|Nourishing a Growing Baby|
|Written by Jen Allbritton, CN|
|Wednesday, 19 October 2005 20:44|
A Growing Wise Kids Column
Food is what nourishes the body and makes us healthy and strong--especially when one's weight hovers around 20 pounds! Infant nutrition is critical for ensuring proper development, maximizing learning capacities and preventing illness. At no other time in life is nutrition so important. But which foods are best? The research clearly points in the direction of Weston A. Price Foundation principles.
Breast or Bottle
Numerous studies support the benefits of breastfeeding. For example, breastfed babies tend to be more robust, intelligent and free of allergies and other complaints like intestinal difficulties.1 Other studies have shown that breastfed infants have reduced rates of respiratory illnesses and ear infections.2,3 Some researchers believe breastfed infants have greater academic potential than formula-fed infants, which is thought to be due to the fatty acid DHA found in mother's milk and not in most US formulas.4
However, other studies show the opposite. In 2001, a study found breastfed children had more asthma than bottle-fed.5 A Swedish study found that breastfed infants were just as likely to develop childhood ear infections6 and childhood cancer as formula-fed babies.7
So, what is best for baby? It comes down to nutrition! Hands down, healthy breast milk is perfectly designed for baby's physical and mental development, but this is only true when mom supplies her body with the right nutrients.
The typical modern diet is filled with products based on sugar, white flour, additives and commercial fats and oils, which do not nourish and build. The proper nutrients are necessary to create breast milk that will provide all a growing baby needs. These include good quality proteins from foods such as grass-fed meats and organ meats, good quality fats from butter, coconut oil, olive oil, cod liver oil and egg yolks, as well as complex carbohydrate-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains and legumes--think whole food, natural and seasonal, with a big emphasis on healthy fat.
Bottom line, in a perfect world, with perfect nutrition, every woman would breastfeed. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. What about low milk supply, an unwell mother or adoption? Luckily, it is possible to make a wholesome whole food baby formula. (See FAQs on Homemade Baby Formula.)
After (or With) the Breast or Bottle
Ideally, breastfeeding should be maintained for a year, with a goal of six months for working mothers. The first year of life requires a full spectrum of nutrients, including fats, protein, cholesterol, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Once breast milk is no longer the sole source of these nutrients, where should one go?
There are three concepts to keep in mind. First, make your little one a "whole foods baby"! Avoid processed and refined foods as much as possible, including many brands of baby food; they are usually devoid of nutrients and have added "undesirables." It is always best to make your own baby food from organic, whole foods. (You can freeze it in one-serving sizes for later use.) Better-quality, additive-free, prepared brands of baby food, like Earth's Best, do exist, but it is still better to make your own baby food to be assured of the quality--plus making baby food puts mom on the right track for home food preparation for the years to come.
Second, go slowly and be observant; every baby will have an individual response to different foods. 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. Signs of intolerance include redness around the mouth; abdominal bloating, gas and distention; irritability, fussiness, over-activity and awaking throughout the night; constipation and diarrhea; frequent regurgitation of foods; nasal and/or chest congestion; and red, chapped or inflamed eczema-like skin rash.8
Finally, respect the tiny, still-developing digestive system of your infant. Babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. In fact, 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 breads are very challenging for little ones to digest. Thus, these foods should be some of the last to be introduced. (One carbohydrate enzyme a baby's small intestine does produce is lactase, for the digestion of lactose in milk.1)
Foods introduced too early can cause digestive troubles and increase the likelihood of allergies (particularly to those foods introduced). The baby's immature digestive system allows large particles of food to be absorbed. If these particles reach the bloodstream, the immune system mounts a response that leads to an allergic reaction. Six months is the typical age when solids should be introduced,9,10,11 however, there are a few exceptions.
