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Debate on how to feed a growing baby permeates the Internet. When should moms introduce solid food? And what kinds of foods should come first? What about baby-led weaning—is that the way to go? Does it even matter what baby eats?
In these online debates, many moms agree with the statement that “food before one is just for fun.” But the practices of non-industrialized peoples, supported by modern science, show us that the early months are the most important time of life for the right kind of diet—a nutrient-dense diet that will determine babies’ growth and development during the early years and overall health for the rest of their lives.
WHEN TO WEAN?
Internet discussions on infant feeding start with debate on the best time to introduce solid foods. Most medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization and the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition recommend the introduction of solid foods sometime between the fourth and sixth months. All are in agreement that solid foods before the fourth month can predispose babies to gastrointestinal problems and allergies; at the same time, these organizations note that delaying introduction of solid foods after six months may result in baby not getting all the nutrients needed.
These recommendations about when to begin solid foods are completely in accord with those of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Very mature—or fast-growing—babies will be ready for some solid food at four months, while smaller, less mature babies may not be ready until six months. Moms often find that with the introduction of pureed foods, their baby becomes less fussy, goes longer between feedings and sleeps better through the night—a great relief to mom herself as she can also sleep through the night and settle into a better routine. Of course, moms can and should continue nursing or using the raw milk formula for as long as they like. Some babies enjoy nursing for up to three or four years; others lose interest before they are a year old.
In online debates, many mothers object to giving any solid food before six months, and some argue that solid foods should be delayed as long as possible—in other words, making the case for prolonged exclusive breastfeeding. Some claim that baby can get everything needed from breastmilk alone even past the one-year mark; one mother, recognizing the research showing that babies need more iron than mom can supply after six months, and that the mineral levels in mom’s breastmilk decline over time, suggests solving the problem by letting baby get his minerals by playing in the dirt! Others cite their babies’ “lack of interest in food,” often describing how little food gets into baby’s mouth when they practice baby-led weaning (more on this later).
In questions of this importance, our first step is to look at the practices of traditional peoples—and then to see whether they jibe with what modern science has to tell us. On this topic, we have two studies that provide us with valuable information. One is a 1983 survey of childbirth and breastfeeding practices in one hundred eighty-six non-industrialized cultures.1 The main focus of the study was maternal bonding traditions, but the authors also looked at feeding practices. They were surprised to find that most cultures began weaning at six months or earlier. In fact, in one-third of the cultures, solid foods were given before one month of age!
Contrary to the expectation of a prolonged period of breast-milk as the sole source of infant nutrition, solid foods were introduced before one month of age in one-third of the cultures, at between one and six months in another third, and was postponed more than six months for only one-third.1
A more recent survey from 2001 looked at infant feeding practices in one hundred thirteen non-industrialized populations from around the world.2 The researchers found that more than half the cultures introduced solid foods before six months, with five to six months being the most common timeframe. Breastfeeding continued for anywhere from ten to twenty-nine months.
Some online comments indicate that WAPF’s advocacy of solid foods by six months is proof of our “opposition” to breastfeeding. Nothing could be further from the truth—the solid foods are in addition to breastmilk (or homemade formula when necessary). The combination of solid foods plus breastmilk can continue for many months.
By the way, this is exactly what we see in the animal world. Baby animals breastfeed exclusively only for a short period of time—just a month or so in the case of cows and pigs—and then get nourished with a combination of solid foods plus breastmilk for a much longer period.
The key reason for the introduction of solid food by six months is the baby’s iron status. Although a mother’s breastmilk contains lactoferrin, which helps the baby absorb 100 percent of the iron in her milk, iron content is generally low. One explanation for this is that babies need more zinc than iron during the first few months of life, and breastmilk is high in zinc. Babies should also get a good supply of iron in the cord blood, but the normal turnover for red blood cells is four months. By six months, iron deficiency is a distinct possibility in the exclusively breastfed baby. In fact, mineral levels start to decline in mother’s breastmilk almost from birth and continue to fall after the six-month mark. A 1984 study showed a decrease in zinc, copper and potassium.3 And a 1990 study of mothers in Bangladesh documented a decline in zinc and copper over time.4
What about the argument that allergies can be avoided by delaying solid food? A recent review of available research found that where the risk of allergy is a key consideration, introducing solids at four to six months may result in the lowest allergy risk.5 Said the authors of the review, “When all aspects of health are taken into account, the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding and age of introduction of solids were confirmed to be six months, but no later.”
