Real Food Series Part 2: Baby Food
The baby food stage is so short. Some parents worry that if their child does not have teeth, they cannot handle real food. New parents often fret about whether or not their baby is getting enough food, calories, and nutrition. My advice is to not worry so much about introducing baby food at four or five months. Kids may seem interested in food if you have them with you at the table, but they are usually happy to play with the spoon and practice socializing.
When my first son turned a few months old our pediatrician recommended introducing rice cereal. His suggestion was linked to iron supplementation. However, there were no blood tests taken or symptoms that would indicate anemia. After some research, I found that full term babies have sufficient iron stores to last at least the first six months. By 7 months, our son was eating several iron rich foods so we felt that it was unnecessary to worry about supplementation.
Some people claim that introducing cereal at 4 months helps babies sleep through the night, while others believe this provides their child practice for chewing and swallowing. While cereals are common first foods for many babies, they are not nutrient dense or traditional foods. The guidelines we followed for introducing foods to our two sons are outlined below. You may find them very different from the usual progression of solids.
Week 1: Bone Broth, Carrot, Cabbage, or Celery Pureed in Bone broth
Week 2: Gradually increase amounts from week 1. Add whey (from yogurt), kraut juice, cooked pureed veggies; carrot, squash, onion broccoli cauliflower, and mix with fats; coconut oil, ghee, unsalted butter.
Week 3: Add boiled meats with puree from weeks 1 and 2. Add whole milk yogurt, starting with ½ tsp
Week 4: Add raw egg yolk
Week 5: Cooked apple w/butter.
Week 6-7: Increase amounts of all foods
Weeks 8-9: Add fresh juices, raw veggies, avocado.
Weeks 10+: Cooked egg, raw apple, sourdough bread, salt in small quantities
The first 'food' we fed our son was a homemade chicken broth. It seems intuitive that this easily digestible food, recommended for sick people for centuries, would also be good for babies with immature digestive systems. Dr. Natasha Cambell-McBride has a brief section in her book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS diet), where she discusses the introduction of foods for babies. We followed a general GAPS guideline for introducing with broths and subsequent other foods. At ten months, our children ate small pieces of meat (grass fed beef and lamb, pastured chicken), pureed or cooked vegetables with butter, fruits, plain yogurt, some raw cheese, raw goat and cows milk, and some homemade sourdough bread. They were also receiving breast milk a few times a day.
Modern baby foods are almost always sweetened to make the veggies in them more appealing to babies. Adding animal fats and raw grass-fed butter to baby foods, home made or commercial, will make veggies more palatable and easily digestible. Milk and other dairy products are introduced later into a baby’s diet because their complex proteins are more difficult to breakdown. However unsalted butter is great for adding complexity to pureed veggies, and it is easily tolerated in small quantities. What is wrong with giving your child peas and pears as a first food? Or Carrots and apple puree? The sweet fruit flavors are predominant in all mixed jars and pouches. A child's palate is introduced only to sweet things, and they will continue to rely on sweet foods as they grow. This is a huge detriment that parents often don't consider. In a world that is filled with high fructose corn syrup it is essential to teach children the dangers of consuming too much sweet food.
Because everything is so sweet we don't prime our taste buds for sour things. But kids love sour things! Kombucha is a fermented tea that can be prepared at home or purchased in most health food store. Kids love the sour carbonated beverage, and it contains natural probiotics that are great for their young digestive systems. Sauerkraut is another sour food that my kids will eat without a fuss. The texture can be a turn off for some kids, but it’s worth a try alongside those hotdogs we often serve. Finally, find a brand of plain, whole milk, yogurt to serve your kids. Not, fat free. Yogurt has loads of natural sugars, and a sour flavor that is appealing to kids who are not reliant on sugar to sweeten all foods. Sour foods are essential for diversifying a child’s palate and breaking the reliance on sweet foods.
Yes, most of the first foods we prepared for our children were homemade. This may seem challenging or overwhelming, but it is probably easier and less time consuming than you may think. Make sure you choose fresh vegetables and you wash and prepare them as you would for yourself. Be wary about grinding your own meats, while this might be trendy, it is probably unnecessary. Because we introduced chicken broth first, we chose chicken as the first meat. But we were quick to introduce others as long as our boys could chew and swallow small pieces. Quality is more important than quality, so be very choosy about the ingredients you make your baby food with.
When you are preparing your own baby food make a few batches at once and freeze in ice cube trays. Remember that 1-2 cubes once a day is probably enough for your child. Remember that you are introducing foods to a child’s digestive system, and you don’t have to feed them until they are too full to continue eating. This best thing you can do is pay attention to their poop. You will know if your child is tolerating a new food by how smoothly things go for them, literally.
Baby food should be a transition period for your child toward eating real nutrient and dense foods in bites that they can manage. Homemade baby food is a way to offer nutritious wholesome foods to your baby, but the process and the preparation is not a ritual that I enjoy dragging on longer than necessary. Remember that there is a difference between a snack and a meal. This distinction should follow kids as they grow. Its okay to offer some apple sauce as a snack to hold kids over until meal time, but offer veggies and meats at meals whenever possible and avoid the sweet foods altogether if your child won’t eat the good stuff.
Eat well. Feed your child real food.
Thanks for reading! More from Caitlin at traditionalfoodsmodernlife.com