From what to do when a fever spikes, to when to vaccinate, to how to feed your child, parents tend to unconditionally follow their pediatrician’s advice. Wouldn’t it be great if there was one single person that could answer all our burning questions about raising kids with proven research on every possible topic?
Sounds too good to be true, because well, it is! There are a vast number of healthcare professionals who spend their careers delving into the depths of just one subject so that they can truly provide “expert advice”. It is highly unfair to expect pediatricians to be the expert on everything, and instead we should view them as the first line of defense AND our best ally in this raging war we call parenthood. Personally, I rely on my pediatrician for guidance on a lot of things and had to work hard to find the right one that I could trust wouldn’t give me advice in areas he wasn’t trained on. This is the hard part: knowing when to follow their advice and when to seek out the expert.
As you might expect coming from a pediatric dietitian, childhood nutrition is one such area that pediatricians do not have much formal training on at all. More specifically, they might not be very up to date on the behavioral approaches to feeding children that help to prevent the common battles at mealtimes and ensure kids develop a healthy relationship with food. This all starts at the very beginning when first introducing your baby to solid foods. Your doctor might hand you a piece of paper with guidelines on “what” to give them that hasn’t been updated in years with very little discussion on “when” or “how” to handle this big milestone. Here are a few of the many things that have changed in recent years when it comes to starting solids with your baby:
- Do not rely on age as the sole marker for readiness to start solids; instead wait for your baby to be able to sit up unassisted, come forward for a spoon, and keep the food inside (also known as maturation of tongue thrust). Most babies do not hit these developmental markers until closer to 6 months
- Offer whole foods as baby’s first foods instead of plain infant cereal; consider adding different flavors to infant cereals to keep the exposure to new tastes varied
- Provide soft finger shaped table foods (ie: sticks of roasted sweet potato, long slice of banana, strip of baked chicken thigh) instead of just purees to help baby develop proper muscles and skills for chewing and swallowing
- Only rely on the store bought pouches of baby food as a backup and not a daily offering as it can impede the child from learning about the real textures and flavors of food
- Allow them to control the amount of solids, whether it be only a bite or a whole serving
- Do not wait 3-5 days between new food exposures of all the low allergen foods
- Start offering high allergen foods (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, wheat, dairy, shellfish) within the first couple weeks of starting solids to reduce risk of developing an allergy
- The messier a baby gets when eating the better chance of them developing into healthy eaters in the future
Before beginning this big milestone, do your own research on current recommendations. Seek out help from a pediatric dietitian whether it be in the form of a workshop, one-on-one counseling, or even reading a book (Born to Eat, Feeding Baby Greene, Fearless Feeding). There are lots of trusted resources to help you conquer this next step with ease, even if your pediatrician may not be one of them…yet! Some doctors (shout out to NuHeights Pediatrics) are now offering these educational classes taught by experts to their patients in their very own practice so you might want to ask what resources or referrals they have to offer you. Also check my events calendar for my next upcoming Baby’s First Foods Workshop where I provide all the necessary information and new updates to starting solids so you don’t have to do the research on your own.