Another argument holds that baby’s gut is too permeable for solid food at four months, or even much later. We asked Natasha Campbell- McBride for her opinion on this—remember that she is one of the world’s experts on gut permeability. Her reply: “The majority of babies are ready to be weaned by six months, but many babies are ready earlier—they start getting hungry because they don’t get enough from the mother’s milk. To add formula to those babies is not a good idea; it is much better to start adding real foods [although] no grains, beans or any other starchy and difficult-to-digest plant foods. Animal foods—meat stock, meats, fish, eggs and fermented raw dairy (from proper milk)—should be introduced, as well as cooked vegetables and some freshly pressed juices from raw vegetables and fruit. Gradually! The gut wall of babies is permeable for a reason, because it is necessary to develop oral tolerance of a plethora of antigens from the environment. Introducing foods during that time ensures that the child develops tolerance and can eat natural foods without reacting with allergies.” (I’m not sure we agree about the juices, but in everything else, Dr. Campbell-McBride and WAPF are in accord.)
Back to the assertion that “food before one is just for fun.” There is no age at which baby is growing faster—and forming more connections in the brain—than the age from zero to one. This is not the time to be casual about feeding your baby—because food before one matters a ton! The way you feed baby—when and what and how—will make all the difference in his or her future health, appearance and intelligence.
It’s very clear from both tradition and science that babies should receive solid foods by age six months—advice with which WAPF is in complete agreement. As for what to feed baby, here we are mostly in disagreement with conventional recommendations.
In fact, what passes for advice on infant feeding in books and on the Internet is not only confusing and conflicting, but woefully inadequate. Most health professionals are absolutely clueless when it comes to nourishing a baby during that critical first year of life.
Let’s start with the AAP—we might assume that this august institution would have the most accurate and detailed advice on how to feed baby. Here’s what they recommend: introduce solid foods around six months of age; expose baby to a wide variety of healthy foods; and offer a variety of textures.6 These suggestions don’t seem very helpful, to put it mildly.
BABY FOOD IN PLASTIC CONTAINERS
Get your child used to phthalates at an early age!
An older AAP suggestion, which persisted for many years, was to give iron-fortified rice cereal as baby’s first food. Widespread criticism about starting baby off on pure carbs and the recent arsenic scandal (which found high levels of arsenic in conventional rice) have the AAP retreating from this dogma. Today, if you dig around on the AAP website long enough, you will find a grudging recommendation for red meat as a source of iron for baby.7
By the way, years ago, the AAP refused to recommend soy infant formula, due to reports of severe intestinal damage and thyroid problems in babies fed this toxic food. But when the AAP built its shiny new headquarters, the organization accepted a large contribution from the formula industry; the AAP’s objections to soy formula then disappeared.
However, most moms don’t query the AAP when they decide to feed solid food to their babies; they just go to the grocery store. There they will find mostly pureed fruits and vegetables, along with strange mixtures like quinoa and peas. Plain pureed meat will come with a “gravy” of water and cornstarch. In the old days, you could purchase pureed liver or egg yolk for your baby, but no longer.
Even worse, conscientious mothers are unlikely to find many choices in glass jars. Instead, much baby food today comes in plastic (so you can introduce phthalates at an early age) or aseptic containers lined with aluminum and flash heated to 295°F. And yes, aluminum does migrate into the food when heated to such high temperatures, especially for acidic foods like applesauce.
