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Stop the 'Slop' - here's what you need to know about solids, your baby's development and health



This post is not intended to invoke guilt on parents, but to help gain insights into how we have evolved towards introducing solids to babies & give parents insight into their choices with regard to how and which food they feed their babies. If we delve a little into the history of baby food, we can also gain a clearer understanding about where the confusing advice about feeding babies comes from.

During the 1800's, babies were exclusively breastfed and introduced solids at the age of 11 months. Mothers offered their babies family foods broken into small pieces which were then fed by hand.


Most babies were breastfed until the 1920’s.

If they weren’t breastfeed, they were either ‘wet nursed’ or given animal milk.


The 1920’s is when infant formula became widely marketed.

It’s also the same time that the first baby foods were released, when a man by the name of Harold Clapp made food for his baby whilst his wife was ill. This food consisted of broth, vegetables & cereal. When he saw his baby liked it, he began to make and sell huge batches of his recipe via local pharmacies.

Frank & Dan Gerber caught wind of this & began experimenting with the baby food and began canning it. By 1933, they produced over 2 MILLION cans, containing a variety of strained fruits, vegetables & meats.


The Gerber company invested serious funds in research and marketing, which convinced Paediatricians, Dieticians and Parents, that Gerber Baby Food was superior and nutritious compared to home made food. It was ‘THE FOOD' to feed babies. Mum's were known to be made to feel guilty if they didn't feed their baby 'BABY GERBER' food. Sound familiar?


Whilst stepping up their marketing campaigns, they gave FREE BABY FOOD to doctors to provide to their patients. Their ad campaigns also encouraged parents to commence introducing their foods to babies from 3 months of age.


By the 1950's parents were encouraged by Gerber’s ad campaigns, to introduce foods to their babies at 6 weeks of age!


The World Health Organisation, American Academy of Paediatrics and U.S National Institutes for Health recommend babies be commenced solids from 6 months of age. The Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines recommend introducing solids at 6 Months of age, but not before 4 months of age....CONFUSING RIGHT?


We now know that baby food in cans, pouches and jars are not the best option when it comes to baby nutrition. We know that pureed foods are not the best foods to give to babies for the development of their oral motor, fine and gross motor skills. Pureed foods are easy to swallow and may contribute to overeating.


We now know that pureed foods do nothing to support or improve the strength, development and co-ordination of a baby’s chewing & biting muscles. We also know that pureed foods do nothing to help develop a baby’s fine and gross motor skills such as picking up & placing foods into the mouth.


These are the skills which are needed, for babies to progress to eating foods which are more complex requiring more advanced motor skills, such as family foods.


Pureed foods are often prescribed by Speech Therapists if children are having swallowing difficulties to minimise choking and aspiration of food into the lungs. They are also used with adults who have neurological impairments which make swallowing difficult - for example, following a stroke.


Research papers have demonstrated that there is no justification for the use of pureed foods for most healthy babies.


We know that first baby foods given as finger foods - whole foods cut to the size of an adult pinkie finger, benefits babies in developing their oral motor skills. Finger foods are known to help babies develop their fine motor and coordination skills - such as picking up food with their hands and fingers as well as bringing the food to their mouth to chew, bite and then swallow.


By the time babies are approximately 6 months of age, adequate core muscle control ensures they are able to hold their head & trunk up well without support. This means that choking hazards are minimised when feeding solids.


By 6 months of age, babies are able to munch on food, using an up-and-down movement of their jaw. They are able to control their tongue to form the shape of a bowl to hold food on the tongue and then deliberately move it to the back of the mouth for swallowing. These refined oral motor movements have a known impact on speech, dental, airway and hearing development for children.


A 6 month old baby has the ability to reach, grab and place food into their mouth. Finger food textures provide greater sensory input to the child’s brain, thus gaining the benefits of greater motor skill co-ordination.


At an age where children have a natural drive for increasing independence, being allowed to grab food and bring it to their own mouth, finger foods help to fulfil these developmental needs.


So if you place finger foods on your baby’s feeding tray or plate, this is the same as offering them a smorgasbord. You are providing your baby a plate of excitement filled with opportunities to explore. You are providing your child an environment which allows them to choose and approach eating with a healthier sense of independence.


Healthier eating opportunities such as providing babies with finger foods and enabling them to self feed, provides the foundations for a healthy relationship with food. It also reduces fussiness with eating.


Key points noted in research have found:

  • There is no need for pureed foods for infants of 6 months plus of age

  • There is no evidence to support the use of pureed foods at 6 months of age

  • The use of pureed foods may predispose to feeding problems such as excessive weight gain, less efficient digestion, while persistent lack of chewing movements may contribute to poor facial growth, leading to adverse dental, respiratory & aural health outcomes.

Now you know why I say ‘STOP THE SLOP’!


If you would like our expert guidance on healthy solids & eating for your baby, feel free to reach out to us!


We provide Telehealth VideoChat which can be booked online to help get you started in as quickly as 30 minutes!


Resources:

  1. Gill Rapley, Journal of Health Visiting in June 2016 Are pureed foods justified for infants of six months? What does the evidence tell us? DOI: 10.12968/johv.2016.4.6.289

  2. Solid Starts, History of Baby Food https://solidstarts.com/history-of-baby-food/#


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

At MILK early parenting support, I strive to be your go-to source for all your parenting needs – from pre-birth to post-birth. I'm a passionate and experienced International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I love empowering expectant and new parents with all the knowledge and support they need to make the right decisions for their family.

Whether it’s helping you find the best feeding and sleeping strategies, or ensuring that your baby is getting the nutrition they need for optimal growth, I'm here to make sure that you and your baby get the best start in life.

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