Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I Delay Solids

I've always knew breastfeeding was best for a baby.  Growing up everyone I knew breastfed their baby.  I knew it was what I was going to do for my babies as well.  I think knowing that caused me to not read up on breastfeeding and learn the many, many benefits of it. 

With my first baby I delayed solid food until she was 7 1/2 months old.  My second was 7 months old.  This time around I would like to make it to at least 9 months and maybe even 12 months before giving him any solids. 

Why?  I did some reading and this is what I found out.

Food Allergies.  The longer a baby is only exposed to human milk he is avoiding foreign proteins that may cause an allergic reaction.   Babies are born with a very immature digestive system.  Giving them solids too early can make spitting up, constipation or diarrhea more common and also put a strain on their little systems.

Breastfed babies are hardly ever overweight and those that are is most often caused by the early introduction of solids (4-6 months).  They are less likely to get sick and when they are sick it is not as bad and doesn't last as long as non-breastfed babies.
Breast milk is 80% water.  As long as baby can nurse whenever he wants to and as long or short as he wants to there is no need to give anything else, even water.  This is the reason I do not schedule my babies.  I let them tell me when they are hungry.  Sometimes this means they only ate for 1-2 minutes.  Were they hungry then?  Maybe not, but they needed a little drink! 
A healthy infant is born with a store of iron that can last 6-12 months.  It is true that there is not much iron in breastmilk but the little there is, is absorbed at a rate of 49% compared to the 4% that is in formula and cereals.  Breastfed babies do not lose iron through their bowels formula fed babies do.

Breastmilk has many, many immune factors in it (some articles I read say 37 and others say 50+).  The greatest immunity a baby can get is when they are exclusively breastfed.  Once baby is exposed to anything other than breastmilk (even sugar water) 17 immunity factors are destroyed by the E. coli bacteria that are introduced into their gut, and can never be restored.

The digestive juice for carbohydrates, doesn't appear until  baby's 6-8th month, and hydrochloric acid - used to digest most protein - doesn't even appear in the stomach until the end of the seventh month and doesn't reach a peak until the eighteenth month. 
This is very interesting for me because I lack hydrochloric acid.  I was a formula fed baby and I have never been able to eat beef.  As a child when I was fed beef, I would throw it up soon after eating it.  Is there a connection?  I don't know.

I know that breastfeeding doesn't come easy for a lot of women and for some it is not possible.  I am thankful that I have been able to breastfeed all 3 of my children.  Sure we had a rough couple of weeks with the sore nipples and engorgement so bad that I could have fed a neighborhood of babies (yeah, were talking about so much milk that is was up to my neck and under my arms!).

But my biggest challenge came with this last baby.  Little did I know that he was born posterior  tongue-tied, but I didn't find this out until he was 7 almost 8 weeks old.  Due to this he was unable to latch on correctly and had a hard time staying latched. (I didn't understand why I was having a hard time, after all he was my 3rd baby and I had already spent 32 months of my life breastfeeding my other babies.)  So what happened?  You guessed it, he cracked my nipples pretty badly and viola, an entrance for bacteria to set up home.  The mastitis was so bad that it required 4 rounds of antibiotics and 1-24 hour hospital stay for IV abx. 
While I was on so many abx I struggled if I should keep breastfeeding or temporally switch to formula.  The abx really messed with my baby and it led to colic, reflux and digestive problems.  In the end I kept with the breastfeeding but gave him many probiotics. 

Now at almost 7 1/2 months old he is exclusively breastfed and by that I also mean no bottles.  I am his one and only food source.  It's the sweetest thing when my hungry baby starts looking for food in my neck!   It makes me feel so good to know I am feeding my baby how God planned it.  Yes, it does get hard night after night after night of being the one up to feed him, but this is my calling and it makes my happy :). 

Oh and did I mention that it uses more calories to make breastmilk than it does to grow a baby?!!  I need 3,500 calories a day.  This means I can eat what I want, when I want and as much as I want (ok - still within reason) - and at the same time I'm losing weight!!!  Can't beat that :)