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Myth Busters: By Clinical Dietician, Kath Megaw

March 14, 2018

An image of Kath Megaw, co-author of the book weaning sense and clinical dietician who approves ohbabyco.com recipes

 

Starting baby on solids can be an intimidating experience for parents, mostly because there is so much noise out there! Your friend says one thing, your mom says another, but who the heck should you listen to!? (dum dum dum) ... introducing science-led, Clinical Dietician Kath Megaw and her list of myth-busting facts.

MYTH #1 

“Breast or formula milk is totally adequate for the first year, and delaying solid foods will just allow baby to drink more milk and be healthier.”

 The facts:

  • A diet of exclusive breast milk is only adequate for your baby for 6 months, after this, foods need to be started to provide all nutrients.
  • Iron deficiency can be prevented by introducing solids from 4-6 months
  • The best window period to prevent allergies is to introduce proteins between 4-6 months.
  • There is a critical period for introducing textures before 10 months, if you wait until after this, you are likely to experience feeding difficulties.

Filter the noise:

Considering all factors, from nutrition to developmental needs to fussiness, there is no need to delay solid food introduction after 6 months. For many babies introducing solids is appropriate and safe between 4- 6 months.

MYTH #2 

“Rice cereals are nutritious and balanced, just right for baby.”

 The facts:

  • Baby rice cereal starters are packed with artificial sugars and starch, which baby is not yet designed to metabolize, as breast milk and formula milk have zero sugar.
  • Baby needs a natural, low sugar starter food that nature designed.
  • It is not necessary to get extra iron from fortified foods - The best sources of iron are red meat, fish or liver, which are totally safe to introduce from 4-6 months.

Filter the noise:

Once you have started on gentle fruits and vegetables, natural fats, and exposed baby to allergens, you can start with lovely wholesome mom-made grains.

MYTH #3 

“You can only give pureed food until teeth are grown, or your baby will choke.”

 The facts:

  • Soft food pieces – such as steamed sweet potato or banana chunks – will dissolve in the mouth and will help baby experience the joy of feeding herself from early on.
  • Harder food pieces – such as long sticks of biltong or dried mango which can be held and gummed for hours are loads of fun to play with. It’s a great independent and sensory experience.
  • Starting baby on more complex textures at an early stage will prevent feeding difficulties and improve oral motor development.

Filter the noise:

Foods with textures are about so much more than just teeth. They are about jaw action and tongue movement and speech development, fine motor grasp and hand eye coordination, fun and independence. Start with these foods before the teeth pop out and you will be amazed at baby’s progress.

MYTH #4

“Introducing peanut, eggs and fish later (at 9 months, 12 months or 2 years) will help baby mature and prevent allergies."

The facts:

  • In the Western world, over the last few decades, it has been recommended to prolong and delay introduction of allergy foods. However, over these decades we have seen a frightening increase in the prevalence of allergies.
  • In the meantime, in more developing countries, young babies are exposed to fish, peanuts and all sorts of allergens and their allergy rate remains far lower than those in the developed world.
  • The best research says that starting high allergenic foods (peanut, eggs, fish, all proteins) as early as 4 months will actually prevent allergy.

Filter the noise:

As weird as it sounds, some science says to start off with peanut butter for lowest allergy risk and long-term health. Then, add your other proteins like egg, fish, chicken, dairy and tree nuts quickly thereafter.

MYTH #5

“You need to wait until 9 or even 12 months before introducing flavourful foods, as babies cannot cope with intense tastes.”

 The facts:

  • Baby starts to experience tastes and flavours in the womb as he swallows amniotic fluid, and then through your breast milk, whether you’re eating sweet, spicy, garlic or fish.
  • Early exposure to loads of flavours helps taste buds and senses to develop and prevents picky eaters later on.

Filter the noise:

Don’t be afraid of gentle flavours like cinnamon, garlic, nutmeg, rosemary or cumin at the beginning. As baby grows, you can start to splash out on more intense flavours like paprika and curry.

MYTH #6

“If my baby pulls faces or refuses to eat the puree, there is something wrong and my baby may be ill or have sensory issues.”

 The facts:

  • To go from cuddling against mom’s boob to being sat in a high chair and approached with a plastic spoon is a bit of a culture shock, and many babies are a little suspicious.
  • Face pulling is not a negative response or food refusal – it is a sensory reaction to this strange new experience.
  • Food refusal at dinner time is common – “Babies eat like kings for breakfast; Princes for lunch and Paupers for dinner”

Filter the noise:

Try sitting next to baby, or having baby on your lap, and share a plate of soft cubes of fruit and veg. Eating solids is just as much a developmental milestone as crawling or babbling. Each baby will reach that milestone at a different time. Just make sure they are exposed to the fun of food.

MYTH #7

“Organic products have a huge health benefit over non-organic products, and are worth the extra money.”

 The facts:

  • Organic dairy is proven to reduce risk of eczema.
  • Organic fruits and vegetables are sprayed with fewer pesticides, which can have negative effects on all body systems. Some studies show they can be richer in nutrients, especially antioxidants.
  • Organic meats are given fewer antibiotics, which reduce the likelihood of producing drug resistant bugs in our system.
  • Organic dairy is proven to reduce risk of eczema.
  • Organic fruits and vegetables are sprayed with fewer pesticides, which can have negative effects on all body systems. Some studies show they can be richer in nutrients, especially antioxidants.

Filter the noise:

Despite all the above, other than eczema, there is no evidence that organic foods give a serious health advantage over non-organic foods. The reality is that most South Africans cannot afford to eat only organic foods. If you want to spend your money wisely, choose organic meats, dairy and eggs, and buy a good variety of regular fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown locally.

For more help and advice, see our free Ohbaby x kath Megaw weaning guide here.

 



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