Monday, August 6, 2012

Cereal in the Bottle?

I starting hearing about parents putting cereal in their baby's bottle so they can sleep longer through the night.  I don't plan on giving the baby a bottle of anything for a few more weeks to make sure breastfeeding is firmly established.  However, since I am up every 2 hours to nurse, I decided to do a little research to determine if this has been proven to work.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does NOT recommend giving cereal in the bottle until a baby's digestive tract is ready to process solid foods at around 4-6 months of age.  At that time, they should get the cereal from a spoon and not from a bottle.

Prematurely adding cereal to the bottle can cause the baby to aspirate (inhale into their lungs) the cereal and it can also activate any allergies a baby may have.  I have also written a blog post about breastfeeding and foods to avoid which touches on the American Academy of Pediatrics position of no solids before the age of 4 months.  If you're breastfeeding, it should be done exclusively (without solids or formula) for at least 3 months to protect against wheezing early in life.  If you are using formula, then there is evidence that extensively hydrolyzed formula without cereal is best for the prevention of atopic disease (allergic disease).   Adding cereal to the bottle may cause a baby to "overfeed."  "Putting cereal in the bottle is considered by some to be a form of force-feeding that can cause babies to “overdose” on calories."

I don't believe with a lot of things Dr. Sears has to say but he does break it down in an easy to understand manner why you should not feed your baby solids before 4 months.  Aside from the issues mentioned above, he gives an excellent description of the tongue-thrust reflex.  "In the first four months the tongue thrust reflex protects the infant against choking. When any unusual substance is placed on the tongue, it automatically protrudes outward rather than back. Between four and six months this reflex gradually diminishes, giving the glob of cereal a fighting chance of making it from the tongue to the tummy."  My mom fed me solids when I was 2 months old.  She took pictures and at the time said that is what the doctor told her.  You can clearly see that my tongue-thrust reflex was in action at that age.

This is another great post from a pediatrician who advises against cereal in the bottle because of the issues with overfeeding that this may cause.  "A major study looking for the causes of obesity found that short-circuiting young children’s self-regulation of how much they eat is a major cause of later obesity."   "Cereal in the bottle does just that.  Babies that are fed this way may appear to be unaffected – but those few weeks of added convenience may result in a lifetime of struggles with weight. This common practice may have contributed to our being the most obese generation in history.  And it doesn’t even work. Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic studied the effect of cereal on sleep and found that adding the cereal did nothing at all to speed up the age of sleeping through the night. That first uninterrupted 6-hour stretch of sleep came no earlier in those who took cereal early."

After reading more about the issue, I think putting cereal in the bottle is one thing I will not be doing to my baby in the hopes of making him sleep longer during the night.

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