Posts Tagged ‘breastfeeding’

Why Delay Solids Until At Least 6 Months?

Unfortunately, many health care providers are not up to date on this. (Here is another example of why to not blindly trust your doctor since they may not be up to date!) There has been a large amount of research on this in the recent past, and most health organizations have updated their recommendations to agree with current research. The World Health Organization, UNICEF, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council and Health Canada all recommend that all babies be exclusively breastfed (no cereal, juice or any other foods) for the first 6 months of life (not the first 4-6 months).

Although some of the reasons listed here assume that your baby is breastfed or fed breastmilk only, experts recommend that solids be delayed for formula fed babies also.

Delaying solids gives baby greater protection from illness.
Although babies continue to receive many immunities from breastmilk for as long as they nurse, the greatest immunity occurs while a baby is exclusively breastfed. Breastmilk contains 50+ known immune factors, and probably many more that are still unknown. One study has shown that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 4+ months had 40% fewer ear infections than breastfed babies whose diets were supplemented with other foods. The probability of respiratory illness occurring at any time during childhood is significantly reduced if the child is fed exclusively breast milk for at least 15 weeks and no solid foods are introduced during this time. (Wilson, 1998) Many other studies have also linked the degree of exclusivity of breastfeeding to enhanced health benefits (see Immune factors in human milk).

Delaying solids gives baby’s digestive system time to mature.
If solids are started before a baby’s system is ready to handle them, they are poorly digested and may cause unpleasant reactions (digestive upset, gas, constipation, etc.). Protein digestion is incomplete in infancy. Gastric acid and pepsin are secreted at birth and increase toward adult values over the following 3 to 4 months. The pancreatic enzyme amylase does not reach adequate levels for digestion of starches until around 6 months, and carbohydrate enzymes such as maltase, isomaltase, and sucrase do not reach adult levels until around 7 months. Young infants also have low levels of lipase and bile salts, so fat digestion does not reach adult levels until 6-9 months.

Delaying solids decreases the risk of food allergies.
It is well documented that prolonged exclusive breastfeeding results in a lower incidence of food allergies (see Allergy References). From birth until somewhere between four and six months of age, babies possess what is often referred to as an “open gut.”

This means that the spaces between the cells of the small intestines will readily allow intact macromolecules, including whole proteins and pathogens, to pass directly into the bloodstream.This is great for your breastfed baby as it allows beneficial antibodies in breastmilk to pass more directly into baby’s bloodstream, but it also means that large proteins from other foods (which may predispose baby to allergies) and disease-causing pathogens can pass right through, too. During baby’s first 4-6 months, while the gut is still “open,” antibodies (sIgA) from breastmilk coat baby’s digestive tract and provide passive immunity, reducing the likelihood of illness and allergic reactions before gut closure occurs. Baby starts producing these antibodies on his own at around 6 months, and gut closure should have occurred by this time also. See How Breast Milk Protects Newborns and The Case for the Virgin Gut for more on this subject.

Delaying solids helps to protect baby from iron-deficiency anemia.
The introduction of iron supplements and iron-fortified foods, particularly during the first six months, reduces the efficiency of baby’s iron absorption. Healthy, full-term infants who are breastfed exclusively for periods of 6-9 months have been shown to maintain normal hemoglobin values and normal iron stores. In one study (Pisacane, 1995), the researchers concluded that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 7 months (and were not give iron supplements or iron-fortified cereals) had significantly higher hemoglobin levels at one year than breastfed babies who received solid foods earlier than seven months. The researchers found no cases of anemia within the first year in babies breastfed exclusively for seven months and concluded that breastfeeding exclusively for seven months reduces the risk of anemia. See Is Iron-Supplementation Necessary? for more information.

Delaying solids helps to protect baby from future obesity.
The early introduction of solids is associated with increased body fat and weight in childhood. (for example, see Wilson 1998, von Kries 1999, Kalies 2005)

Delaying solids makes starting solids easier.
Babies who start solids later can feed themselves and are not as likely to have allergic reactions to foods.


It’s cheaper too, which is a nice perk. We didn’t buy one jar of baby food because I exclusively nursed our first until close to seven months and by then he was old enough to feed himself spears of avocado, pear, etc. (“baby-led weaning“) which were things we already had because we eat them too! I went on to nurse him until he was 19 months and I think delaying solids was a huge reason for that.

Here’s some baby-led weaning in action!
Avocado spear:

Sweet potato chunks gone before I could even get the picture:



Got Milk?

When I first learned I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. It just made sense to me. As I learned more about it through our childbirth class I became fascinated with it.

One of the most amazing things I learned is the physical interaction between breast tissue and baby’s mouth. To this day I find this completely awesome. When you nurse your baby about a zillion things are happening through that priceless skin to skin contact. Perhaps the coolest is the interaction that takes place with the actual physical contact between tissues. There is an exchange of information about what the baby needs more or less of nutritionally. So the next time they nurse they have more and less of what they need. Your milk is designer milk! It is tailored to your baby’s needs throughout the day. Fascinating, yes? Yes!


