Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Now they tell us

When my first child was born, I did everything per the book: rice mush at six months, followed by incrementally adding other bland and mushy foods. When my second child was born, I had a new pediatrician, who'd been practicing a gazillion years, and who scoffed at all the powdered and jarred food. "Just take whatever the family is eating," he said, "and mush it up." The result was that my second child grew up loving food; my first child had to be taught. By the way, I'm happy to say that both my children are now gourmands who will willingly try any food put in front of them. I attribute that to my "try it" rule -- the kids have always been required to try everything, which they faithfully do because I've promised that, if they try it and don't like it, they don't have to eat it. The result is that, after trying so many things, each has a very sophisticated palate. Why am I rambling on about all this? Because of this story:

Ditch the rice cereal and mashed peas, and make way for enchiladas, curry and even — gasp! — hot peppers. It's time to discard everything you think you know about feeding babies. It turns out most advice parents get about weaning infants onto solid foods — even from pediatricians — is more myth than science. That's right, rice cereal may not be the best first food. Peanut butter doesn't have to wait until after the first birthday. Offering fruits before vegetables won't breed a sweet tooth. And strong spices? Bring 'em on. 'There's a bunch of mythology out there about this,' says Dr. David Bergman, a Stanford University pediatrics professor. 'There's not much evidence to support any particular way of doing things.' *** Ethnic foods and spices are mostly ignored by the guidelines — cinnamon and avocados are about as exotic as it gets — and parents are warned off potential allergens such as nuts and seafood for at least a year. Yet experts say children over 6 months can handle most anything, with a few caveats: Be cautious if you have a family history of allergies; introduce one food at a time and watch for any problems; and make sure the food isn't a choking hazard. Parents elsewhere in the world certainly take a more freewheeling approach, often starting babies on heartier, more flavorful fare — from meats in African countries to fish and radishes in Japan and artichokes and tomatoes in France. *** Food allergy fears get some of the blame for the bland approach. For decades doctors have said the best way to prevent allergies is to limit infants to bland foods, avoiding seasonings, citrus, nuts and certain seafood. But Butte's review found no evidence that children without family histories of food allergies benefit from this. Others suspect avoiding certain foods or eating bland diets actually could make allergies more likely. Some exposure might be a good thing.
By the way, I never dribbled out potential allergy foods, but started my kids on them early and often -- and either by luck or science, my kids have no food allergies (that we know of). So next time you sit down to dinner with your little ones, bon appetit!