More and more evidence is coming to hand that there are both short-term and long-term benefits for babies, toddlers and children from the introduction of new foods to babies at around 4 to 5 months of age. By that age a baby’s swallowing reflex has matured to the stage where semi-solids and some solids can be taken. The range of benefits include not only a baby becoming familiar with new tastes, but also such things as a reduction in the risk of atopic dermatitis and other symptoms of food allergies arising in future months and years.
This age (4 to 5 months) is becoming regarded as “a critical early window” of development as the baby’s maturing of its immune system in its digestive process. Although WHO has international recommendations for exclusive feeding of breast milk until 6 months of age, it must be remembered that this is largely advocated for developing countries as protection from poor sanitation. Studies in developed countries are increasingly showing immunological benefits from breast-feeding mothers commencing the feeding of semi-solids and solids to their babies from 4 to 5 months of age, as has largely been the custom for formula-fed babies.
The introduction of semi-solid or solid food alternatives should be done one new food at a time, about 3 to 4 days apart, to determine that the baby can tolerate each new food.
The introduction of new foods to babies at this age should not be of concern to those mothers determined to continue breastfeeding, as the personal diets of mothers continue to change over the years, and ongoing exclusive feeding of breast milk may lead to inadequate intake by the baby of some important nutrients. For example, most mothers have quite inadequate consumption of foods containing the Omega-3 DHA so necessary for optimum brain development in babies.
As well as the recent death of a child in Australia from the feeding of “raw” (unpasteurized) cow milk, the easing of restrictions on the sale of raw milk in more states within the U.S has resulted in more than a quadruple increase in serious raw milk-related infectious disease outbreaks and hospitalizations over a 5-year period.
Because of the high risk of acquisition of severe infectious diseases from cow milk that has not been pasteurized, in Australia it is illegal to sell raw (unpasteurized) milk for human consumption, and health authorities recommend that it should not be consumed. However, because of misconceptions by some members of the public who feel that “raw” milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk — and some “entrepreneurs” who wish to flout local regulations in order to “make a buck” — raw milk is packaged and labeled to be sold as “bath milk”. This is a “suggestion” that the unpasteurized milk is to be used only for bathing to improve skin texture, but the fact that it is sold in 1 litre or 2 litre containers, belies that “suggestion”. Authorities would do well to restrict the packaging of raw milk to 5 litre and/or 10 litre containers, more suitable for bathing.
The feeding of raw milk to your baby or child is simply not worth the risk involved.
Some mothers feel that their baby must be “bigger” than the baby of a friend or a relation, otherwise they may be considered an “inadequate” mother in the eyes of others. Or a mother might interpret every cry of her baby as saying,”Waaah! I’m hungry! Feed me! Feed me!”. It is through such various feelings of misplaced guilt on the part of their mothers that infants and children get over-fed and placed on a pathway to later obesity.
On average, a breastfeeding mother can provide approximately 750 ml to 850 ml of breast milk per day during the first six months of breastfeeding. On the other hand, there is no physical limit on how many bottles of baby formula can be prepared. Baby formula label mixing instructions and feeding tables therefore need to be taken most seriously, as they have been calculated very carefully to provide appropriate daily feeding.
The number of scoops recommended is based on LEVEL scoopfuls, not heaped scoopfuls, so each scoop of powder should be levelled off with a handy (and clean) kitchen knife. The number of scoops recommended for each feed should be adhered to — so none of that, “Oh, and I’ll add another scoop for good luck.” And the number of feeds per day recommended should be taken seriously. Remember that your baby’s health for the long term is much more important than being “competitive” on baby size.
More and more evidence keeps coming to hand confirming the developmental benefits of omega-3 DHA for babies whose mothers take adequate amounts of DHA in their daily diets during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, a recent study has suggested that if a mother also consumes high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids — largely linoleic acid (LA) from vegetable oils such as corn oil or soybean oil — then this can have a negative effect on the developmental benefits of omega-3 DHA in their offspring.
This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, compared the fatty acid profiles in breast milk of mothers in 28 countries with how well their children performed in later academic tests. They found that high levels of omega-6 LA in breast milk appeared to “undermine the effects (of brain development) of DHA, and seem to be bad for brains.” As diets in the general population have shifted over recent decades, and the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has increased significantly, whilst the consumption of omega-3 DHA has fallen, the observations in the study concerned the researchers when they found that it was reflected in breast milk, and with apparent adverse effects on later childhood cognitive scores.
Quality baby formulas have the recommended ratios of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, and selecting a baby formula with “adequate” levels of omega-3 DHA (as outlined in “How to Choose a Baby Formula”) provides your baby with proven brain development benefits.
At about 4 to 5 months of age, the “swallowing reflex” in babies has usually developed to the stage where they become able to transfer food from the front of the tongue to the back of the tongue, to swallow. This heralds the time when semi-solid foods can be introduced with careful feeding from the lip of a spoon.
Should we start feeding then? The WHO has advocated exclusive breastfeeding — that is, no semi-solid food items, nor even water — until 6 months of age. However, this was intended essentially for those developing countries in which potable water is unavailable, or hygiene standards are low.
Research currently being undertaken within Australia is already suggesting that when new food items are introduced at 4 to 6 months of age, the likelihood of subsequent food allergies is reduced compared to those infants who were not introduced to new foods until after 6 months of age.
The reticence to introduce new foods before 6 to 8 months of age, may be one of several factors that is contributing to the unexplained massive increase in food allergies in children that we are now experiencing.