What about the USDA dietary guidelines? Can they enlighten us? The book MyPlate for Moms: How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better8 provides the following recommendations for feeding infants:
Lean meat or tofu
Fruits and vegetables
Whole grains – dry breakfast cereals
This is a largely plant-based diet, with most calories coming from fruits and vegetables. Baby is allowed no butter or other animal fats, and there is no suggestion of organ meats. He will get small amounts of fat from the lean meat and occasional egg and cheese, but if mom decides to feed tofu rather than meat, even these sources of fat will be lacking.
Recently the Weston A. Price Foundation was asked to endorse the book, What to Feed Your Baby,9 by Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAC, a pediatrician who claims to be a spokesperson for the AAP. “Dr. Tanya Altmann knows that good nutrition is essential for healthy kids,” reads the back-of-book copy: “In What to Feed Your Baby, Dr. Tanya provides the latest nutritional recommendations and best practices for feeding babies and young children.”
The “latest nutritional recommendations” suggest eleven foundational foods for your baby:
(soy milk if allergic to cow’s milk)
Dr. Altmann also advises parents to avoid giving salt to their babies, and there is no butter or other animal fats, no red meat and no organ meats on this list. Baby gets lowfat or nonfat milk after age two, but plenty of rough whole grains—which could include rice cakes, “multi-grain” Cheerios and even granola—foods impossible for baby to digest. Needless to say, we did not endorse her book!
Modern suggestions for babies: a plant-based diet.
Overall, it seems that fruits and vegetables have replaced rice cereal as baby’s first foods, as illustrated in the meme below—but pasta and toasted (why toasted?) bread are OK. These guidelines allow small amounts of animal foods but state that it’s no problem to replace these with tofu. In all versions of conventional guidelines, Dr. Altmann’s included, and in baby foods sold at the grocery store, animal fats are absent, and no one seems to understand the concept of nutrient density for baby.
Recently I visited a Whole Foods in Washington, DC, and went upstairs to the café area to eat my lunch (cheese and homemade paté) before shopping. A woman with a baby of about eight months sat at the table next to mine. She ate a meal she had purchased at the deli. But what did baby in her high chair get? A few pieces of green pepper and cucumber on the high chair tray. When they left, those vegetable slices were scattered on the floor, with no evidence that baby had eaten much of anything.
It’s likely this mom was following the suggestions of Baby-Led Weaning,10 a best-selling book on how to feed babies. Marketing for the book characterizes the approach as “The Natural, No-Fuss, No-Purée Method for Starting Your Baby on Solid Foods.” As described on Amazon, “Baby-Led Weaning explodes the myth that babies need to be spoon-fed and shows why self-feeding from the start of the weaning process is the healthiest way for your child to develop. With baby-led weaning (BLW, for short), you can skip purées and make the transition to solid food by following your baby’s cues.”
The premise of baby-led weaning is that mom doesn’t need to spend any time in the kitchen making purées for her six-month-old child, but that baby can be fully nourished on chunks of food like broccoli and rice cakes. The idea is to put “a variety of foods in front of baby and baby will know what to eat.” Furthermore, according to the authors, babies need this training in order to learn to put things in their mouths without any spoon feeding. (Seriously!) Babies need to eat with the family at the table, and baby-led weaning is the way to accomplish this. Also, babies might be traumatized and grow up to be axe murderers if you put a spoon in their mouths and feed them yourself. Please forgive my sarcasm, but as a mother of four children who grew up just fine after their infant diet of purees, I have to wonder where this deep-seated aversion to pureed baby food and initial spoon-feeding is coming from.
According to Baby-Led Weaning, baby’s early diet should look something like the pictures below.
One has to ask; how much nourishment is baby getting from carrot sticks and pieces of lettuce? How much is even going down the gullet? And what about the danger of choking?
There is just so much wrong with this book. . . . Let’s start with the dietary guidelines themselves. Suggestions for baby’s first foods include raw carrot, raw broccoli and a strip of meat—remember, baby doesn’t have molars yet! Even adults sometimes have trouble chewing a strip of meat. Baby gets full-fat dairy but no butter. Instead, he gets “healthy fats” such as vegetable oils, oily fish and olive oil. Salt is bad for babies, insist the authors of Baby-Led Weaning. Baby gets whole grains, including oat cakes, rice cakes and dry breakfast cereal (Rice Crispies are especially recommended). According to the authors, pasta and pizza are OK—they make great finger foods, after all! And microwaving is also OK. The key is that mom just puts a few of these objects on baby’s tray, and baby then “tells” mom what he is going to eat. Once baby learns to talk, he can even dictate all his food choices! Don’t be surprised if he wants to eat nothing but pizza.