Babies do produce functional enzymes (pepsin and proteolytic enzymes) and digestive juices (hydrochloric acid in the stomach) that work on proteins and fats.12 This makes perfect sense since the milk from a healthy mother has 50-60 percent of its energy as fat, which is critical for growth, energy and development.13 In addition, the cholesterol in human milk supplies an infant with close to six times the amount most adults consume from food.13 In some cultures, a new mother is encouraged to eat six to ten eggs a day and almost ten ounces of chicken and pork for at least a month after birth. This fat-rich diet ensures her breast milk will contain adequate healthy fats.14
Thus, a baby's earliest solid foods should be mostly animal foods since his digestive system, although immature, is better equipped to supply enzymes for digestion of fats and proteins rather than carbohydrates.1 This explains why current research is pointing to meat (including nutrient-dense organ meat) as being a nourishing early weaning food.
Is Cereal the Best First Food?
Remember, the amount of breast milk and/or formula decreases when solid foods are introduced. This decrease may open the door for insufficiencies in a number of nutrients critical for baby's normal growth and development. The nutrients that are often in short supply when weaning begins include protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins. One food group that has these nutrients in ample amounts is meat.
Unfortunately, cereal is the most often recommended early weaning food. A recent Swedish study suggests that when infants are given substantial amounts of cereal, they may suffer from low concentrations of zinc and reduced calcium absorption.15
In the US, Dr. Nancy Krebs headed up a large infant growth study that found breastfed infants who received purÃ©ed or strained meat as a primary weaning food beginning at four to five months grew at a slightly faster rate. Kreb's study suggests that inadequate protein or zinc from common first foods may limit the growth of some breastfed infants during the weaning period. More importantly, both protein and zinc levels were consistently higher in the diets of the infants who received meat.16 Thus, the custom of providing large amounts of cereals and excluding meats before seven months of age may short-change the nutritional requirements of the infant.17
Meat is also an excellent source of iron. Heme iron (the form of iron found in meat) is better absorbed than iron from plant sources (non-heme). Additionally, the protein in meat helps the baby more easily absorb iron from other foods.18 Two recent studies19,20 have examined iron status in breastfed infants who received meat earlier in the weaning period. While researchers found no measurable change in breastfed babies' iron stores when they received an increased amount of meat, the levels of hemoglobin (iron-containing cells) circulating in the bloodstream did increase. Meat also contains a much greater amount of zinc than cereals, which means more is absorbed.21 These studies confirm the practices of traditional peoples, who gave meat--usually liver--as the first weaning food. Furthermore, the incidence of allergic reactions to meat is minimal and lower still when purÃ©ed varieties are used.17,22,23,24
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.1 In addition, the animal fats provide vitamins A and D necessary for protein and mineral assimilation, normal growth and hormone production.27
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.
Foods to Introduce
Egg yolks, rich in choline, cholesterol and other brain-nourishing substances, can be added to your baby's diet as early as four months,1 as long as baby takes it easily. (If 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 in hyper-speed.25 Choline is another critical nutrient for brain development. The traditional practice of feeding egg yolks early is confirmed by current research. A study published in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the nutritional effects of feeding weaning infants 6-12 months of age regular egg yolks, enriched egg yolks, and an otherwise normal diet. The researchers found that both breastfed and formula-fed infants who consumed the egg yolks had improved iron levels when compared with the infants who did not. In addition, those infants who got the egg yolks enriched with extra fatty acids had 30 percent to 40 percent greater DHA levels than those fed regular egg yolks. No significant effect on blood cholesterol levels was seen.26
Thus, the best choice for baby is yolks from pasture-fed hens raised on flax meal, fish meal, or insects since they will contain higher levels of DHA. 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.1,11
Don't neglect to put a pinch of salt on the egg yolk. While many books warn against giving salt to babies, salt is actually critical for digestion as well as for brain development. Use unrefined salt to supply a variety of trace minerals.
Around four months is a good time to start offering cod liver oil, which is an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (also important for brain develoment) as well as vitamins A and D. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil or 1/2 teaspoon regular dose cod liver oil, doubling the amount at 8 months.12 Use an eye dropper at first; later baby can take cod liver oil mixed with a little water or fresh orange juice.
