable, as usual. Love those big blue eyes. :0)

    Curious, how's he doing at night? Is he sleeping through, or co-sleeping, or in his crib? I've moved big C to his own room, crib for naps and night time (sniff sniff- the cosleeper is in the attic!)... But he's still getting up to eat at least once, usually twice. Is there some hope as he gets older?? :0) I am just dealing with it now, since I get to be home and am not REQUIRED to have brain function. Ha! Just wondering how Ty is doing in that area.

    Love ya girlie! Kiss that bebe for me.
    The Other Jill

  5. Kudos to breastfeeding past 6 months. I know it is hard as I am almost to 8 months. It is definitely the best!

  6. Kudos, Jill! I love this post! I totally understand the exhaustion of pumping and nursing round the clock! It is overwhelming sometimes, but also someting to be very proud of. I was so conflicted with all the information on solids as well. Since my Jake weighs 20 pounds already my doctor said I should start solids with him, I tried 1/2 tbsp once or twice and it just didn't seem right. He had no interest and didn't seem to care much for it. I also noticed that he seemed to want to nurse less so I decided to wait too. I decided there is no rush, they are already growing up so fast!!


Thank you for your comment! Hugs, Kerry and Jill