Well, “Yes” …. and …. “Maybe not”. It is rather hard to be adamant either way.
It is often said that babies “bond” better when breast-fed. But “bonding” can take place either when fed on the breast, or fed a baby formula. It is largely a matter of “contact”, whether by eye contact and/or voice contact. Fathers who feed their baby formula have been able to demonstrate “bonding” through eye contact, and soothing talk. Perhaps it is a matter of “reassurance” and “confidence” for Baby?
It is said that the “microbiome” (the types of those billions of bacteria colonizing the gut) is “better” in breast-fed babies than in those started early on infant formula. Yet by nine weeks of age, analysis of the fæces of babies cannot distinguish from their microbiome whether they have been breast-fed or formula-fed.
From a nutrition standpoint, most comparative studies were conducted some time ago. On the one hand, some formulas have now come to provide better nutrition for eye and brain development — and on the other hand the diet of mothers, especially in relative intakes of various fats which quickly influence their breast milk contribution to their babies, has changed considerably over past years. Many researchers consider Omega-6 (in vegetable oils) to be “pro-inflammatory”, while Omega-3 (in fish, eggs, etc.) tends to control inflammation. The diet of mothers today is usually far more concentrated in Omega-.6, and much less seafood is eaten. This significant change in relative Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios is passed on to the baby through breast milk, and some researchers believe that it may be a key factor in the higher levels of allergies now seen in babies and children.
Baby formulas are “standardized”. They consistently provide what the can label lists. Breast milk is different between mothers, and is likely to reflect the mothers’ diets on a day-today basis.
A baby’s brain and eye development can be influenced by either the diet of the mother if she is breastfeeding, or by the informed choice of a baby formula if she is supplementing her breastfeeding, or decides to change to bottle feeding. One of the most significant advances in baby nutrition has been the appreciation over the past 15 years that certain Omega-3 fatty acids, provided in “adequate” daily amounts from either breast or bottle can be shown to enhance eye development during a baby’s first 12 months of life, and also enhance intelligence, language and coordination.
However, when bottle feeding, the right choice of baby formula can make all the difference. Only a few baby formulas have what are regarded as “adequate” levels of Omega-3 DHA — those that have been shown in many clinical studies to provide significant enhancement of eye and brain development. Many baby formulas contain much less Omega-3 DHA — at levels which have been shown in clinical studies to provide no measurable benefit — possibly added to the baby formula mainly to claim that they “have some”. Some baby formulas contain no Omega-3 DHA at all.
Therefore your informed choice of baby formula can make a difference in your baby’s development.
Choosing a Baby Formula? Your baby’s future may depend on you making the right choice!
In his latest book, How to Choose a Baby Formula, Australia’s Leading Independent Infant Nutrition Specialist and author Garry Wainscott provides mothers with what they must be aware of for them to be able to choose the baby formula which is best for their baby’s development.
From the science-based information in this book you will come to appreciate:
- That baby formulas DO differ in the development they can provide for your baby.
- Why mixing instructions and daily feeding quantities are designed to avoid over-feeding or under-feeding your baby.
- The key nutrients which provide long-term scholastic benefits through into the teenage years.
- How to make sense of the different label values which manufacturers use for various nutrients in their formula, so that you can make proper comparisons.
- What your baby does NOT get when low-priced baby formulas are chosen.
- What some of the big baby formula manufacturers are NOT telling you.
Not many of us get the opportunity to be present on a dairy farm when a cow is giving birth to its calf. But it can be amazing to see the cow nudge its calf to rise up on its feet so soon after being born. And very soon after that the calf is already following its mother around the field to suckle from her udder.
How different this is from the human baby which is not up on its feet until around one year of age! The difference lies with the fact that a calf is born at a much later stage in its development, than is a human baby. And for this very reason there are numerous significant differences between the contents of human breast milk and of cow milk. Undiluted whole cow milk has protein at a level far too high for your baby, and it has extremely low levels of important iron and vitamin D. It is for reasons such as these, that most baby formulas are carefully formulated to be as close as possible to breast milk. Undiluted whole cow milk can also cause blood loss from the intestines of babies.
The Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics states categorically :
“The only acceptable alternative to breast milk is iron-fortified infant formula. Appropriate solid foods should be added between the ages of 4 and 6 months.”
Remember: Cow milk is for calves! For babies, an informed choice of a good baby formula provides your baby with a much better start in life.
Establishing good and adequate feeding very early in the first 4 weeks of your baby’s development may have long-term benefits. Published in the prestigious medical journal Pediatrics in June 2013, a study by researchers in University of Adelaide (Australia), University of Bristol (UK) and McGill University (Canada) found that babies who put on 40% of their birth weight in the first four weeks had higher IQ scores by the time that they were 6 years of life than those babies who put on only 15% of their birth weight.
Those babies with the greatest increase in head circumference also had the highest IQ scores. The researchers suggested that faster gains in weight or head circumference in the first 4 weeks after birth contribute to children’s IQ.
They also recognized that many mothers experience difficulty establishing breast feeding in those first few weeks of life, and that much activity is focused on recognizing and correcting problems with breastfeeding. Their findings suggested that as weight gain in these first few weeks is associated with children’s IQ scores, it highlights the importance of intervening early in managing infants with feeding difficulties.
When early feeding difficulties arise from the unavailability of breast milk, or insufficiency of breast milk, these latest findings would suggest that persistence with breastfeeding attempts should not be at the expense of early weight gain and increase in head circumference. Supplementary feeding with a high quality baby formula could be considered at least as an interim measure until full breastfeeding can be established.