If baby is very mature and seems hungry, he may be given mashed banana during this period. Ripe banana is a great food for babies because it contains amylase enzymes to digest carbohydrates.1
At Six Months
PurÃ©ed meats can be given at six months (or even earlier if baby is very mature). Meats will help ensure adequate intake of iron, zinc, and protein with the decrease in breast milk and formula.17
A variety of fruits can be introduced at this time. Avocado, melon, mangoes and papaya can be mashed and given raw. High-pectin fruits such as peaches, apricots, apples, pears, cherries and berries should be cooked to break down the pectin, which can be very irritating to the digestive tract.
As time goes by, move up in complexity with food and texture. At about six to eight months, vegetables may be introduced, one at a time so that any adverse reactions may be observed. Carrots, sweet potatoes and beets are excellent first choices. All vegetables should be cooked (steamed preferably), mashed and mixed with a liberal amount of fat, such as butter or coconut oil, to provide nutrients to aid in digestion.
Early introduction to different tastes is always a good plan to prevent finickiness. Feed your little one a touch of buttermilk, yogurt or kefir from time to time to familiarize them with the sour taste. Lacto-fermented roots, like sweet potato or taro, are another excellent food for babies to add at this time.1
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 babies who are very mature.
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.1 The easiest grains to digest are those without gluten like brown rice. 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.29
After one year, babies can be given nut butters 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
Just Say No
One important warning: do not give your child juice, which contains too much simple sugar and may ruin a child's appetite for the more nourishing food choices. Soy foods, margarine and shortening, and commercial dairy products (especially ultra-pasteurized) should also be avoided, as well as any products that are reduced-fat or low-fat.
By the way, baby fat is a good thing; babies need those extra folds for all the miraculous development their bodies are experiencing. Chubby babies grow up into slim, muscular adults.
Common sense prevails when looking at foods that best nourish infant's. A breastfeeding mother naturally produces the needed nutrition when she consumes the necessary nutrients. The composition of healthy breast milk gives us a blueprint for an infants needs from there on out. Finally, be an example. Although you won't be able to control what goes into your child's mouth forever, you can set the example by your own excellent food choices and vibrant health.
Egg Yolk (4 months +)
Boil an egg for three to four minutes (longer at higher altitudes), peel away the shell, discard the white and mash up yolk with a little unrefined sea salt. (The yolk should be soft and warm, not runny.) Small amounts of grated, raw organic liver (which has been frozen 14 days) may be added to the egg yolk after 6 months. Some mothers report their babies actually prefer the yolk with the liver. From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Pureed Meats (6 months +)
Cook meat gently in filtered water or homemade stock until completely tender, or use meat from stews, etc., that you have made for your family. Make sure the cooked meat is cold and is in no bigger than 1-2 inch chunks when you puree. Grind up the meat first until it's almost like a clumpy powder. Then add water, formula or breast milk, or the natural cooking juices as the liquid.
Baby Pate (6 months +)
Place 1/4 pound organic chicken livers and 1/4 cup broth or filtered water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for eight minutes. Pour into a blender (liver and liquid) with 1-2 teaspoons butter and a pinch of seasalt and blend to desired consistency.
Vegetable Puree (6 months +)
Use squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots or beets. Cut vegetables in half, scoop out seeds from squash and bake in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, or steam them (in the case of carrots and beets) for 20 to 25 minutes. Mix in butter when purÃ©eing. You can cook these vegetables for your own dinner and purÃ©e a small portion in a blender or food mill for your baby. From Natural Baby Care by Mindy Pennybacker.
Fruit Sauce (6 months +)
Use fresh or frozen peaches, nectarines, apples, blueberries, cherries, pears, berries or a combination. Note: Whenever possible, use organic fruit, and peel the fruit if it is not organic. Cut fruit and put in a saucepan with 1 cup filtered water for every 1/2 cup of fruit. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer about 15 minutes or until the fruit is cooked. PurÃ©e the mixture in a blender or food mill and strain if necessary. Don't add sugar or spices but you can stir in a little butter or cream. From Natural Baby Care by Mindy Pennybacker.
