Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Baby feeding myths

A recent CNN article reports on the myths surrounding starting babies on solid food. While books are apparently filled with advice on the topic, and pediatricians strongly advocate specific plans, it sounds like virtually none of the advice is based on experimental studies.
Most parents are told to start rice cereal at 6 months, then slowly progress to simple vegetables, mild fruits and finally pasta and meat.

Ethnic foods and spices are mostly ignored by the guidelines -- cinnamon and avocados are about as exotic as it gets -- and parents are warned of potential allergens such as nuts and seafood for at least a year.


In a review of the research, Nancy Butte, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, found that many strongly held assumptions -- such as the need to offer foods in a particular order or to delay allergenic foods -- have little scientific basis.

Take rice cereal, for example. Under conventional American wisdom, it's the best first food. But Butte says iron-rich meat -- often one of the last foods American parents introduce -- would be a better choice.
It's a good example of the need to look for the experimental basis of information people give you, even if the information comes from your doctor (or any supposed expert).

Of course, the article falls into the trap of the people it's criticizing, and fails to cite research itself; instead the article only includes quotes from experts, extraordinarily brief summaries of non-cited studies, and a few anecdotes.

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