So, you’ve made it through the first 4-6 months of motherhood, congratulations! If you’re like any other first time mom, you can feel overwhelmed during the first 6 months with all the middle of the night feedings, messy diapers, lack of time you have for friends, family and spouse, the crazy “routine”, that isn’t really a routine at all and oh, the postpartum depression that so many of us go through. In addition to this, every time you turn around, someone or something is telling you what you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT do….ahhhhh!!
Now that your baby is about 6 months old, it’s time to introduce some nourishing food (depending on size and maturity of your infant) in addition to breast milk, or formula. The reason that babies NEED to start eating solids at about 6 months is because this is the time of life when baby starts to run out of iron, and neither breast milk, raw milk or formula (as it’s not easily assimilated and absorbed), will provide enough. When babies are born their digestive tracts are immature, so we want to be careful not to overload it too quickly. Every baby will have a different response to different foods and it’s important to take note of negative reactions. Signs of intolerance include redness around the mouth, fussiness, over-activity, skin rashes, not sleeping well, bloating and excessive gas and nasal or chest congestion. If your child experiences any of these reactions, try again in a few months.
Now, WHAT DO I FEED MY BABY? For most people reading this, you’re probably thinking rice cereal (me included up until I became a holistic nutritionist). Unfortunately, this is NOT the right answer…why you ask, well let’s back up here a minute and give you a little lesson on the GI system. We have many different enzymes that our bodies make, which are all needed to breakdown specific food groups, namely proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Lipase digests fats, protease digests proteins and amylase digests carbohydrates. Here’s the thing, because babies GI system is immature, it takes at least 16 months for the carbohydrate enzyme (amylase) to come on line. This is a huge problem when we are starting them on rice cereal, followed by wheat, barely, etc. Foods introduced in this way, with the absence of the right digestive enzyme to break it down, increases the likelihood of food allergies (particularly allergies to those foods introduced). If baby’s digestive tract is not well developed, large particles of food may be absorbed. If they reach the bloodstream, the immune system mounts a response that leads to an allergic reaction. Hmmm, interesting that the amount of people with food sensitivities has sky-rocketed over the past 30 years, with one of the most common being gluten (wheat, barely, rye). What babies DO have is the ability to produce pepsin and proteolytic enzymes and digestive juices (hydrochloric acid in the stomach), that work on proteins and lipase that work on fats. This makes complete sense since the milk from a healthy mother is about 50-60% fat, critical for growth and development. Therefore, a baby should be consuming animal foods as their first source of solid food, rather than carbohydrates, especially grains. Remember that the amount of milk greatly decreases as more solid foods are introduced.
Now let’s take a look at the specifics…
From about 4-6 months minimal foods are tolerated, but if you do introduce foods before 6 months it should be egg yolks, avocado or cod liver oil. Many books on feeding babies written decades ago recommended cod liver oil as it contains vitamins A and D, both critical for normal growth AND normal behavior.
From about 6-8 months, chicken, duck, beef, turkey and fish are highly recommended. Bone broth (from chicken, lamb, beef), fermented foods like kefir or yogurt, mashed fruits such as bananas, melon, avocado and mangoes. Cooked vegetables like zucchini, squash, carrots and beets served with butter or coconut oil. As well, cooked and pureed fruits like apples, pears, berries and apricots. Fruits and starchy carbohydrates are easily tolerated as they don’t need to be broken down as much as grains.
From about 8-12 months, continue to add variety and increase thickness and lumpiness into the foods. Homemade stews and soups are great options as are small amounts of dairy like cottage cheese, raw cheese and cream. Pickles and sauerkraut are great for increasing the “good” bacteria in the gut and finger foods like lightly steamed veggie sticks, avocado and tropical fruits.
Once babies are over 1 year of age, grains can slowly be introduced into the diet, preferably soaked and cooked to help the digestive system out. Babies love oats and most have no troubles digesting them at this age. Leafy greens (cooked) with butter, raw cucumbers and tomatoes and citrus fruits can now be introduced. Whole eggs, oysters and sardines are great for their developing brains. MILK CONSUMPTION SHOULD BE 16-20 OUNCES/DAY.
Foods to avoid…
Up to 6 months: raw, even cooked vegetables, which are difficult for the digestive system.
Up to 9 months: Citrus and tomato, which are common allergens.
Up to 1 year: Infants should not be given honey, instead use blackstrap molasses, which is high in iron and calcium, or maple syrup. Egg whites should be avoided in the first year due to their high allergenic potential. All grains should be withheld until baby reaches a year, and then introduced slowly and carefully prepared (soaked and cooked).
Try to avoid commercial dairy products, modern soy foods, margarine, fruit juices and reduced-fat or low-fat foods, extruded grains and all processed foods.
I speak a lot about the digestive system because it’s where ALL degenerative disease begins. If we can give our babies the right nutrition from the beginning, their chances of developing food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disease and cancer are greatly reduced.