If you missed my talk at Natural Grocers yesterday, but would like some information on baby nutrition and food introduction, here is an outline of what we talked about. Feel free to contact me with any questions or need for clarification.
How are babies different from adults?
Why is nutrition so important to babies?
What nourishes the Spleen?
Before we get to specific foods, here are some general rules:
When should I offer my baby food?
Experts agree that breast milk alone is sufficient for the first year of your baby’s life, so no need to rush! It is best to go slow. In fact, many organizations (The World Health Organization, Health Canada, and the US Department of Health and Human Services) advocate that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months – that means no supplemental juice or solids until that time. Waiting longer before starting solids gives your baby enhanced immune protection, increased protection from allergies, and the digestive system time to mature. The guidelines below are only general and you need to look at your baby overall. You should see many of the signs below, never just one. If you notice undigested food in your baby’s stool, it is too early.
What foods should I feed my baby?
First baby foods (6-8 months): Make sure these are steamed, baked, or sautéed and then pureed. Start with one food at a time and wait for 3 days before introducing another new food so that you can monitor for signs and symptoms of food intolerance. Some symptoms are: mood changes, sleep disturbance, excess gas or bloating, increased spit up or vomiting, diarrhea, redness around the mouth and/or anus, body rash or hives, and increased mucous such as nasal discharge or congestion.
Next step 7-9 months: Here too, make sure all foods are baked, steamed, or sautéed. Your baby may want to start eating more solid foods, so you can cut foods into soft, well-cooked chunks and monitor them closely.
Cooked sweet potato, cauliflower, and chicken broth with a pinch of Himalayan salt makes for a very nutritious meal with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and prevents blood sugar spikes.
Adding some warming digestive herbs and spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom can help the digestibility of foods and balance our “cold natured” food.
Adding fats to their meals, such as butter, coconut, and avocado oil is extremely important as it will keep them satisfied, nourish their brain, and keep their digestive track protected.
Next Step – 9-12 months: Now you may start introducing organic only grains (the closer to 1 year as possible, the better), BUT be sure to soak the grains overnight in water to break them down and increase their digestibility. Cook them longer in at least twice the amount of water to create a porridge or congee. You can add in nourishing vegetables and warming spices (fennel, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, and/or cinnamon).
Oats slowly cooked in extra water with pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Crock pot works great!
Rice congee with sweet potatoes, zucchini, beets, and onion
Whenever you are making something, make a large batch and freeze the extra into cubes for easy meals when you are busy!
When your baby is sick, the best thing he or she can consume is breast milk. A great supplement to this is bone broth with a pinch of Himalayan salt and is a much better electrolyte replacement than pedialyte.
Foods to avoid until around 12-24 months:
Despite conventional wisdom, it is not necessary for toddlers to continue to drink milk after weaned off breast milk to get adequate calcium. Many other foods provide sufficient calcium, such as:
If you had delayed cord clamping during the delivery of your baby, your baby will have enough iron stored until they are 6-10 months, depending on the individual scenario (Buckley, 2009). Around 9 months is when you want to make sure your baby is getting enough iron. Babies that have a higher risk of low iron include: babies born premature, babies born at a low birth weight, and babies whose mother had gestational diabetes or poor nutritional status during pregnancy. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Iron for both males and females from 0-6 months old is 0.27mg/day, for age 7-12 months 11mg/day, and for children 1-3 years old 7mg/day (CDC, 1998). Foods that are iron rich:
NOTE: Cereal is NOT a good source of iron. Most is added synthetically and only about 4% is absorbed (Famons, 1989). Furthermore, eating processed or refined foods actually pulls nutrients from your baby’s body in order to digest and break down the food.
Signs your baby is iron deficient include: slow weight gain, no appetite, pale skin, and low activity level but high irritability.
“Most breastfeeding babies do not need any water, vitamins, or iron in addition to breast milk for at least the first 6 months. Human milk provides all the fluids and nutrients a baby needs to be healthy. By about 6 months of age, however, you should start to introduce your infant to baby foods that contain iron. Your pediatrician may prescribe Vitamin D or Iron supplement if there is a need for it.” American Academy of Pediatrics. A Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding”
Combining Vitamin C with iron rich foods helps increase absorbability. Foods high in Vitamin C include:
As your baby becomes a toddler and weans from breastmilk, it becomes extremely important to have every meal and snack balanced. This means eating a variety of food and always incorporating protein, fat, and unprocessed carbohydrates (fruit, vegetable, and/or whole grain) at every meal and snack. This will keep blood sugars stable, provide a full range of vitamins and minerals, and allow for maximal absorbability of those nutrients.
Buckley, S. J. (2009). Gentle birth, gentle mothering: the wisdom and science of gentle choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
CDC. (1998). Recommendations to Prevent and Control Iron Deficiency in the United States . Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://wonder.cdc.gov/wonder/prevguid/m0051880/m0051880.asp#Table_2
Flaws, B. (1999). Keeping your child healthy with Chinese medicine: a parent's guide to the care and prevention of common childhood diseases. Kuala Lumpur: Eastern Dragon Press.
Fomon, S. J., Ziegler, E. E., Rogers, R. R., Nelson, S. E., Edwards, B. B., Guy, D. G., . . . Janghorbani, M. (1989). Iron Absorption from Infant Foods. Pediatric Research, 26(3), 250-254. doi:10.1203/00006450-198909000-00019
Scott, J., & Barlow, T. (1999). Acupuncture in the treatment of children. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press.
USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory | USDA Food Composition Databases (2016). Retrieved February 10, 2017, from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/
Vitamin C: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2015, February 02). Retrieved February 8, 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm
UPDATE: I recently had a question posted, but they did not leave an email address to respond directly to them, so I am answering the question here regarding the quantities for the red cabbage/cranberry/apple sauce to help with constipation for your 8 month old. There is not a "right" quantity, as it really depends on your daughter's current diet and how much sweet flavor she is used to. Ideally, cabbage would be about 50% and the cranberry and apple 25% each. You also want to make sure she is getting enough fat in her diet. Raw flax oil is also great for constipation to moisten the intestines. Do not heat or cook with it, but add it to already cooked food. Make sure all the food she consumes is cooked and warm. I hope you see this message. Let me know if you have any more questions!
Brittany Petrick, L.Ac, MSOM, BSN
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