I am always curious about the facts about anything and it turns out that there is an excellent source for these particular facts, “Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries” (April 2007) and it was prepared by a team of investigators at the Tufts-New England Medical Center Evidence-Based Practice Center in Boston. They “screened over 9,000 abstracts. Forty-three primary studies on infant health outcomes, 43 primary studies on maternal health outcomes, and 29 systematic reviews or metaanalyses that covered approximately 400 individual studies were included in this review.”

Since this study is about health outcomes in developed countries, the claims that breast is only best if you don’t have access to clean water or enough money to buy formula can be confidently refuted.

Here is a summary of the scientific facts determined about breastfeeding:

Benefits for baby:
There are a number of health benefits to the breastfed child, some of them are significant and others are less significant. For full term infants the benefits include:

Acute otitis media (middle ear infections): Babies that were ever breastfed had a 23 percent lower incidence of acute otitis media than exclusively formula fed babies.
Atopic dermatitis (type of eczema): In families with a history of atopy, exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3 months was found to have a 42 percent reduction in atopic dermatitis compared with breastfeeding for less than 3 months.
Gastrointestinal infections: Infants who were breastfeeding had a 64 percent reduction in the risk of non-specific gastroenteritis compared with infants who were not breastfeeding.
Lower respiratory tract diseases: There is a 72 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization due to lower respiratory tract diseases in infants less than 1 year of age who were exclusively breastfed for 4 months or more.
Asthma: Breastfeeding for at least 3 months was associated with a 27 percent reduction in the risk of asthma for those without a family history of asthma and a 40 percent reduction for those with a family history of asthma.
Type 1 Diabetes: Breastfeeding for at least 3 months results in between a 19 and 27 percent reduction in incidence of childhood Type 1 Diabetes compared with breastfeeding for less than 3 months (findings confirmed through multiple studies, but some cause for caution in interpreting results).
Type 2 Diabetes: Found a 39 percent reduction in risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life for people that were breastfed as infants (some cause for caution in interpreting results).
Childhood Leukemia: Breastfeeding for at least 6 months associated with 19 percent decrease in risk of childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia and a 15 percent decrease in the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): The meta-analysis found that breastfeeding was associated with a 36 percent reduction in the risk of SIDS compared to not breastfeeding. Another study completed since the meta-anlaysis was done found a 50 percent reduction in the risk of SIDS as a result of breastfeeding.

It turns out that IQ, obesity and risk of cardiovascular disease can’t be solely connected to breastfeeding, other factors seem to contribute.

Benefits for mom:
Let’s not forget that breastfeeding benefits the mother as well. Women that are having trouble breastfeeding and considering giving up should think about not only their child’s health, but also their own health and weigh the short-term issues they are having with breastfeeding against the longer term potential health benefits:

Maternal type 2 diabetes: In women with no history of gestational diabetes, each additional year of breastfeeding resulted in a 4 to 12 percent reduction in the risk of maternal type 2 diabetes (only nurses included in these studies though, so interpreting results for general population must be done with care).
Breast cancer: A reduction of risk of contracting breast cancer of 4.3 percent for each year of breastfeeding (one study) or 28 percent for 12 or more months of breastfeeding (another study).
Ovarian cancer: Breastfeeding results in a 21 percent decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer.

Weight-loss, osteoporosis and PPD haven’t been scientifically proven to be a benefit of breast-feeding.

There are some people who say there no or very few benefits to breastfeeding. After you consider the source, ask what information they have to back up that claim. If they reference Hanna Rosin’s “The Case Against Breastfeeding” then know that she only read a select few studies on breastfeeding, in particular those that would support her claim that perhaps the benefits were few and far between. Then point them to “Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries” and tell them to call you when they’re done with it and you talk.
(Source: PhD in Parenting)



I find it important to point out that not everyone can breastfeed. Sometimes the milk just doesn’t come in, at no fault of the mother. Medical issues can also interfere. I recommend all mothers struggling to nurse get plugged to a support group like La Leche League as well as contact a lactation consultant if things just aren’t improving. I heard from someone in our Attachment Parenting group that the lactation consultant she called came to the house and didn’t leave until things were going smoother. Also, never underestimate yourself or your drive to nurse. I have a friend who’s twins were in the NICU and had feeding tubes. This determined mama rented the best of all breast pumps and those babies got nothing but her milk through those tubes. Go mama!

And don’t forget, breastfeeding is cool!!


If you are having pain from nursing, as well as plugging in to a support group (this helps above all else in my opinion) check to see if your little one has a tongue tie or an upper lip tie. These are not automatically checked at the hospital or by a midwife. If you live in the Midwest, go to Dr. Margolis in Buffalo Grove, IL. He is one of two pediatric dentists in the country with Master Certification in laser dentistry. He fixed our second son’s upper lip tie and he was fantastic.