I have heard so many different opinions as to what solid foods are best for babies. Because my second child is almost five months old, I have done some extensive research regarding feeding babies for personal reasons. I’ve found that some recommendations are just not based on science. For example, cereal, which is such a popular first baby food, is actually really hard for a baby under one year to digest.
Babies actually produce very limited digestive enzymes in their first year of life. They are able to digest fats and some protein, but they rely on mother’s milk for additional digestive support. The amylase enzymes (responsible for carbohydrate digestion) don’t get produced in a baby’s body until they reach at least six months of age. Generally, when a child is one, they will produce enough of this enzyme to properly digest dietary carbohydrates such as grains and cereals.
A baby’s intestinal wall is also very fragile, and not completely developed until at least six months of age. Before this time, large antibodies from breast milk are able to go through the intestinal lining, aiding the immature immune system and keeping the baby healthy. Because of this permeability, large, incorrectly digested particles from food can circulate in the baby’s body and cause harm. It is imperative then, that a baby’s digestive system gets the right food, and the right assistance, to aid proper digestion.
So what are some suggestions based on these facts? Before I begin with specific details, please keep in mind that at any age, new foods should be introduced one at a time, and at least four days should be given before introducing a new food. If your child is intolerant to any foods introduced, one or more of the following can happen: rashes, gas, bloating, night wakings, diarrhea or constipation, congestion, fussiness, and irritability.
Four to six months old
If your baby shows early signs of readiness to eat (leaning forward at the sight of food, being able to sit up, and not pushing the tongue out when food is put into their mouth), consider the following food choices (it is important to begin very slowly, especially if you are starting to feed solids before the six-month mark):
Organic cod liver oil
Mashed ripe organic banana (ripe bananas are a source of amylase enzymes)
Soft-boiled organic egg yolk (The yolk of the egg does not contain allergenic proteins but the whites do, so avoid them for babies less than one year old).
Six to 12 months and older
At this point, you can begin to introduce puréed meats, fruits and vegetables, and broths. Consider these tips:
Coconut oil is a great source of healthy fats. I found a good recipe for beginner eaters at thecoconutmama.com/2010/05/coconut-babys-favorite-food-brain-food
Avoid citrus, tomato, egg whites, all until one year because they are potential allergens
Because of their fragile insides, babies should be given organic food as much as possible because of its low toxicity. If you’re using non-organic produce, peel when possible as toxins reside mostly on peels
By six months of age, babies generally have low iron stores (as well as vitamin E) and should be given adequate portions in baby foods. Iron foods to use include meat, cooked spinach, and coconut. Foods high in vitamin E include cooked spinach, swiss chard, kale, avocado , and broccoli
Soft fruits can be mashed and given raw, otherwise they should be cooked (i.e. apple sauce)
Brown rice that has been soaked overnight before cooking can be used occasionally. It is best served pre-chewed because an adult’s salivary glands add amylase enzymes to the foods, aiding in digestion for the baby. Mixing in some breast milk before serving can also increase enzyme content and help smooth out the texture.
All vegetables should be cooked and served with a small amount of fat (i.e. organic butter or coconut oil) to aid digestion.
I realize it can be hard to find good-quality organic food for your baby in the Yukon. You can find a list of good-quality Yukon farm products and producers on line at farmproducts.yukonfood.com
In the past couple of years, the health food sections in our local grocery stores have increased, making organic brands easier to find. Riverside Grocery carries a variety of organic produce even in the winter. Good quality meats can be found at local butcher shops as well as from farms on the link above. Or, you may be lucky enough to have a partner that brings home wild meat like mine does!
I realize all this information can be overwhelming. In the long run, you need to do what feels right for you and your family. Good luck and happy feeding!
Amoree Briggs lives in the Yukon countryside with her family and has just completed her diploma in holistic nutrition.