As justification, proponents of baby-led weaning point to a 1926 baby feeding study by Clara Davis, carried out at the Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland. In this study, Davis fed a group of orphans by putting a variety of foods in front of them every day.11,12
The first thing to notice is the choice of foods that Davis considered important for babies. These included “sweet milk”—in 1926, that would be whole raw milk—as well as sour milk. In addition to fruits, vegetables and grains, the babies got to choose from beef, lamb, chicken, bone marrow, bone jelly, sweetbreads, brains, liver, kidneys, fish and eggs. Notice all the organ meats and the lamb jelly! To top it off, babies got to dip their fingers in a bowl of sea salt! Most importantly, Davis did not give the infants any foods containing sugar and white flour.
The babies did well—they thrived and had rosy cheeks. Does that mean the babies knew what they should eat? No, it means that Clara Davis knew what babies should eat—far, far better than what modern moms know, plunking slices of green pepper down on the high chair tray.
Commentators have declared that the Davis study shows that “all the babies ended up eating a balanced diet.” The babies did well, for sure, but how do we know they all got a balanced diet? Did they measure the nutrient levels in the foods? Were the babies followed into adulthood? Were they given blood tests to determine blood levels of vitamins and minerals?
The babies studied by Davis developed definite tastes. For example, one baby ate two pounds of oranges in one day. I’m not sure I would call that a “balanced diet.” If I had a child who only wanted to eat oranges, I would not let him tell me what he wanted to eat, but do my best to vector him to other foods.
But the key point is this: In the Davis study, the foods were mashed, ground up or finely minced—not raw and in big chunks. Moreover, when the babies indicated what they wanted, the nurses fed them with a spoon. Babies also ate with their fingers. The baby-led weaning folks have definitely twisted the Davis study to justify giving babies raw broccoli or raw carrots as their first foods!
Another flaw: The cover of Baby-Led Weaning promises “no purees, no stress, no fuss.” But moms are advised to “expect a mess.”
Motherhood is hard enough without having to clean up a mess like this, three to four times per day! Making purees for your baby is a joyful, relaxing activity—but cleaning up a horrendous mess at every feeding time is stressful indeed!
It’s easy to feed purees to baby, even before he can sit up. Put a bib on and strap him into a child seat. (Later you can feed him in a high chair.) The puree should be thin and easy to swallow—the food can get thicker as baby gets older, but the first purees should be somewhat watery.
At first, baby will push a little food out with his tongue (called tongue thrust). Actually, at the first feeding, he will push most of it out. Just be patient and keep putting it back in his mouth, and he will soon get the hang of it. (You can also let baby lick the food off your fingers for the first few tries.) Baby pushing food out does not mean that “baby is not ready for solid foods” or “baby is not hungry,” as some mothers say. It just means that baby is still learning how to eat.
While feeding him, you can talk to him and laugh. Baby will not be traumatized. At first, he may seem surprised, but soon he will coo and kick his legs with delight. Rather than leave a child alone with some food objects on his tray, you can make meals a time of real engagement with baby. You are looking at him; talking with him; laughing with him. This is the right kind of training for family meals—the association of food with pleasant social interaction. And finally, there is no mess! No yucky food on high chair, floor and baby for mom to clean up.
What about family meals—do we need to practice baby-led weaning to have baby participate in family meals? Not at all! In fact, a lot of family members would not find it enjoyable to eat with a baby making a terrible mess with his food.
Instead, feed baby his puree before the family meal, so that he is well-fed, satisfied and not fussy. Then at meal time, put a few small pieces of banana or cheese on his tray—something nourishing but not too messy. Let him play with those while the rest of the family eats. If he is teething, give him a bone to chew on—bones are a great teething tool, but definitely not a source of nourishment at that age. As he grows older, you can start giving him some of the family food, such as soup or finely minced stews, fed to him with a spoon until he learns how to do this himself.
