What Should Baby Eat?

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By now, internet surfing on the issue of what to feed your baby will have ‘netted’ you a plethora of do’s and don’ts!  It seems that everyone has advice on this controversial topic.  Fruits or veggies?  Grains or no grains?  Pureed foods or whole foods?  Eggs before 12 months?  It can be a little confusing and trial and error may not be the best investment in your child’s future health.

In my article about what to feed infants before they start eating solids (“What Should Baby Drink?”), I explained that if you are feeding your baby formula, it’s important to add in lacto-fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and yogurt, as soon as they begin eating “people food”.  Supplemental probiotics are vital to a baby who is not receiving those nutrients through milk from a breast-feeding mom!

You can also acquire high-quality liquid probiotics from nutritional companies who specialize in pediatric vitamins.

In addition, a formula-fed baby will likely need to begin solid foods earlier than a breast-fed baby for a number of reasons[ref]http://www.babyreference.com/Beyond%20Breastmilk.pdf[/ref]:

  • Ingredients in formula, such as a high iron content, can be constipating, and can block the absorption of other nutrients.
  • Formula is low in fiber and antioxidants.
  • Fats in formula are difficult for the baby to absorb.  Studies show that formula-fed babies have a decreased intake of calories from protein and fat[ref]Pediatrics. 1998 Sep;102(3 Pt 1):569-73.Mehta KC, et al. Children’s Hospital Med Center, Ohio, USA [/ref].

The introduction of solid foods for the formula-fed baby is not intended to promote growth, but to increase the availability and absorption of antioxidants, fiber, protein and minerals[ref]Pediatrics. 1998 Sep;102(3 Pt 1):569-73.Mehta KC, et al. Children’s Hospital Med Center, Ohio, USA[/ref].

 

When do I introduce solid foods?

As baby enters the second six months of her life, he or she may be interested in what mum or dad is eating.  That’s not to say that she NEEDS solid food.  A baby exclusively breast fed for up to five years of age and beyond grows up to be a healthy child, as long as her mother is eating well.  So, introducing solid foods is dependent upon baby’s interest and the fact that it can be fun to feed baby solid foods – I’m sure all of us have heard stories about when we were first trying foods and the entertainment that provided as we fed the dog or painted the walls with dinner!

Once your baby can sit up and bring his hands or objects to his mouth, finger foods will help him learn to feed himself.  He will decide how much he wants to eat, so don’t be tempted to “top him up” by spoon feeding him when he decides he’s done.

 

How do I go about weaning?

There is no optimal weaning age.  You may have read that 18 months to two years is the time to wean, but babies thrive on breast milk long after that age.  Factors impacting weaning include availability of the mother to breastfeed and a declining interest by the babe[ref]http://www.babycenter.ca/a3272/weaning-from-the-breast[/ref].  Feeding your baby, either from breast or bottle, is a tender time, comforting and fostering intimacy between the two of you.  Sometimes, it’s more difficult for baby to give that experience up than it is to give up the actual nutritional benefits of breast milk.

Your baby may cut down on breastfeeding once she has started to eat a wide range of foods.  If you would like to wean him or her earlier, first offer foods after the baby has had milk – so that most of the nutrients still come from milk, while exploring the new textures and flavours.  Once baby is eating a variety of foods, offer foods first, then give milk[ref]http://www.babycenter.ca/a3272/weaning-from-the-breast[/ref].

 

Commercially prepared foods

A popular baby shower game is to put a variety of pureed baby foods onto clean diapers and have the partygoers try to guess what each food is – most are unrecognizable, even when tasted!

In 2011, American babies consumed 600 jars of commercially prepared baby foods each year.  Jarred and boxed baby foods are a multi-billion dollar industry, trading on a parent’s need for convenience.  If parents only knew what they were feeding their baby…

The Alpha Parent blog posted an article in February 2013, called “The Truth About Baby Food Jars” and stated:

Many of these foods, even the ones labeled “organic” contain a small amount of the meat, vegetables and fruits advertised on the label, supplemented with water and bulking agents such as corn and rice starch.  And organic baby foods have been processed within an inch of their nutritional life.  I wonder how a baby food that has been in the jar longer than the baby has been alive can be a suitable source of nutrients for your baby?  In an effort to make product quality consistent from jar to jar and batch to batch, it is necessary to process the foods far more than a mother or father would at home, resulting in a lesser quality product in comparison with homemade foods.

And I’m sure you’d agree that overcooked, over-processed foods don’t really taste good, so to get a food the baby is willing to eat, manufacturers have to add back in what they’ve taken out – nutrients, minerals, and of course the salt and sugar that makes everything sweet and tasty.  Even a food labeled “no added sugar” can have fruit sugar added – a sugar that is “naturally occurring” in a fruit juice that jacks the sugar content up by tens of grams.  The same premise stands for the “no salt added” foods.

