My take on baby's first foods

Posted by  | Thursday, August 25, 2011  at 6:23 AM  

My sweet Abbi is now 6 1/2 months old and recently started trying out real food! Since feeding her is on my mind a lot (she begs for it anytime we are in the kitchen!), I thought I'd share my approach on feeding babies. I also highly recommend Lindsay's post on the topic: Feeding Baby Naturally, because she follows a similar thought pattern as myself and is much, much more thorough in her explanations than I am going to be. It is very interesting, easy to read, and the best simple article that I've read on the subject. I'm simply going to share what I have done with my babies, but Lindsey shares the research and reasons behind it. So if you don't have much time, read her article instead of mine because you will be much better educated. :) Another great article is Including Baby at the Family Table from the WAPF website. And if you do have time, I also highly recommend reading Nina Plank's Real Food For Mother and Baby. It is available at most libraries.

I'm all about breastfeeding if you possibly can. I know it is difficult for some people and I don't fault them for it at all. But if it is at all possible, the benefits to both Mama and baby are worth it! So I exclusively breastfeed my babies for the 1st 6 months.

Around 6 months, I usually start introducing foods to my baby. I wait until my baby can sit up all by herself, because that shows me that she is probably developmentally ready. But I don't worry about how much she eats, because at 6 months, she is still getting everything she needs from my breastmilk. I start her out on table food simply to get her used to different tastes and textures, and also so that I can eat in peace! (If she doesn't have food of her own, she is fussing and grabbing at my plate during mealtime :)

With my first baby, I pureed tons of fruits and vegetables and froze them in little ice cubes. But the 2nd time around, I totally skipped all that and was glad that I did. Instead, I just fed her whatever veggies and meat I fixed for my family for dinner. I made sure they were soft enough and would smash them with a fork if they seemed too big. I also added in a lot of butter, olive oil, or coconut oil because babies need healthy fats more than anything. I let her pick everything up and play with it and eat what she could. I didn't feed her anything with a spoon other than home-made yogurt, cod-liver oil, and a soft-boiled egg because they are just so good for her. I wanted her to develop that pincer grasp and good hand-eye coordination as well. So she mainly just fed herself. It was definitely more messy, but much less work since I did not need to puree and freeze. Plus, she was quite entertained and I could eat my dinner in peace!

I'm pretty much taking the same laid back approach with Abbi. I started giving her fermented cod liver oil around 4 months instead of the Vitamin D supplement that most pediatricians recommend. When she started acting like she wanted to eat when we did around 6 months, I first just gave her a spoonful of coconut oil or butter to chew on. Then I let her have fun with some avocado and soft-boiled egg yolks. I've also let her have plain yogurt and fresh cheese from my farmer. I will not give her any cereal because babies can't even digest it well until around a year old. I try not to let my babies have any grains until at least a year, and I'll hold off longer if possible because they need the healthy fat and protein so much more. My goal is to give my babies only real food -- not processed at all. But I'm not ridiculous about it. With Karlie, we went to visit the grandparents and Nina had bought some baby food and really enjoyed feeding Karlie with a spoon and that was fine. I knew that 90% of the time Karlie was feeding herself real food that I prepared.

I've found that around 8 months, my babies start actually "needing" to eat table food more because my milk supply can't quite keep up with their growing bodies. But that's just me. I have friends who have successfully fed their babies only breast milk until one year old. But my body just can't seem to do it. Instead of supplementing with formula, however, I just make sure my babies get enough fat and protein from real food. I continue nursing my babies every 3-4 hours during the day and give them lots of healthy, real food. I've also found that my milk supply keeps up better if I continue to wake them for a late night feeding before I go to bed even once they start sleeping through it. I know many people wouldn't want to mess up the sleep cycle, but it is worth it to me to be able to keep up my milk supply.