There are so many downsides of baby-led weaning. Let me count the ways: malnutrition, wastefulness, choking risks, messiness, and horrible family meals—but the most serious may be that this feeding approach pretends to put baby in charge of what he eats.
Mom and Dad need to be in charge of what baby eats. Baby does not know what to eat; only wise parents know what and how to feed baby. Gladys Davis herself concluded that food selection for young children should be left “in the hands of their elders where everyone has always known it belongs.”
If you put a cookie on baby’s high chair tray, he will eat it even though this is a horrible choice for a baby. Of course, if baby exhibits a real aversion to something you are feeding her (demonstrated, for example, by throwing up), then you will need to find a substitute (but equally nutritious) food.
The precedent of parents deciding what baby should eat needs to be established from the start. Give baby plenty of freedom to play, develop and explore on his own, but take full charge of baby’s diet—his good health and optimal development depend on it.
WHAT TO EAT?
At no other time in his life will your baby be growing as fast or making as many brain cells as during the first year of life—and this growth and development cry out for abundant nourishment.
During the first year of life, your baby is programmed to make seven hundred new neural connections every second, and the cerebellum triples in size, corresponding to the rapid development of motor skills that occurs during this period. Full vision comes online in the first year, and language circuits in the frontal and temporal lobes become consolidated.
During the toddler years, the number of nerve connections in the brain increases to one thousand trillion, twice the number the baby had at birth. Myelin, an insulating material around these nerves, is diminished in malnourished toddlers because fewer cells that make myelin are produced. This can result in smaller brains. What does baby need to produce myelin? First and foremost, cholesterol! There’s no cholesterol in rice cereal or vegetables—and baby cannot make his own cholesterol at this young age. He must get it from the diet.
Your baby also needs abundant choline—another nutrient absent in typical baby foods. Baby goes through windows of opportunity when brain connections can be made—and without choline, these connections won’t occur. Consuming choline later will not help—it needs to be there and available for making the connections during the specific windows of opportunity.
Iron deficiency in one- to two-year-olds has been linked to learning and behavior problems, including irreversible cognitive problems. Fat is also crucial for toddlers because it’s needed for the accelerated pace of myelin formation during this period. Fats carry the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2, which are critical for neurological development. Your baby cannot absorb iron without vitamin A. Thus for optimum brain development, at least 50 percent of a child’s total calories should come from fat, mostly animal fat.
Bone density is established during the first year of life. As bones are forming and growing, baby needs easily absorbed calcium and phosphorus, plus vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin K2—along with numerous other cofactors.
B12 is critical to all these processes—there’s no vitamin B12 in plant foods. And abundant B6 is also important, largely supplied by animal foods.
Given these nutritional requirements, which foods from Table 1 (next page) would you choose for your baby’s first foods? It’s obvious that baby’s first foods should be liver and egg yolk—not only for the abundant cholesterol and choline they provide, but also for minerals, fat-soluble vitamins and vitamins B12 and B6. For variety, red meat and gizzards are also good, but nothing can match egg yolks and chicken liver for nutrient density. Start feeding these at four to six months, depending on the maturity of the baby. Natural cod liver oil, for vitamins A and D, can be given even earlier, starting at three months. It’s easy to give cod liver oil using a syringe or eye dropper.
None of the foods listed above is a significant source of calcium, but remember that baby should still be breastfeeding or getting a raw milk formula. Raw milk (human or otherwise) provides calcium, phosphorus and many minerals in abundance (the exception being iron), plus a myriad of compounds that build the immune system, strengthen the gut wall and protect against pathogens. And raw milk is an important source of vitamin C for your child.
