With cold season upon us, parents are reviewing their folk wisdom and trading elaborate — if unscientific — protocols for reintroducing solid foods to tender tummies. Have you heard of the lollipop and apple plan? If so, your friends may be giving you a tad too much information.
The bottom line, according to Dr. Bill Cotton, medical director of the primary care network at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is actually pretty simple: "If the kid's hungry and he'll eat it and it's his normal food, he probably should go ahead and eat it."
If a young child has bad vomiting or diarrhea, you may have to try simpler foods or blander foods, such as plain toast, crackers, apple sauce and chicken soup, Cotton said.
Fatty foods and greasy foods are a little harder to digest, Cotton said, so that may be a consideration. For example, "milk can be a little hard to digest, so you may want to stay with clear liquids for a day or so," he said. But milk is an important source of calories for younger kids, so don't ban it for too long.
Similarly, electrolyte rehydration drinks such as Pedialyte can be helpful if a child is vomiting a lot, but infants shouldn't be on Pedialyte alone for more than 24 hours. Older children can go a little longer, but you should still try to get them back on liquids or foods with higher levels of nutrition, Cotton said.
And what if your little one won't eat a thing? After the infant-toddler stage, kids don't necessarily need to eat for several days if they're not hungry, Cotton said. "If they drink during that time period, that's fine."
So why do parents continue to trade food rules so complex they would trip up your average air traffic controller?
"Some of it, I think, is to give the parent something to do," Cotton said. "As a physician, I can tell somebody to (keep it simple). But if it's your first child and you've never dealt with somebody that's vomiting every 30 minutes, it's a little bit harder.
"The bottom line is what the child looks like. As long as they're still making a reasonable amount of urine output and they don't look too sick, you're probably fine."