Solid food introduction is a very exciting time – for You and for Baby.
It’s also a common time for Mamas to notice a change in Baby’s digestion.
We often expect the change in poop – consistency (thicker!), colour and content (hello tiny food chunks!) – delightful! What we don’t expect is the slowing of the digestive tract that often begins too. It shows up as gas, fussing and sluggish bowel movements – days or even weeks without a poop.
This is very common response from the digestive tract.
For exclusively breastfed babies, their digestive system development has been supported by several components of the breast milk – it’s ease of digestibility, gut and immune system nourishing nutrients and natural digestive enzymes.
When little bodies are introduced to solid foods,
the slowing of digestion can be a sign of:
1. The newness of a solid food to the system. It’s the body’s way of saying ‘wow, this is new, how do I best deal with it?’.
2. The complexity of the solid food, in comparison to breast milk. Your baby’s digestive system has a lot more work to do to fully digest solid foods.
3. Incomplete readiness for solid foods. Sometimes, even with following the standard guidelines for baby’s readiness (baby can sit up well without support, baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue, baby is ready and willing to chew…), their little digestive systems aren’t quite ready around that 6 month mark. This is most prevalent for complex carbohydrates, in highest concentration in grains. Our bodies don’t efficiently produce amylase, the enzyme that digests carbohydrates, until we’re 12 months old.
4. A food intolerance reaction. Often we relate food intolerance reactions to diarrhea. Constipation, gas, bloating and cramping are other digestive symptoms of a food related irritation. Outside of the digestive tract, intolerances commonly show up in children through their skin (eczema, rashes…), nervous system (sleep, behaviour, mood…) and immune system (frequent, recurrent ear infections…).
If you’re noticing Baby’s digestion has changed since starting solids, here are a few things you can start with:
- Remember – food is mostly for ‘fun’ before age one. Most of Baby’s nutrition still comes from breast milk (and/or formula) until 12 months of age. The goal of those first months of solid foods is experimentation, as Baby begins exploring new smells, sights, tastes and textures at mealtime, along with introduction of additional sources of iron, zinc & B12, beyond what’s in milk feeds.
- Before 12 months of age, always offer breast milk before solids. It’s what Baby’s body knows and it’s packed with nutrients and digestive enzymes – among many other health promoting factors. (Here’s some great info about the ingredients in breast milk.) The digestive enzymes in your breast milk help Baby digest solid foods. In fact, some research has found that the amylase in breast milk helps breast fed children better tolerate grains.
- Press pause with the grains. Explore introducing other foods first – vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, lentils. Iron fortified cereals have been recommended as first foods for many years. This recommendation coincided with the rise in formula feeding, as a full term infant’s iron stores (from growth in utero) are generally depleted around six months of age and the absorption of iron from formula is much lower than from breast milk (more details here). Other iron rich foods include meats, eggs & lentils. Bottom line: baby cereals are not necessary.
- Take a solid food holiday. As mentioned above, most of baby’s nutrients before 12 months of age still come from breast milk (and/or formula). If you’re noticing Baby’s belly is distressed, take a break from solids (or from the solid food introduced when digestion changed!) for a few days, to give Baby’s digestion a break.
- Try adding flax slurry to a little applesauce or smoothie. Combine 1/4 cup whole flax seeds with 2 cups filtered water, in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low & simmer of 10 minutes, adding more water if needed, as liquid thickens. Over a bowl, pour contents of saucepan through a fine sieve, removing flaxseeds to discard in compost & saving the thicken liquid/slurry. Add 1 Tbsp of slurry to a little applesauce or smoothie & offer to Baby twice daily.
- Call to book an appointment to chat about your concerns further and for an individualized assessment and treatment plan for your little one – (506) 382-1560.