You’ve started to make the transition to Eating By Design for yourself, but what should be your baby’s first food to ensure they are also eating By Design?
GENERAL RULES FOR BABY’S FIRST FOOD
Babies should be chubby!
First, it’s crucial to understand that babies should be chubby. A good layer of body fat indicates a baby is well-nourished and is getting the nutrient’s she needs for proper development. Please don’t hold your baby to the same standard of leanness that you might hold yourself to. Babies need body fat to achieve optimum growth.
Fat and cholesterol are perfectly safe for your baby. Mother’s milk is 55% fat. The cholesterol in human milk has 6 times the amount the average adult consumes in food – and yet babies are free of heart disease. A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet is obviously what mother nature intended. Why? Because fat and cholesterol are essential for proper brain development.
Babies should be breast fed exclusively for the first 6 months.
Breast milk is nature’s perfect food for babies. Think about it: mother nature has had more than 2.5 million years to figure this one out. Breast milk contains the perfect mix of fat, protein and carbohydrate for the babies developing physiology. It contains protective substances that give your baby immunity to diseases. In the early stages of a baby’s life, breast milk meets all of her nutrient needs. No other foods or fluids – including water – are necessary. (Breast milk itself is 88% water, which more than satisfies an infant’s thirst).
*NOTE: If there is a physical reason why exclusive breastfeeding is not possible, or if pumping still does not provide enough breast milk, this homemade formula is a possible alternative.
A report called Infant and Young Child Feeding issued by the World Health Organization summarized research indicating that infants should be breasted exclusively for the first 6 months of their lives. Babies exclusively breastfed for 6 months have 8.6 times lower risk of diarrheal illness. A study from India found that deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia could be decreased by one-third if infants were exclusively (rather than partially) breastfed for the first 4 months. Sadly, only 35% of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life.
Breastfeeding also confers intermediate- and long-term benefits on both the child and the mother, including helping to protect children against a variety of acute and chronic disorders.
Infants not breastfed are between 6 and 10 times more likely not to survive the first months of life. Formula-fed infants also have increased risk of long-term diseases with an immunological basis, such as asthma, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and childhood leukemia. Other studies suggest the obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease are more common later in life in kids not breastfed, and that kids that are formula-fed on average have cognitive scores 3 points lower than those breastfed.
Breastfeeding should continue (with solid food) for at least two years.
In the same WHO report mentioned above, the authors recommended that breastfeeding continue along with the introduction of sold foods (i.e. “complementary feeding”) for at least 23 months (two years). This is the minimum period required to adequately nourish the growing baby. Some parents may wish to continue breastfeeding beyond this point.
At six months of age, the increased energy needs of the infant start to exceed the energy provided by breast milk, so that’s the time to begin to introduce foods. It is not okay to continue to breastfeed exclusively at this point. At the same time, breastfeeding should still continue on-demand throughout the complementary feeding period (up to 2 years of age). Breast milk continues to provide higher quality nutrients than complementary foods, and also protective factors that guard against childhood illness and reduce the risk of chronic diseases later in life.
The WHO recommends that breast milk provide at least 50 percent of calories for a child between 6 and 12 months of age, and one-third of calories between 12 and 24 months of age.
Breastfeeding should be frequent and on demand.
Another important principle is that breastfeeding should be unrestricted and on demand (as often as the child wants it) during the breastfeeding period. Milk production has been shown to be related to feeding frequency, and milk supply declines when feeding is infrequent. Research shows that when a mother breastfeeds early and often, an average of 9.9 times a day in the first two weeks, her milk production is greater, her infant gains more weight and she continues breastfeeding for a longer period.
The milk-ejection reflex operates most strongly in the presence of a good supply of milk, which normally occurs when feeding on baby’s cue (rather than a schedule artificially imposed by the parents). The most common causes of milk supply problems are not dietary, but infrequent feedings and/or poor latch-on positioning.
Foods should be introduced slowly and cautiously.
When the time comes to introduce new foods, it’s best to be observant and proceed carefully. Don’t rush. Your baby has a whole life ahead of him to enjoy a wide range of foods.
A baby’s digestive system is also immature and allows large particles of food to be absorbed. If these particles get into the bloodstream, they can cause an immune reaction (manifesting as asthma, food allergies, respiratory allergies, skin conditions, etc.).
Also, babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. It takes up to 28 months, around the time when the molar teeth are completely developed, before carbohydrate digesting enzymes like amylase are fully functional. Babies do produce pepsin and proteolytic enzymes, as well as digestive juices (hydrochloric acid) that allow them to digest protein and fat. (This explains why proteins and fats should always be the first foods introduced after six months.)
It’s crucial, then, to introduce new foods one at a time and continue to feed that food for at least 4 days to rule out the possibility of a negative reaction. Signs of intolerance to look for include bloating, gas, irritability, fussiness, over-activity, excessive waking, constipation or diarrhea, frequent spitting up, nasal or chest congestion and skin rashes.
Gradually increase food consistency as your baby grows.
The suitable consistency of food depends on your baby’s age and neuromuscular development. At 6 months your baby can eat pureed, mashed or semi-solid foods. When at 8 months she can eat finger foods. At 12 months, most children can eat the same types of food eaten by the rest of the family.
There is evidence of a critical window for introducing “lumpy” foods. Lumpy foods are foods that are not blended, pureed or mashed and contain some solid chunks in them. If introduction of lumpy foods is delayed beyond 10 months of age, the risk of feeding difficulties may be increased. This is why it’s important for optimal child development to gradually increase the solidity of food with age.
Meal frequency should also increase with age.
A breastfed infant between 6-8 months of age needs 2-3 solid food meals per day. A breastfed infant 9-23 months needs 3-4 solid food meals per day. Depending on the child’s appetite and activity level, 1-2 snacks may also be offered. It’s best to follow your baby’s lead here and allow his appetite to be your guide.