Let’s not forget that the government standards for food manufacturing sets out an acceptable standard for the number of non-food particles (read bug parts, rodent hair and rodent droppings, among other things) that may be included in processed foods like jarred baby food.  Is this what you’d want to feed your baby? [ref]http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10654-012-9715-5[/ref].

In the same article, published by the European Journal of Epidemiology in July 2012, they stated, “Paying attention to nutritional needs is SO important” [ref]http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10654-012-9715-5[/ref]; because: 

Let’s just say that using commercially prepared baby food is a bad idea.

 

Baby-led feeding

Babies trying new foods will do a lot of taking in and spitting out – this process allows them both to experience the texture and taste, and to begin the digestive process.  Digestion begins in the mouth, not the stomach, through saliva.  Digestive enzymes in saliva break down starches and fats, and it stimulates production of stomach acid and pancreatic juices necessary for digestion.

From birth, babies have a pattern of sucking, swallowing and breathing that facilitates nursing.  New techniques are needed for chewing and digesting other foods.  Allowing babies the opportunity to choose their foods and practice manipulating the food in their mouths, chewing and swallowing, as well as the practice of picking up food in the hand and carrying it to the mouth is an essential developmental process.

This is the premise behind baby-led feeding.  This term means allowing your child to feed himself from the very start of solid foods.  Simply put, you offer your baby pieces of food of an appropriate size, and see what he or she does with it.  Baby may eat it, or not … put it in his or her mouth, and spit it right out.  The baby may mush it around a bit and swallow, and look for more.  There’s no need for purees, no ice cube trays, no food that you can’t recognize.

And it’s an easy way to feed – you don’t have to decide what baby is going to eat, because he’s going to eat what you eat.

Kids and parents should be eating the same food all the time.  A child should not be eating a burger and fries while dad is eating salmon and veggies.  Let him try different foods.  The more variety in the foods he eats, the less picky he’ll be, and the more willing he’ll be to experiment.  Yes, you will have to cut the food to reasonable size and yes, you’ll have to make sure they chew it, but it’s the best habit-forming nutritional practice to share meals and eat the same foods.

Even Paleo mommies would have mashed up food for their babies to eat, but they wouldn’t have used a Vitamix to make the food unrecognizable.  And once your baby has a full set of teeth, even that process will be unnecessary.

Start the baby on Maximized Living core plan foods – to become accustomed to the taste of real food.  Keep an emphasis on greens and veggies so that your child will adopt a taste for vegetables early.  If you begin with fruits, your baby will prefer the sweet taste of fruit to the savoury taste of vegetables and protein, and it will be tougher to develop the veggie habit.

If your child is going to eat grains, keep them on whole sprouted or stone ground grains, and emphasize the pseudo grains like quinoa and amaranth and kamut.  These grains still turn into sugar during the digestive process, but they are better for baby than the conventional wheat and rice.  There’s much more to consider when feeding a baby grains than whether or not the grains are gluten-free!

 

Say NO to sugar

There’s no need to give your baby fruit juice – juice is virtually straight sugar, albeit a natural sugar.  Choose real fruit and let your baby have the fiber and phytonutrients that come with eating a whole apple or pear versus just the juice.

You can still make cakes and sweet things on the Maximized Living advanced nutrition planmuffins in their lunchboxes, and hummus and veggies and seed butter, and delicious things made from coconut.  When the time comes for birthday parties, babies who are accustomed to eating properly will get excited about the party, but reject the cake – too sweet!

 

Invest in YOUR baby’s nutritional health

It doesn’t take any extra effort to feed your baby a healthy diet.  The way you introduce food to your infant will establish habits that are easy to maintain and nutritionally sound.  Babies all over the world eat what their parents eat – your choice will make all the difference for generations to come.


[2] Pediatrics. 1998 Sep;102(3 Pt 1):569-73.Mehta KC, et al. Children’s Hospital Med Center, Ohio, USA

[3] Pediatrics. 1998 Sep;102(3 Pt 1):569-73.Mehta KC, et al. Children’s Hospital Med Center, Ohio, USA

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Dr. B.J. Hardick

About Dr. B.J. Hardick

Raised in a holistic family, Dr. B.J. Hardick is an organic food fanatic, green living aficionado, and has spent the majority of his life working in natural health care. In 2009, he wrote his first book, Maximized Living Nutrition Plans, which has now been used professionally in over 500 health clinics. Dr. Hardick regularly blogs healthy recipes and holistic health articles on his own website, DrHardick.com, and speaks to numerous professional and public audiences every year. In his spare time, he invests his keen interest in sustainable living into urban development in his hometown of London, Ontario. Learn More