Dried Apricot Puree (6 months +)
Bring 2 cups filtered water to a boil with 1 pound unsulphured dried apricots and simmer for 15 minutes. Reserve any leftover liquid to use for the puree. Puree, adding the reserved liquid as necessary to achieve a smooth, thin puree. May be blended with some butter.
Fermented Sweet Potato (6 months +)
Poke a few holes in 2 pounds sweet potatoes and bake in an oven at 300 degrees for about 2 hours or until soft. Peel and mash withÂ 1 teaspoon seasalt and 4 tablespoons whey. Place in a bowl, cover, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Baby Custard (6 months +)
Mix 1 cup raw milk or whole coconut milk, 1 cup raw cream, 6 egg yolks, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of stevia powder. Pour into buttered ramekin dishes. Place ramekins into a Pyrex dish filled part-way with water. Preheat oven to 310 degrees and cook for about 1 hour.
Smoothie for Baby(8 months +)
Blend 1 cup whole yoghurt with 1/2 banana or 1/2 cup purÃ©ed fruit, 1 raw egg yolk (from an organic or pastured chicken) and a pinch of stevia.
Coconut Fish Pate (8 months +)
Place 1 cup leftover cooked fish, 1/4 teaspoon seasalt, 1/4 teaspoon fresh lime juice in a food processor and process with a few pulses. Add 1/2-1 cup coconut cream or whole coconut milk to obtain desired consistency.
Cereal Gruel for Baby (1 year +)
Mix 1/2 cup freshly ground organic flour of spelt, KamutÂ® , rye, barley or oats with 2 cups warm filtered water mixture plus 2 tablespoons yoghurt, kefir or buttermilk. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with cream or butter and small amount of a natural sweetener, such as raw honey. From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Salmon and Rice Mousse (1 year +)
Heat 2 cups chicken broth to a slow boil and add 1/4 cup soaked brown rice. Lower the heat, cover tightly, and let cook for 30 minutes or until it is almost done. Wash 3 ounces salmon thoroughly and remove all bones carefully. Add the salmon to the rice, cover, and let it poach for 10 minutes or until done all the way through. Allow the salmon and rice to cool enough that it can be purÃ©ed safely in the blender or food processor. If it is too thick, add just enough water to obtain the consistency you want. Season with a little seasalt.Serve with a purÃ©ed vegetable. From The Crazy Makers by Carol Simontacchi.
Crispy Nut Butter (1 year +)
PurÃ©e equal amounts of crispy nuts, raw honey and coconut oil. Add salt to taste. Serve at room temperature. From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Foods By Age
Minimal solid foods as tolerated by baby
Egg yolk--if tolerated, preferably from pastured chickens, lightly boiled and salted
Banana--mashed, for babies who are very mature and seem hungry
Cod liver oil-- 1/4 teaspoon high vitamin or 1/2 teaspoon regular, given with an eye dropper
Organic liver--grated frozen and added to egg yolk
Pureed meats--lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, liver and fish
Soup broth--(chicken, beef, lamb, fish) added to pureed meats and vegetables, or offered as a drink
Fermented foods--small amounts of yoghurt, kefir, sweet potato, taro, if desired
Raw mashed fruits--banana, melon, mangoes, papaya, avocado
Cooked, pureed fruits--organic apricot, peaches, pears, apples, cherries, berries
Cooked vegetables--zucchini, squash, sweet potato, carrots, beets, with butter or coconut oil
Continue to add variety and increase thickness and lumpiness of the foods already given from 4-8 months
Creamed vegetable soups
Homemade stews--all ingredinets cut small or mashed
Dairy--cottage cheese, mild harder raw cheese, cream, custards
Finger foods--when baby can grab and adequately chew, such as lightly steamed veggie sticks, mild cheese, avocado chunks, pieces of banana
Cod liver oil--increase to 1/2 teaspoon high vitamin or 1 teaspooon regular dose
Over 1 Year
Grains and legumes--properly soaked and cooked
Crispy nut butters--see recipes in Nourishing Traditions
Leafy green vegetables--cooked, with butter
Raw salad vegetables--cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.
