Friday, 8 October 2010

Not quite ready yet

I still don't think Ben is truly ready for solids. I gave him a few pieces of carrot to play with, one dinner time this week, and play with them was all he did. Another day, responding to his frustrated cries, I gave him a crust of bread to chew on. He loved shoving it in his mouth and sucking and chewing on it, but much like he does with his other toys. Then a bit of the crust must have come off and he started to choke. One of the developmental changes in babies which is behind the recommendation to wait till six months is the development of the tongue and jaw which allows babies to manoeuvre the food in their mouth and push it to the back of their mouth and swallow it. I am also keen to wait till he is six months - another week to go.

Of course a baby does not go from unable to take solids at 5 weeks and 6 days to being ready the day later. For over eight years the UK government has recommended solids are not started till 6 months. This unambigious time is used not to confuse us poor ordinary citizens. The World Health Organisation, however, has more faith in parents. Their guidelines, which are adopted by the UK, are that no solids should be given to a baby before four months, that a baby gets sufficient nutrition from being given breastmilk exclusively till 6 months (and this also affords the baby time to develop better immunity from bacteria which may be present in sold food), but that parents should be looking for the signs of readiness for solid food in their own baby.

Signs that your baby is ready:
- sit up on their own
- watch you eat, following the food with their eyes
- reaches and grabs at food on your plate
- chews their toys
- does not stick their tongue out when you put an object, such as a spoon to their mouth.

These show that the baby has made the physiological changes that allow them to eat and digest solid food (not simply liquid with food in). These changes include development of the jaw and tongue (so the baby can chew the food and manoeuvre it to the back of the tongue), and of the digestive system. It has been suggested by research that too early introduction of solids increases a baby's chance of developing allergies. Another element of the recommendation to wait till 6 months is that the baby's immune system is more developed as there is the possibility of bacteria being present in the food or on the utensils. (This is why if you are giving your baby food before six months then you are recommended to sterilise the bowls and spoons.)

Well Ben is certainly watching and grabbing at my food, but he is not sitting up on his own and he is still sticking out his tongue (well he was the last time I tested this, last week). So we wait...

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