For the egg yolk, boil a whole egg—preferably pasture-raised—for three and one-half minutes; then peel and discard the white. Add a pinch of salt to the yolk (which will still be soft). Start by feeding just one-half teaspoon on a spoon (or have baby lick the egg yolk off your finger) and gradually build up from there. An even easier way is to dip your finger in the runny egg yolk of your own fried egg and let baby lick it off; then graduate to giving it to him with a spoon. If baby does not adjust to the egg yolk or has an allergic reaction, hold off for a week or two and then try again. Some moms have found that babies don’t tolerate egg yolk on its own, but do fine with egg yolk mixed with liver puree.
Baby’s first pureed liver should be very runny—and have salt added. You can also stir in a little butter or cream. Once baby has adjusted to his egg yolk and liver, you can add other foods, such as pureed red meat, pureed fish, pureed dark chicken meat, and pureed fruit and vegetables with cream or butter. Puree meats with water, bone broth, raw milk or cream, and always with added fat, especially butter. Introduce new foods one at a time and observe any possible allergic reactions.
As he or she matures, baby can also be given finger foods cut into small pieces, such as banana and cheese. Salmon eggs make a great finger food, as do dried anchovies. For a real treat, give baby bits of natural bacon!
Another critical food for baby is salt. Salt provides chlorine for hydrochloric acid production—without salt it will be difficult for your baby to digest the meats you are giving him. And the sodium in salt is essential for brain development. Formula makers learned this lesson the hard way when they produced a low-chloride, low-sodium baby formula called Neo-Mul-Soy. The babies on this formula had very retarded intellectual development (compared to babies on regular soy formula) and, after several lawsuits, the formula was removed from the market. Yet very few baby foods contain salt, and almost all books on feeding babies claim that babies should not consume salt. For shame! Be sure to put salt in all your baby’s purees and egg yolk, and also consume plenty of salt while you are breastfeeding—and make that unrefined salt to provide adequate magnesium and trace minerals.
As for fruits and vegetables, in the early days these should be well cooked, then pureed or mashed, and mixed with butter or cream. Raw fruit contains pectin, which is very hard on the immature digestive tract. The exception is ripe bananas, which are a fine early baby food and a good source of vitamin B6. Mash a few banana slices with a little cream and a pinch of salt—your baby will love this!
As for hard-to-digest foods like grains, egg whites and raw fruits and vegetables, it’s best to wait until baby is at least one year old for these. Again, introduce slowly and watch for any allergic reactions. Introduce whole egg as scrambled egg, made with extra yolks and cream. Grains should be soaked overnight in an acidic medium (water with a small amount of lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, kefir or whey) and then well cooked. A toddler can eat bread if it is genuine sourdough bread—spread thickly with butter, of course.
Remember that above all, babies need animal fats. They are critical for growth, hormone production and indeed practically all functions in the body, right down to the mitochondria. Animal fats provide cholesterol for neurological development; arachidonic acid for healthy skin, brains and digestion; and fat-soluble vitamins needed for just about everything, including iron assimilation and hormone production.
Above all, remember that you are in control, especially during that critical first year. In fact, this is the only time in baby’s life that you will have complete control over what baby eats. It’s the time when habits and tastes are created, and the path for optimal growth and development is set. As baby grows into a child and then an adult, you will not have that control, but the good start you give your baby in those early years—especially during the first year—will protect him against the inevitable indulging in processed food that will occur as he makes his way in the wider world.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR BABY
Should babies receive supplements? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says yes, recommending that baby get added iron and vitamin D in tacit recognition that the infant diet the AAP promotes lacks these nutrients.
However, supplemental iron for baby should be avoided at all costs. The inorganic iron in supplements can increase susceptibility to infectious diseases as well as encourage inflammatory chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, neurodegeneration, liver disease and even cancer.13 Of course, babies do need iron but only from iron-rich foods that contain important cofactors (copper and vitamin A), such as liver and egg yolk.
Likewise, vitamin D supplements can cause calcium build-up in the soft tissues, where it does not belong. Baby needs vitamin D from foods like cod liver oil, butter and egg yolks, which also supply vitamin A.