Eggs are truly the best food that I can give my babies. They have plenty of protein and iron and fats. They actually contain every nutrient that your body needs other than vitamin C! So I tried to make sure Karlie ate at least one egg yolk every day once she was about 8 months. (And not all eggs are created equal -- please read THIS POST to see why free range, pastured, not-from-a-store-eggs are soooo much better! Quick synopsis: to have healthy eggs you need a healthy chicken. A healthy chicken needs lots of sunlight and bugs to eat. You can't find healthy eggs at a grocery store -- you have to get them from the farm!

I also gave Karlie a lot of avocados -- a great first food for babies because of all the healthy fat. I usually mashed it up with good quality olive oil or coconut oil to give her even more healthy fats! Some times I would mix it with plain home-made yogurt because yogurt is good for her as well and I wanted her to get used to the sour taste of unsweetened yogurt. Avocados are the perfect healthy "fast food." I kept them on hand in case I sadly did not make a healthy enough meal for my family and wanted to be sure she ate real food. They were also my first choice to take for Karlie when we went out to eat because they are just so easy!

So there's my quick overview of how I approach feeding babies. I know it might not work for some children if they have a gagging problem or other eating issues, but it has worked well for my girls so I thought I would share. Feel free to ask any questions!

**And as a disclaimer -- I am not a doctor in any way and my advice should not be taken as professional. I am simply fascinated (my husband would say obsessed :) with nutrition and have read a lot about it.

7 comments:

Brenda and Brantley said...

This was a wonderful post and so timely for the stage of life that I'm in right now. Thank you for sharing from your experiences and for the other suggested reading!

Krista said...

Leah, great post on feeding babies. I want to give one caution though. Please don't start egg yolks too early. I know that Nourishing Traditions advocates this, but there is a ton of research out there - a lot of it my NT families who now have kids with egg allergies - about why you still need to wait until closer to a year to give egg yolks. I do agree it is a very healthy, wonderful food - I just encourage readers to wait until they are a little older to make sure your child doesn't have a bad reaction to eggs.

The Houks said...

I loved reading your post. It gave me so much to think about...and of course questions as well! I started my son (now 8 months) on rice cereal at 4 months. We live overseas and my doctor thought it would have his reflux (which was pretty severe and painful). It made a huge difference for him. I have just now started to try and introduce other foods to him. We don't have access to any coconut oil and I'm not sure what kind of butter you give, but I don't think I would want to give our processed butter to him (and I can't be sure of the cleanliness of the local butter). We don't get avocados here either. So I was wondering if you have any other good ideas for foods I can give him now. He LOVES table food and will chew on anything we give him, but I can also tell he needs to get some good calories from food as well as my milk doesn't seem to satisfy him as well anymore. Thanks for your thoughts!

Meg said...

Krista, Wow -- I hadn't heard of that! Thanks so much for telling us!

Meg said...

The Houks,
Another great food for babies is home-made chicken stock and bits of chicken. (If you have access to healthy chickens :) It is chock of of minerals and nutrients. I will usually cook a whole pastured chicken in my crockpot until extremely tender, take the meat out, and leave the bones in to simmer for about 24 hours. The meat is tender enough for my baby to eat if I chop it up a bit. Sweet potatoes are my other favorite "fast food" for babies if I don't have avaocados. I usually boil several in a pot to have on hand for a quick snack. If you can get good quality olive oil, you could mix that in for some healthy fat. My babies also like yogurt mixed in with sweet potatoes :)

The Houks said...

Meg,

Thanks for that help! I hadn't thought of chicken. I can get chickens that are probably alright - free range anyway. Unfortunately we can't get sweet potatoes or yogurt. I can get good olive oil though. I would never have thought to mix that in any of his food. There is local yogurt, but I can't be sure of the cleanliness of it at all. Any chance that you know how to make yogurt without a starter? I can't seem to find any recipes that don't require yogurt to make yogurt...ha! I truly appreciate your thoughts!

Blessings,

Michelle

Meg said...

I don't think you can make yogurt without some sort of culture, but there are several dried cultures available that could be sent internationally, although the shipping fee would be much greater :) But if you are willing to pay for the shipping,
http://www.savvyteasandherbs.com/
has some great starter cultures and they mail internationally and have great customer service.

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