Citrus fruit--fresh, organic
Foods to avoid28
Up to 6 months: Certain foods, such as spinach, celery, lettuce, radishes, beets, turnips and collard greens, may contain excessive nitrate, which can be converted into nitrite (an undesirable substance) in the stomach. Leafy green vegetables are best avoided until 1 year. When cooking vegetables that may contain these substances, do not use the water they were cooked in to purÃ©e.
Up to 9 months: Citrus and tomato, which are common allergens.
Up to 1 year: Because infants do not produce strong enough stomach acid to deactivate potential spores, infants should refrain from eating honey.1 Use blackstrap molasses, which is high in iron and calcium. Egg whites should also be avoided up to one year due to their high allergenic potential.
ALWAYS: Commercial dairy products (especially ultra-pasteurized), modern soy foods, margarines and shortening, fruit juices, reduced-fat or low-fat foods, extruded grains and all processed foods.
Making Homemade Baby Food
Making homemade baby food may not be as easy as opening a can, but once you have organized a cook-and-freeze routine, it is a snap. This gives you the control over food choices and cooking methods, and allows you to avoid synthetic preservatives. With careful preparation, you will maximize the nutrient and enzyme content of your baby's food. This will make for easier digestion and better overall nutrition. One timesaving method is to cook and purÃ©e a selection of fruits, vegetables, and meats in adult quantities, and freeze them in glass custard dishes or porcelain ramekins, or just clumps on a baking sheet. These cubes can be placed in freezer bags, labeled and sealed, available for quick thawing and reheating. Thawing in the refrigerator is the most nutrient-saving method. Simply place a covered dish containing food cubes in the fridge; they will thaw in three to four hours. It only takes one to two hours at room temperature. When on the go, put the cubes in a glass container and add hot water or place the container in hot water to thaw.
Little attention is necessary to seasoning baby foods, but texture is important. Besides the basic taste, the smoothness or thickness of a food concerns baby most. To thin purÃ©es, use milk or formula. PurÃ©ed potatoes, winter squash, bananas, carrots, yogurt, nut or seed paste, and peas make great thickeners.
The only special equipment you need is a food processor, blender or a baby food mill and a simple metal collapsible steamer basket. Don't forget the unbreakable bowls, baby spoons, and bibs. Two-handed weighted cups for drinking lessons are also a must.
How much at each meal?
With the rough outline below, one food portion is equal to approximately one tablespoon, depending on the type of ice cube or other food trays you may be using for freezing baby food.Â Start out slowly. Prepare a teaspoon-sized portion of whatever food you have chosen to begin with. Your baby will most likely only eat half of that small portion for the first few attempts with solids. Ultimately, baby will tell you how much he should eat. Your main concern should be making what he does eat as nutritious as possible. As your baby becomes accustomed to eating solids, you can gradually increase the portion size. Once you have ruled out sensitivities/allergies to different foods, be sure to rotate the acceptable foods in the diet--meaning, try to avoid having the same food day in and day out. The following are guidelines for 6-8 months:
Portions increase for 8-10 months:
Remember, not all babies will be eating the same amounts or foods. This portion outline is just an example. Some infants are not ready to eat 3 "meals" per day until well into the 9-10 month range. You should use the above information as a guide only and keep to your infant's development and eating habits as well as your pediatrician's advice.30
Not a Good Idea for Babies! (Or Their Parents or Brothers and Sisters Either!)
Almond Breeze Vanilla (Almond Milk): Purified water, evaporated cane juice, almonds, tricalcium phosphate, natural vanilla flavor and other natural flavors, sea salt, potassium citrate, carrageenan, soy lecithin, d-alpha tocopherol (natural vitamin E), vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2
Rice Dream "Heartwise" Rice Drink Original: Filtered water, brown rice (partially milled) gum arabic, expeller pressed high oleic safflower oil, tricalcium phosphate, CorowiseTM phytosterol esters, sea salt, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2, vitamin B12
365 Organic Rice Milk Vanilla: Filtered water, partially milled organic rice, organic expeller pressed canola oil, tricalcium phosphate, natural vanilla flavor with other natural flavors, sea salt, carrageenan, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D.
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|Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 December 2009 16:55|