Feeding Babies

Posted by  | Wednesday, December 19, 2007  at 11:22 AM  
Well, I've thought about the direction I wanted to take in writing this post. I mean, health and nutrition are one of my passions and I love to read books, research, plan menus, and cook. So I thought that while I could write about the two times I went to the kitchen and made baby food in bulk and froze it, I figured it might be more helpful to write about why it was only two times I did this and what I'll do if the Lord blesses us with more children.

Like many breastfeeding moms, I had heard that waiting until six months to begin to introduce any foods (including cereal) is best. In addition to this generic "six month rule" I also knew that is important for your baby to show all of these developmental signs of readiness for food:

1. Baby can sit up without support.
2. Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.
3. Baby is ready and willing to chew.
4. Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.
5. Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.
6. Baby has at least one tooth.

What I didn't realize is that the first year really is just getting a baby used to eating. The primary source of baby's nutrients in the first year should be breast milk. (Please check out the Kellymom site for great information on this including whether or not your baby is ready for solids, advantages to delaying solids, myths about solid readiness, etc.)

Lydia was around 7 months old when I thought she showed each of these signs and I figured it was time to introduce her to food. I started with an avocado. She liked it enough, I guess. I mean, it made it in her mouth and I captured a smile on camera. A few days later I introduced plain, whole milk yogurt. Again, she humored me and ate a little. I think I had the notion that she would immediately take to food but this really didn't happen. Looking back, I see I really was just getting her used to food but her primary nutrition (well, practically all of it) continued to come from my milk. We tried avocado, bananas, yogurt, and sweet potatoes (all of which I would just mash with a fork when it was time to eat so I never worried about making big batches of baby food in advance).

At the time, though, I thought that if I could just make her more of a variety she would take off with eating. So, I went to the kitchen and spent an afternoon making baby food and freezing it in trays - sweet potatoes, applesauce, pears, green beans, carrots, zuchini and potatoes, and lentils with cheese and tomatoes. Of course, I followed the "four day rule" and waited to introduce foods based on her age, but, while she would humor me and eat a little, she never really took off eating. I even had another nursing mom (whose baby was 3 months younger than Lydia and eating away) tell me that if you don't start solids early - she started her baby at 5 months - your baby will be a picky eater. (Actually, the opposite is true.)

It was certainly easier to just nurse Lydia than pull out food and go through the routine (only to nurse her later anyway). But I had many people tell me (the wisdom of the third world we're living in I guess!) that if I didn't give Lydia more food she would never learn to eat! While I had made a lot of baby food and froze it, by the time she really took to eating she was big enough to not need it pulverized in a blender :). Around 11 months old, Lydia began to really enjoy eating. She loved my homemade bread, egg yolks, all kinds of fruit and vegies, yogurt, etc. With most everything, I had to give it to her several times before she really liked it. Don't give up if your baby doesn't like something the first few times. They need to try it at least seven to really figure that out (they're taking in the new taste, texture, and more). Around a year, food became really fun because she could have so much more - meat, fish, eggs, peanut butter (despite what some say, peanut allergies are rare in breastfed children who do not have a family history of peanut allergies), etc. I'm proud to say that Lydia never had cereal, jarred baby food, and, to this day, has never had apple juice. She drinks water in her sippy cup (and, occassionaly milk), I nurse her one or two times a day, and she eats lots of fruits, vegetables, bread, eggs, meat, fish, beans - really whatever we eat. For example, tonight for supper we ate chili, cheese, and cucumbers and that's one of her favorite meals. She's almost 16 months old now and she is a GREAT eater (although I'm sure the picky stage will come!).

So, here's what I learned from this experience:

1. Next time, I'm not going to worry about trying to get my baby to eat. I'm not going to introduce food until she not only shows all the signs, but she's literally pulling it off my plate (I thought she was interested in food when she'd look at it while we ate).

2. I'm going to go into it with the mindset that for the first year, most of her nutrition will be from breastmilk. (This is really freeing too! It is so much easier to nurse than cook all these foods, blend them, label them, freeze them, etc.)

3. I WILL introduce plain, whole milk yogurt (or another cultured dairy such as buttermilk) early on again, so she will develop a taste for this. Today, Lydia absolutely loves plain yogurt and I'm so thankful. (Just think, it would be like our grandparents drinking buttermilk and it's SO healthy!)

4. When she is ready for food, I WILL give her food that I've made for us - such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc. We eat very healthy anyway and there's nothing that I eat that I wouldn't want to also give to Lydia (this is not always true for what my husband eats though haha!).

5. When you need to give your baby food, here are some easy things that don't require any advance preparation: bananas, yogurt, avocado, mango, cheese; just mash with a fork and serve.
6. I will probably make some basic baby foods such as applesauce on occasion, but I'll choose things that we'll all eat so that I'm not just setting out to make food only for my baby.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention these things. First, while everytime I went to a pediatrician they would tell me to give Lydia vitamins, I politely took the "prescription" but never filled it. If you are healthy and eating healthy foods, your baby is getting the nutrition God designed for her to have in your breastmilk. The only exception to this is Vitamin D and that's why it's important for you and your baby to get 10 minutes of fresh sunshine everyday (without sunscreen). (Here's Kellymom's take on vitamins if you want further reading.) Secondly, I can't recommend highly enough these three sources: The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and the Weston A. Price foundation website.

