The nutritional choices we make for our children in their first years of life will have an impact on their entire life. They will most likely stray when they become older, eating fast food and junk food, but the values and understanding you instill in them at a young age will be something they will come back to. Children need to understand what foods make them feel good and what foods don’t. They need to be educated so they can make choices for themselves, that are healthy and wise. It is irresponsible to feed a child junk food before they even understand what it is. They have a lifetime to make those choices for themselves. It is our job to give them the tools to make healthy choices, so they can live a happy and healthy life. I have given some basic guidelines to follow, based on my personal experiences and research by Sally Fallon and Weston A. Price Foundation. http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/nourishing-a-growing-baby – and Sally Fallon’s book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care are a must-read! www.nourishingtraditions.com
As children begin to eat solids, at about 6 months of age, here are some basic guidelines to follow:
Start with fresh vegetable juices diluted 1 part juice to 10 parts water. Gradually add steamed and smashed vegetables. Mashed sweet potatoes are an excellent choice for children under 2 and you can add such things as coconut oil, avocado, beans, and other good sources of nutrients. Puree meats for your child in small doses.
Egg yolks, rich in choline, cholesterol, and other brain-nourishing substances, can be added to your baby’s diet as early as four months, as long as your baby takes it easily. (If your baby reacts poorly to egg yolk at that age, discontinue and try again one month later.) Cholesterol is vital for the insulation of the nerves in the brain and the entire central nervous system. It helps with fat digestion, by increasing the formation of bile acids and is necessary for the production of many hormones. Since the brain is so dependent on cholesterol, it is especially vital during this time when brain growth is at hyper-speed. Choline is another critical nutrient for brain development. The traditional practice of feeding egg yolks early is confirmed by current research from Weston A. Price (2).
Why just the yolk? The white is the portion that most often causes allergic reactions, so wait to give egg whites until after your child turns one.
Rice cereal may not be the best choice to start with, as it causes constipation and grains may be hard for children under 2 to digest. Babies produce a very small amount of amylase during digestion, and this is needed for the digestion of all grains. If you do introduce whole grains before the age of 2, try millet and quinoa first. Wait as long as possible to introduce fruit, so your child does not develop a sweet tooth at a young age.
Never give your child soda!!!!! Drinking soda at a young age can result in kidney stones, muscle, bone, and/or digestive problems. Soda is poison in a can that will cause a lifetime of health issues.
Avoid processed foods and when possible, make your baby food. I froze my sons’ food in little cube containers and took them with me in a cooler. I started Jake with sweet potatoes mixed with coconut oil and butter and he loved it. Earth’s Best does make a good organic baby food, so when in doubt, go organic. Super baby food has some good recipes that you can make substitutions for if you are gluten or dairy-intolerant. http://www.superbabyfood.com/
As you introduce new foods to your baby, go slowly and be observant. Each person reacts differently to different foods, so pay attention to any abdominal bloating, gas, redness around the mouth; irritability, fussiness, over-activity and waking throughout the night; constipation and diarrhea; frequent regurgitation of foods; nasal and/or chest congestion; and red, chapped or inflamed eczema-like skin rash. Introduce new foods one at a time and continue to feed that same food for at least four days to rule out the possibility of a negative reaction. Be mindful of your little one’s still-developing digestive system. Babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. According to Weston A. Price, it takes up to 28 months, just around the time when molar teeth are fully developed, for the big-gun carbohydrate enzymes (namely amylase) to fully kick into gear. Foods like cereals, grains, and bread are very challenging for little ones to digest. Thus, these foods should be some of the last to be introduced.1
Don’t Fear Fats!
Pediatric clinicians have known for some time that children fed low-fat and low-cholesterol diets fail to grow properly. After all, a majority of mother’s milk is fat, much of it saturated fat. Children need high levels of fat throughout growth and development. Milk and animal fats give energy and also help children build muscle and bone. In addition, the animal fats provide vitamins A and D, necessary for protein and mineral assimilation, normal growth, and hormone production (2).
Choose a variety of foods so your child gets a range of fats, but emphasize stable saturated fats, found in butter, meat, and coconut oil, and monounsaturated fats, found in avocados and olive oil (2). See my blog on fat.
If your baby is very mature and seems hungry, he may be given mashed bananas during this period. Ripe banana is a great food for babies because it contains amylase enzymes to digest carbohydrates (2).
At Eight Months
Baby can now consume a variety of foods, including creamed vegetable soups, homemade stews, and dairy foods such as cottage cheese, mild harder raw cheese, cream, and custards. Hold off on grains until one year, with the possible exception of soaked and thoroughly cooked brown rice, which can be served earlier to very mature babies (2).
At One Year
Grains, nuts, and seeds should be the last food given to babies. This food category has the most potential for causing digestive disturbances or allergies. Babies do not produce the needed enzymes to handle cereals, especially gluten-containing grains like wheat, before the age of one year. Even then, it is a common traditional practice to soak grains in water and a little yogurt or buttermilk for up to 24 hours. This process jump-starts the enzymatic activity in the food and begins breaking down some of the harder-to-digest components. The easiest grains to digest are those without gluten, like brown rice. Be careful it is not given all the time as there is arsenic in rice. Millet is also a good alternative. When grains are introduced, they should be soaked for at least 24 hours and cooked with plenty of water for a long time. This will make a slightly sour, very thin porridge that can be mixed with other foods (2).
After one year, babies can be given nut butter made with crispy nuts (recipe in Nourishing Traditions), cooked leafy green vegetables, raw salad vegetables, citrus fruit, and whole egg.
Extra Feeding Baby Tid-Bits
How do you know when it’s time to add solids? Observe your baby’s signs. When infants are ready for solids, they start leaning forward at the sight of food and opening their mouths in a preparatory way. In addition, babies should be able to sit up and coordinate breathing with swallowing. Finally, infants will stop pushing their tongue out when a spoon or bit of food is placed in their mouth–a reflex common in infants that disappears at around four months of age.
Note: If your baby has a hard time getting milk from the breast or a bottle they could be tongue-tied. Here is a great website that talks about this issue. https://www.teamtonguetie.com/tongue-tie-info
Keep in mind, all babies are different and will not enjoy or tolerate the same foods or textures. Experiment by offering different foods with various textures. Remember, just because your baby doesn’t like a food the first time it is introduced, does not mean they will not like it the second time. Continue to offer the food, but never force it.
Baby’s food should be lightly seasoned with unrefined salt, but there is no need to add additional seasonings, such as herbs and spices in the beginning. However, by 10-12 months, your baby may enjoy a variety of natural seasonings.
To increase variety, take a small portion of the same food you are preparing for the rest of the grown-up family (before seasoning), or leftovers, and puree it for the baby (thin or thicken accordingly).
To gradually make food lumpier, puree half of the food, roughly mash the other half, and combine the two.
Frozen finger foods are a great way to soothe a baby’s teething pain, such as peaches or bananas placed in a baby strainer made by designs 2 u, figure 1.
These two resources are invaluable for Moms! Our babies start with such a clean slate in their guts and everything we put in their mouth can set them up for a healthy gut or a lifetime of digestive issues. Therefore, it is so important to pay attention to what we feed our babies from birth on.
1. Fallon, Sally – http://nourishingtraditions.com/bringing-baby-part-1/
2. Price, Weston A., Weston A. Price Foundation. – www.westonaprice.org