Are you feeding solid baby food yet? What a fun and adorable mess!!!
There are a lot of great articles and blogs out there about how to feed solid food. Most of them focus on when (4 or 6 months?) and how (one food at a time over a week). This is great advice, but I want to talk about WHAT you should be feeding your baby.
Let’s talk about the nutrition of baby food.
All babies are different and, like adults, have their own individual nutritional needs. In fact, whether your baby has been primarily fed breast milk or formula will make a huge difference in his/her nutritional needs. Breast milk is actually very low in iron and zinc. This fact is why it’s recommended to introduce solid foods at about 6 months! By 6 months, breastfed babies have used up most of their iron stores and are not getting much from breast milk, so they need to get some from food.
What’s the best source of iron and zinc? It’s meat! Yeah, meat! I am an advocate of starting pureed meats as one of baby’s first foods, especially if baby was exclusively breastfed. The breastfed babies’ need for iron and zinc is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting with fortified infant cereal. The cereal itself is almost worthless. It’s simply a vehicle to deliver an iron supplement. However, the type of iron in baby cereal is literally just tiny metal iron shavings. The type of iron in meat is called heme iron. It is much more easily absorbed by little intestines, a higher percentage of it is absorbed, and it doesn’t cause any distress. Meat will also provide some protein and fat. Cereal is almost 100% processed carbohydrate. So meat really does beat cereal from any angle.
Since I just brought up fat, let’s stay there for a moment. Breast milk and formula are roughly 50% fat (by calories). In fact we should really call it “breast cream” instead of breast milk. Infants are made to drink a high fat diet! Then what do we feed them as soon as they can eat food? Bananas and Cheerios. That’s pretty much 100% carbs. I like to recommend looking for foods that have more fat in them. Not only is this more similar to the type of diet they are used to, but it will help increase the amount of calories they can fit in those tiny tummies. Great sources of healthy fat include red meat, avocados, coconut milk (the delicious full fat kind), coconut oil, hard-boiled egg-yolks, and natural peanut butter (if baby has already tried it and you don’t have a family history of food allergies).[/fusion_text]
There’s some research to suggest we should be starting with the least sweet vegetables first and then working our way up to fruits, saving the sweetest fruits for last.
Does everything need to be organic? This question is much trickier because we don’t have research to help us answer it. Thus, the following is my opinion. If you can, I would try to feed as much organic solid food as possible in the first few months after you introduce solid food (roughly from 6 – 12- months). Since baby is still so young at this time, I think it’s wise to try to minimize exposure to potentially harmful pesticides as long as possible until those little intestines are finally “mature”. By 12 months of age, baby’s intestines have pretty much finished maturing and I think the risk is less. The great news is, most commercial baby food is already organic, so it is affordable and easy to find. I will add a note here. I have not been able to find organic baby food meat. If you have found some, please leave a comment and tell me where! You can very easily make your own meat puree (just put some warm meat and water in the blender!). If you make your own, choose organic and grass fed or free-range meat sources. But if you buy a tiny jar of baby food meat, you’ll have to accept that it won’t be organic. I do occasionally feed my baby these non-organic meats. I chose the risk of non-organic meat over the processed carbohydrate and harsh iron source of infant cereal. You are the expert on your own baby and can make that choice for yourself.
Lastly, there’s some research to suggest we should be starting with the least sweet vegetables first and then working our way up to fruits, saving the sweetest fruits for last. This is because infants have a natural affinity for sweet food. They will likely gobble down mango easily but will turn up their nose to broccoli. This is normal!! Just keep offering that delicious broccoli! Babies often need to be exposed to a new food 10 times before they’ll accept and eat it. Focus on nutrient dense veggies first. These are the veggies that will provide the most vitamins and minerals – spinach, broccoli, peas, etc. … you know – all those veggies you’re supposed to be focusing on too!
This recommendation is NOT what you would assume looking at the baby food aisle. What I normally see is roughly 75% fruit or fruit-only blends. For a baby who is used to eating a 50% fat diet, a container of apples and pears is a LOT of sugar to eat all at once. When fruit isn’t mixed with any fat or protein, that sugar will also be absorbed very quickly… giving baby that “sugar rush” sensation. That’s why, I refer to a baby food pouch of “banana and mango” as dessert. Be cautious of constantly feeding your baby dessert type fruits of this kind.
That is enough information overload for one blog post! In part 2, I’ll show you what it looks like to put these principles in practice at the grocery store, and how I personally do mixing and combining of baby food at home. It’ll be a blast!!
xo Dr. Young
p.s. Have you found organic or grass-fed baby food meat purees? If so, let me know where in the comments! I’d love to know if such a resource exists!!