Here's an example of some of the things we do in our home for health and nutrition:

  • Mill wheat (for muffins, pancakes, and waffles I soak all wheat for added nutrition)

  • Add fresh ground flax seed to food daily

  • Take whole foods vitamins and Icelandic cod liver oil daily (Lydia loves Cod Liver Oil)

  • Drink raw milk; make homemade yogurt

  • Make fermented and cultured vegetables

  • Sprout nuts, seeds, and grains

  • Make bone broths (stock) which I freeze and use as a base in my food

  • Cook from scratch (we never use spice packets, bouillion, etc. which if full of additives, preservatives, and MSG just to name a few things)

  • Organic fruits and veggies

  • Free range meat and eggs

  • We don’t eat sugar, processed or refined foods, hydrogenated oils, or regular flour

  • Eat fresh fish regularly (not farm-raised)


PLEASE do not feel overwhelmed if you look at this list and don't know where to begin. Start small and add changes in gradually. It is all a learning process. We are a work in process in our home. What keeps me going is the responsibility I feel to feed my family the healthiest foods possible so we can be free to serve the Lord in health. And, when you eat healthy it is much easier to make healthy food choices for your children.

6 comments:

markandmeg said...

I'm definitely interested in your healthy lifestyle, although I'm just not sure I understand how you do all those things. Can you explain how you make fermented and cultured vegetables, Sprout nuts, seeds, and grains, and make bone broths (stock). Or would all that be covered if I looked at those books you mentioned?
Thanks,
Meagan

Christina said...

I'm glad you shared how long you guys waited for solids - so true! And a BIG AMEN to how much easier it was to just nurse (or use a bottle for that matter) than worry about solids. Looking back, it was SO much easier before and after the "puree" stage.

Anonymous said...

I am encouraged by your post regarding not starting solids until later in the first year. Did our parents or in-laws question you regarding what Lydia was eating and that she's not getting enough nutrition, etc... The reason I started feeding my child solids was because these people in my life would hound me (harrass me), as if I'm irresponsible. How did you handle those comments? It really made me upset when they would do this, but I just gave in so that I could silence their remarks. Any advice?

Krista said...

Meagan,
The Maker's Diet and Nourishing Traditions will get you started (or make you feel overwhelmed if you're like me!). Both will explain why it is so important to eat healthy and do it from a strong research (and biblical base in the case of the Maker's Diet). NT starts with the first 100 pages or so with research on nutrition and then the next 500 pages or so is a cookbook. Honestly, it's the best cookbook I've ever had and if I could only have one that would be it. When I got started with it I really worked out of NT for my recipes. You will get proficient though at modifying any type of recipe after awhile. When I was getting started I made it a goal to try one new recipe a week. I figured after a year I'd have 52 new ones. That was doable for us, and, most weeks, I could try 2-3. Just don't get frustrated when you can't change everything all in one day. As for specifics of how to culture vegies, sprout grains, and make stock all of those recipes are in NT. Start with the stocks - it's so easy and versatile it will give you a good base to try many more recipes. Good luck!

Anonymous,
Yes, I faced this same type of pressure from many friends and family. We live overseas so our "family pressure" came over the phone which was easier to brush off (although, even before we moved overseas when Lydia was four months I received quite a bit of pressure from some family members who wanted to see me give her food already at this time!). Overseas, both our national friends and foreign friends thought the way I did (do) things was a little crazy but I've come to accept that people think it's different. In the end, I'm only responsible to God for how I've raised MY children and I want to do what I believe to be the very best I can. Those to whom much is given, much is required. I prayed for years to understand what was truly healthy (I mean, there is so much conflicting health advice out there!). I felt in my spirit the Lord confirming the ideas I read in Maker's Diet and NT and I feel like by continuing down this course (even when others pressure me otherwise) is honoring Him by serving my family the healthiest food possible (although it's true this is only one of our God-given responsibilities for taking care of our homes).

The Eckerts said...

I am very interested in how you mill your wheat. What miller do you have? Do you have any recommendations for someone starting out fresh in this area? I suppose I should just get those books. We have the Maker's Diet and have started to introduce some of his ideas. Thanks for all the information to think about. Very helpful.

Christina said...

"the eckerts,"

I just started grinding my own wheat, at the advice of Margaret and Krista along with some women at my church. After about two years, we finally made the plunge and bought our mill. The site that was recommended to me was:

www.breadbeckers.com

I probably read this site for several months before purchasing my WonderMill and first batch of grains and other goodies. (I would recommend getting their cookbook too - super helpful!) Since then I've made a dozen or so loaves of bread, but also have tried several other things lately. Today I made a HUGE batch of whole wheat waffles to freeze. They were delicious!

Feel free to ask more questions as I'm sure the others will chime in as well!

ps. I love your blog "hospital to home" - I'm also expecting in March, but will be returning to the hospital after a very complicated delivery #1. Looking forward to seeing how your home birth goes!

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