yay-5986578This is an excerpt from an article in our issue 1 on weaning your baby by Lisa Guy ND who practices in Sydney, Australia. Lisa is one of our great regular contributors!

Introducing solids – nourishing your baby

By Lisa Guy, ND

Providing your baby with a nutritious wholesome diet is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. During this time of rapid growth and development, babies need to be given all the essential nutrients for proper brain and nervous system development and healthy immune function. Introducing your baby to healthy foods when they are very young will reduce the risk of them developing allergies and illness in childhood and help set up the foundations of good health for the rest of their lives.

Weaning your baby from milk to solids is such an exciting and important milestone for both you and your baby. Knowing the best foods to give when, however, can prove to be a little challenging for many first time parents.

Breast is best

Breast milk is the ultimate baby super food designed specifically to give your baby the very best start in life. Breast milk contains essential nutrients for optimal growth and development and protection from illness.  Breast milk should be your baby’s main source of nourishment for the first 6 months and ideally maintained for the first year.

Until your baby’s immune system has matured, breast milk offers an extremely important role in protecting your baby’s health. Breast milk is rich in immune boosting factors including T-cells and antibodies, which protects against a number of infections and diseases such as gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections and ear and eye infections. Breastfed babies also have a reduced risk of developing allergies and food intolerances, coeliac disease, eczemas and asthma.

When to start your baby on solids?

It is recommended babies start on solid food around 5 ½ – 6 months of age. The introduction of solids too early is associated with an increased likelihood of your baby developing allergies or food intolerances. Before this time infants are unable to handle immune challenges from new food as their bowel flora and digestion are underdeveloped.

Babies under 5 ½ – 6 months old have also what is called an ‘open gut’, which means they have gaps between the cells of their gut wall, which can allow whole proteins and disease-causing pathogens to pass directly into their bloodstream, potentially triggering an immune response, and resulting in an allergic reaction.

Their ‘open gut’ does however allow beneficial antibodies from breast milk to easily pass through their gut wall, making breast milk the obvious choice of nourishment up until around 5 ½ – 6 months.  Around this age your baby’s gut wall closes up and they start producing their own antibodies.

Leaving the introduction of solids too late can also affect your baby’s health leading to nutritional deficiencies, especially iron and zinc. Growth and immunity can also be negatively affected by starting solids too late, as well as reducing your baby’s acceptance of new foods.

Another reason why the introduction of solids should not be left later than around 6 months is that babies need to learn to chew and shallow food. This encourages the development of muscles that are essential for speech.