Beware children’s chewable vitamin tablets, which contain refined sweeteners like sugar, fructose, maltodextrin and sorbitol, along with colorings, flavorings and fillers. The “vitamins” they contain are all synthetic and unlikely to do your baby any good. Instead, baby will be beautifully nourished with real, nutrient-dense foods like liver, egg yolks, butter, cod liver oil, unrefined salt, raw dairy products and pastured meats; with these in his diet, he won’t lack for any of the essential nutrients.
ANOTHER REASON TO MAKE YOUR OWN
In February, a congressional subcommittee report made headlines when it disclosed that 95 percent of tested baby foods contained toxic, IQ-lowering heavy metals. According to the report, titled “Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury,” both conventional and organic baby foods display high levels of the metals. None of the products come with warning labels for parents. The report’s authors noted the disturbing implications: “Exposure to toxic heavy metals causes permanent decreases in IQ, diminished future economic productivity, and increased risk of future criminal and antisocial behavior in children” and “endangers infant neurological development and long-term brain function.”
Four companies—Nurture (HappyBABY brand), Beech-Nut, Hain (Earth’s Best Organic) and Gerber—cooperated with the subcommittee’s request for internal documents and test results. Arsenic, lead and cadmium were detected in baby foods made by all four responding companies, and high levels of mercury were found in products made by Nurture—the only company even to test for mercury. For all four metals, the results were “multiples higher than allowed under existing regulations for other products.” Three companies—Campbell (Plum Organics), Walmart (Parent’s Choice) and Sprout Organic Foods—refused to cooperate. The report’s authors speculate that the three companies’ “lack of cooperation might obscure the presence of even higher levels of toxic heavy metals in their baby food products, compared to their competitors’ products.”
Source: Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy. Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury. Committee on Oversight and Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, February 4, 2021.
- Lozoff B. Birth and ‘bonding’ in non-industrial societies. Dev Med Child Neurol. 1983;25(5):595-600.
- Sellen DW. Comparison of infant feeding patterns reported for nonindustrial populations with current recommendations. J Nutr. 2001;131(10):2707-2715.
- Dewey KG, Finley DA, Lönnerdal B. Breast milk volume and composition during late lactation (7-20 months). J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1984;3(5):713-720.
- Simmer K, Ahmed S, Carlsson L, Thompson RP. Breast milk zinc and copper concentrations in Bangladesh. Br J Nutr. 1990;63(1):91-96.
- Anderson J, Malley K, Snell R. Is 6 months still the best for exclusive breastfeeding and introduction of solids? A literature review with consideration to the risk of the development of allergies. Breastfeed Rev. 2009;17(2):23-31.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. “Infant food and feeding.” Retrieved Jan. 21, 2021 from https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx/.
- Johnson D. First AAP recommendations on iron supplementation include directive on universal screening. AAP News October 2010, E101005-1. https://www.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/10/05/aapnews.20101005-1.
- Ward EM. MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better: Decoding the Dietary Guidelines for Your Real Life. Loughlin Press, 2011.
- Altmann T. What to Feed Your Baby: A Pediatrician’s Guide to the 11 Essential Foods to Guarantee Veggie-Loving, No-Fuss, Healthy-Eating Kids. HarperOne, 2016.
- Rapley G, Markett T. Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods–and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater. The Experiment, 2010.
- Davis CM. Results of the self-selection of diets by young children. Can Med Assoc J. 1939;41(3):257-261.
- Wilson B. Are we born craving a balanced diet? Discover, January 20, 2016.
- Edwards B. Toxic iron and ferroxidase, the master antioxidant. Wise Traditions. 2020;21(3):17-25.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2021🖨️ Print post
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Biljana McKinley says
Thank you for this wonderful summary. We also appreciate the shopping guide that the foundation provides. DO you have any recommendations for baby foods that can be store bought? While we strive to cook everything at home, we will be taking a 90 day road trip with our baby this summer and will need to buy some things at the store. so appreciate your help in finding any baby foods that you approve off.
Rachael O'Gorman says
I’m wondering how many times a day you start feeding baby solids? How often to give egg yolk and how often to give liver purée?
