Introducing Food to Babies

Introducing food to baby should be done gradually so as to identify foods that baby does not tolerate, and to minimize triggering allergic responses.

Below is a guide to proper introduction of foods at each stage that will also help baby develop a palate for nutritious food. In addition it will reduce the incidence of allergies and digestive problems.

When to Introduce New Foods to a Baby
Birth to Six Months Baby’s food should be breast milk exclusively.

Six to twelve months: overview
Although foods are commonly introduced at 6 months, it is not necessary to do so. In fact, many babies will either reject or have difficulty with solids until closer to nine months.Breast milk can easily provide all of baby’s nutritional needs until a year or so of age.By 9 months, most babies will be quite ready and eager to eat solids. Breastfeeding should be continued for as long as possible and desired by mother and baby.If you wait until 9 months or longer to introduce solids, we still suggest you follow the the same schedule in the chart below, with the same time intervals.
At about 6 months: The focus is on introducing to baby low allergy and easy to digest foods.

Cook and prepare your own baby food. This is far better than buying the vastly inferior stuff they sell on the store shelves.

Start with 1 or 2 tablespoons of vegetables daily, fresh, ideally seasonal, and organic.  Steam or bake.

Wait a day or two before introducing another so you have a chance to observe if each food is tolerated. This is how to test for food allergies and sensitivities in babies.

See our page on how to freeze your own baby food.

At about 7 months: Start with fruit, any fruit, fresh, ideally seasonal, and organic.  Soft stone fruits cut up small (peaches, apricots) are a good place to start.  Harder fruits may be stewed.

It isn’t time to introduce fruit until vegetables are established.  You don’t want baby to develop a taste for super sweet fruit like banana before developing an interest in kale.

At about 8-9 months: Introduce non-gluten grains including quinoa, millet, GF oats and buckwheat.  Be wary of rice due to its contamination with poisonous arsenic and lead from pesticide runoff.  (ConsumerReports.com.)

Soak overnight in water before cooking to improve digestibility. Adding extra water and cooking for longer periods will further improve the digestibility of grains.

At about 9-12 months: Introduce protein sources like beans and lentils, soaked overnight before cooking (discard soaking water and add fresh water to cook.)

Freshly made fruit and green smoothies in small quantities are a wonderfully nutritious and tasty addition to baby’s diet..

Non-dairy and gluten free milks such as hemp or oat.

Healthy oils such as coconut, olive.

Fresh ground seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower.

At about 12-18 months: Focus on feeding baby higher protein and calorie foods. Turkey, lamb, chicken, fish, eggs. All organic, free range, grass fed. Meats are best slow cooked in soups and stews.

Nuts and nut butters
Grinding your own nut butter is easy with a VitaMix or a BlendTec blender, and the quality and freshness is far superior to commercial nut butters.

The best nut butter is made from whole,  nuts that are first soaked, then crisped at a temperature around 120 degrees or using a food dehydrator. Soaking and crisping (instead of roasting) aids in digestion and makes the nutrition more available.

2 – 3 years Introduce allergenic foods one at a time and watch for a reaction. If a reaction occurs, remove the food and wait for another month before trying again.

Allergenic foods are:

  • Gluten foods (wheat, barley, rye)
  • Cow’s milk and other dairy products.
  • Peanuts and peanut butter.
  • Corn, soy,
  • Clams and other shellfish

 

Although we mention the above allergenic foods to be tried at 2 years of age of age or so, please do NOT make foods such as dairy, soy, corn or gluten a regular part of your child’s diet. There are many health risks of these foods that are beyond the scope of this document, but keep in mind that modern agribusiness and genetic engineering (i.e. GMO) have changed the quality and DNA of these foods. They aren’t the good foods they were fifty years ago.

Baby first foods must be chosen not only for what to include but also for what to avoid. This page gives guidelines for evaluating any baby food.

Food is the primary underpinning of health. It feeds the systems that fuel immune, neurologic, metabolic, and digestive processes – essentially all body functions. Nutrient-dense and properly prepared foods set up babies to thrive for the rest of their lives.

In the same way, nutrient-poor foods, processed foods, and GMO/hybridized foods undermine baby’s ability to thrive. Such foods set the stage for poor health, obesity, dis-ease, and disease for the rest of the child’s life.

Organic Baby Food, or Conventional?

In terms of purchasing organic versus conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, they are not all created equal. If price is important, pay for organic produce if that item is typically high in pesticide residues and save your money buying conventionally grown produce items that are typically low in pesticide residue. Refer to the “clean 15” and the “dirty dozen” at www.ewg.org/foodnews.

Fluids
If you’re breastfeeding, no other liquid will be needed, but you can offer water. If you’re giving the baby fresh pressed vegetable juice, water it down.  A very small amount of fresh pressed apple juice may be added to diluted vegetable juices. Avoid packaged and store-bought juices.


Baby Foods to Avoid Entirely

  1. Sugar in all its varieties, especially high fructose corn syrup.
  2. Sugar
  3. Sugar
  4. Fruit juice
  5. Soda
  6. “Kid food”. Assume there is no such thing. Kids’ growing bodies and minds need the best nutrition they can get, not convenience sweet foods.
  7. Rice cereal – much too starchy, possibility of arsenic contamination, and is constipating.
  8. Processed, packaged food.
  9. Trans fats
    This is sort of a fake food, created in a factory, that has been called a “metabolic poison” and is added into commercial foods all the time.
  10. Soy (because of modern agricultural practices and GMOs)
  11. Corn (because of modern agricultural practices, GMOs)
  12. Gluten grains (wheat, rye, barley) until you’ve tested it and made sure baby tolerates it.

 

We have it backwards. There is no such thing as “kid food”. This is a dangerous concept invented by industrial food suppliers and advertising efforts to sell poor quality food. Children have a higher need for good nutrition. A 2 year old is at greater risk of experiencing consequences for eating a slice of pizza or sweet snack than a 17-year old.

Foods to Limit

  • Dairy (i.e. cow breast milk) on occasion in small amounts, assuming it is tolerated.
  • Small amounts of dried fruit

 

Foods to Give Freely  
Ranked: largest amount (top) to smaller amounts.

  1. All vegetables
  2. All fruits
  3. Meat, fish, fowl, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, assuming no allergies
  4. Non-gluten grains

 

Nutritional Harm Reduction

Processed, devitalized, foods can cause nutritional harm. They give the illusion of being food, but leave your body’s need for nutrition unmet or distorted. They also give baby a taste and desire for these same unhealthy foods.

One of these foods is sugar itself, which is an anti-nutrient and harmful. It’s not good for the mother and it’s not good for the child, especially as a baby first food. Protect your baby from it. Since children are going to find sweets and be served treats when you aren’t looking, take a harm reduction approach. Do the best job you can when you have the most power, when you’re introducing real food to the baby. After that, help develop good habits:

  • Use the health store varieties of favorite treats.
    It will still be too much sweet, but you’ll avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.
  • Always start with the vegetables. Get into the habit of serving children veggies while they are waiting for the rest of the meal. When a young child is hungry and dinner isn’t ready, a dish of juicy, fresh cut sweet pepper, celery, carrots, or cucumber can be tasty, and teaches them vegetables are real food.
  • Have only healthy food in the house
    and you won’t set yourself up for stressful bargaining with children.
  • Celebrate with delicious, nutritious foods in your home.
  • Avoid hovering, micromanaging, prodding. If there is only healthy food available, the child will make healthy choices.

 

Prepared by Deborah Ginsburg, MD, of Healing Oceans Family Wellness Center, medical advisor to The Suppers Programs and Dorothy Mullen, Founder, The Suppers Programs

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