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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Introducing Solids

Quite a controversial topic so I have found, but one I'm not afraid to talk about here.

When to introduce solids. It's always been something that parents have been told should NOT happen before the baby is 6 months old. However, Harry (our very hungry 4-month old baby, who will not sleep through the night and demands milk 3 hourly, even at night) urged me to investigate the reasons for this further.

We are told that the World Health Organisation carried out research which proved babies digestive systems were not ready to receive solids any earlier than 6 months old. This is something which is backed by the UK Government and is the message which filters down to us via our Health Visitors.

However, Dr Gillian Harris, a clinical psychologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who also lectures at Birmingham University, says that such guidelines are "based on no scientific evidence whatsoever". She claims that they are derived from WHO studies in developing countries and are simply not applicable in the UK.

“We have bigger babies who are growing much faster,” she says. “I don’t know a single health professional in this country who agrees with the Department of Health's suggestion that mothers should breast-feed exclusively for six months, and research shows that only 2 per cent of women manage it.” She adds that “there is no reasoning in terms of allergy prevention and no reasoning in terms of health”.

Annabel Karmel, the baby food guru, agrees. “There is a lot of confusion over when to introduce solids to your baby,” she says. “Many parents carry on giving fruit and vegetable purees for far too long, leaving it too late to introduce lumpy food. This makes the transition to family food difficult and increases the propensity for babies to be fussy eaters."

With this new-found information, I dropped in to see my Health Visitor at my local GP to get some more advice and suggestions with what to do with 'Hungry Harry'.

I was surprised to hear that she agreed with the view of Dr Gillian Harris above and added that as a direct result of the WHO's and Government's advice, Health Visitors were finding there were a large number of undernourished babies in the UK. Babies were crying out to fed more and parents were so concerned about causing actual bodily harm to their babies, they ignored the cries of their unhappy babies and just became stressed, worn-out parents, eventually going to their Health Visitors pleading for help.

In Harriet's case, my Health Visitor advised me to introduce baby rice and pureed vegetables on the day she turned 4 months old. Once fully introduced to vegetables, I could then progress onto pureed fruit.

I can't tell you what a relief it was to hear this advice and since introducing solids on 18th January 2010, Harry is less demanding and is sleeping for a lot longer through the night. For us, it was definitely the right advice.

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