Cecilia Gomez says
I just became a grandmother and I’m sharing all of this valuable info with my daughter. I remember growing up in Mexico , babies were weaned with egg yolk. Beef liver was another very common option, followed by some cooked vegetables and bananas. And I remember my mom always added butter to them. I don’t understand where this cereal-craze began? Or why the AAP adopted it with zero science behind it
Brianna Lyon says
What are your thoughts about infant vaccines affecting iron absorption and anemia? Dr Paul Thomas’ vaxxed vs unvaxxed study shows some interesting data regarding the incidence of anemia in vaccinated babies compared to unvaccinated! Title of study (can be looked up on pubmed): Relative Incidence of Office Visits and Cumulative Rates of Billed Diagnoses Along the Axis of Vaccination
When do you think children should stop breastfeeding entirely? What factors go into deciding if child is ready to stop breastfeeding? Is it best to continue until the child loses interest (what I’ve understood to be baby-led weaning – not this absurd book about offering undigestible foods to infants)? Or should mothers aim to wean their children from breastfeeding in a certain age range?
Is the liver cooked at all or just a raw liver puree?
Did indigenous communities that Dr. Price studied puree their food? Research shows that babies motor skills benefit from holding chunks of food and more importantly, the act.of chewing rather than just swallowing purees encourages the jaws to grow forward. Or is forward growth still happening with puree fed babies as long as the food is nutrient dense?
I stated my baby on egg yolk as suggested. The first time he ate it and was completely fine, he really enjoyed it. Since then he has had it 3 more times, after the last 2 times he had severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Why would he be fine the first couple times and now has a reaction to it? All eggs were from our own hens, all on the same food.
Tim Boyd says
From Sally: This is really strange but we have heard similar stories. Stop giving egg yolks for awhile and then try again. Be sure you have added salt. Some moms report that babies have no trouble with the egg yolk if mixed with the pureed liver.
My baby boy will be 17 weeks in a few days. We’re going to start just dipping a finger in egg yolk to let him try it and slowly build up from there.
Should we be giving him cod liver oil, too? We have the green pastures fermented CLO with butter oil, I’ve thought of putting a small amount on a baby spoon just to start getting him used to feeding from the spoon! What’s the recommended amount for a 4 month old?
He has been exclusively breastfed from 9 weeks old, we were mixed feeding in the beginning due to milk supply issues. He’s had some WAPF formula and commercial (unfortunately) when we were still sourcing ingredients for the raw milk one, but hasn’t needed any for a few months now. When we do wean would there be any benefit to him having a bottle of the homemade raw milk formula every now and then? I plan to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible, too.
Alicia List says
As a mom of three of tried many different methodooogies of introducing foods. I have respectfully disagree with Sally’s take on the baby led weaning book. I actually heard this author speak on her book. We actually used her concepts of food introductions mixed with our knowledge of WAPF and nourishing traditions. As another commenter pointed out “did indigenous communities puréed their food”? We can assume possibly in some form but they did not have the tools we do today to make such extensive purée which does compromise so nutritional integrity. Also baby leaned weaning the book does believe in introducing large pieces of food to help with producing a strong gag reflex and encouraging Masticating. We can assume and know that early peoples and many cultures ate with limited to no utensils hence using their fingers- messy indeed but encourages hand eye coordination and the brain connection. Not trying to create an fuss here. I agree with sally that not all the nutritional information is ideal nor best for an early digestion systems. Using a spoon and purées aren’t of the devil and are ok but let’s not discount that they are benefits to some of the method of BWL- coming from some who used it and read the book. As a personal testimony- my first child who ate mostly purées as introductory foods chocked (scary chocked, she didn’t learn to really chew her food) alot more than my second who we did some BLW with. Any ways I’m no doctor but that’s my experience so take it with a grain of salt or a pinch as sally would add 😁
Anne Fox says
Can I get a recommendation for how much liver a one year old can have in a week?
A lot of the newer guidelines from pediatricians say to introduce food that can be more allergenic in nature to protect the child from developing allergies later. What is the stance on this according to the Weston A Price principles?
From what I understand it’s due to that some things are hard to digest but would love to hear it from an allergy perspective.