FOOD INTRODUCTION SCHEDULE
At 6 months the baby is ready to start eating solid foods. However, remember that her digestive system is still underdeveloped – especially with regard to breaking down carbohydrates.
An egg yolk per day is an excellent first food for a baby. Egg yolks supply choline and cholesterol, both of which are needed for mental development and proper hormone synthesis. 60% of the dry weight of the brain is fat, and one-quarter of the body’s free cholesterol is found in the nervous system. Cholesterol is crucial to synapse formation, which is essential to learning and memory, and it’s a critical component of cell membranes, which make up the structure of the brain. Cholesterol is also needed to activate serotonin receptors, which is why low cholesterol is associated with depression, suicide and violent behavior.
Choline also plays a significant role in brain development. It helps with the formation of neurons and the connections between those neurons that are so crucial in the first 4 years of life. Animal studies suggest choline improves auditory and visual memory, protects against neurotoxins and makes the nervous system more resilient.
It’s important to use eggs from pasture-raised (free-range) chickens. Why? Because their eggs are higher in the long-chain, omega-3 fatty acid called DHA which is an essential nutrient for the development of the brain and visual acuity.
And while egg yolks are excellent sources of nutrition for growing babies, the egg white should not be given before one year of age. The white contains difficult to digest proteins that your baby will not be able to easily break down, so feeding whites too soon can increase the risk of food allergies.
You can also use unrefined sea salt with the egg yolk to supply a variety of trace minerals.
Another nutrient-dense food to introduce at 6 months is fish oil. Yes, your grandmother knew something! Fish oil is rich in the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA which play an important role in brain development, preventing inflammation and ensuring the endocrine system functions properly.
Small amounts of grated, raw organic liver may also be added to the egg yolk at 6 months. This imitates the practice of African mothers who chew liver before giving it to their infants as their first food. Liver is rich in iron, the one mineral that tends to be low in mother’s milk (possibly because iron competes with zinc for absorption).
Remember, babies only produce a small amount of the enzymes needed to break down carbohydrates. The exception to this is lactase, the enzyme required to assimilate lactose, the sugar in mother’s milk. But other high carbohydrate foods like cereal grains should be strictly avoided at this point. In fact, I believe that cereal grains should be avoided in general by both children and adults because of their toxicity and their propensity to damage the digestive tract. This is especially true in babies whose digestive systems are still immature.
Another exception to the “no carbohydrates” guideline, aside from mother’s milk, is mashed banana. Bananas contain amylase, which is the enzyme we need to break down starch. Because of this, bananas are usually well-tolerated by babies at this stage.
If all of the above foods are well-tolerated, you can now move on to feeding your baby pureed meats. Most people don’t realize that meats are quite nutrient dense. In addition to easily digestible protein, they contain micronutrients like iron, zinc, B12 and vitamin E.
Fruits that are low in insoluble fiber can also be fed at this point. These include bananas, papayas, mangoes, and avocados. Insoluble fiber is indigestible by humans, and can be especially hard on your baby. This isn’t the time to feed your baby leafy green vegetables or fibrous fruits like blackberries.
Certain high-pectin fruits like peaches, apricots, apples, pears and cherries may also be fed at this stage, but they must be peeled and cooked first to reduce the amount of insoluble fiber they contain and to break down the pectin, which can be difficult for babies to digest.
At 8 months it’s time for bone-broth! Homemade bone-broth is rich in the amino acid glycine. This is important to balance methionine rich muscle meats and egg yolks. Glycine also helps with the development of the intestinal barrier. This is one of the keys to robust health and a strong immune system.
At this stage cooked vegetables that are low in insoluble fiber can be introduced. Remember, your baby’s intestinal tract is still sensitive and underdeveloped, so it’s important to proceed cautiously. Try one vegetable at a time and observe for reactions for 3-4 days before introducing the next one.
Carrots, sweet potatoes and beets are excellent first choices, and they should be well-steamed and mashed. It’s important to always include a liberal amount of fat when you feed vegetables. Fat soluble vitamins in fat are required to assimilate certain vitamins and minerals in the vegetables, so without adequate fat your baby won’t get the benefit of eating the veggies. Coconut oil is an especially good choice, since it doesn’t require bile acids for digestion and is usually well tolerated. Ghee, lard, beef tallow and duck fat are other good possibilities.
Raw dairy products may be introduced at 8 months. You must watch carefully for a reaction because many children are sensitive to them. I recommend starting with high-fat dairy like ghee, butter and cream. These are mostly fat and contain only small amounts of sugar (lactose) and protein (casein). These are the substances your baby is most likely to react to if she has a dairy sensitivity.
If high-fat dairy products are well-tolerated, the next step is to introduce fermented dairy products like kefir, yogurt and hard cheese. The process of fermentation reduces the levels of lactose. This generally makes fermented dairy products well-tolerated even amongst those who are lactose sensitive. Also, fermentation introduces probiotic bacteria that will help establish healthy gut flora in your baby. This is a key to lifelong health and protection against a variety of modern diseases.
At 10 months most meats, fruits and vegetables can be introduced in solid form. Always include fat with fruits and vegetables to help with nutrient assimilation. If your baby’s skin develops a yellowish or orangish color, that’s a sign he’s not making the conversion. So discontinue orange vegetables for a time.
At this stage nuts and seeds may be introduced. However, nuts and seed should be soaked overnight (and then dehydrated at 105 degrees F, or roasted at 150 degrees F) before consumption. Nuts and seeds can be difficult to digest unless they are prepared this way. They are the food category that has the greatest potential for causing digestive disturbances or allergies at this age.
I hope this helps you get your baby started on the right track with their food and their health!