I had a call a few days ago from someone who was looking for some information as to what foods to start her 6 month old infant on. As I was explaining my viewpoint, I realized just how misguided some well intentioned parents really are. I don’t blame the parents – they really are attempting to do their best for their child. The blame lies squarely on those big food companies that don’t really care much about your baby’s health, especially if it means a loss in profits. The same goes for the agricultural industries (milk, grain, meat, etc. ) that peddle their products as the holy grail of all food items. Basically, advertising has us parents convinced that these popular beliefs are correct but I’m telling you, they are often wrong!
So, back to the infant’s first foods. To begin with, I strongly encourage everyone to exclusively breast feed their infants for the first six months of life and longer if viable. Breastfeeding guarantees the absolute best prevention and protection you can provide your child with in terms of health. Research has shown that breastfed children have a stronger immune system and thus, better resistance against illnesses and environmental influences. Research also suggests that breastfed babies show higher intelligence and the percentage of gifted children is exceptionally high amongst those who were nursed. I could go on and on about the benefits of breastfeeding but will stop myself. If you’re looking for some more information on breastfeeding, La Leche League at http://www.lllc.ca is a great website.
After those initial six months, I believe it is okay to start introducing some solids to a baby’s diet. To be perfectly honest, we didn’t start our daughter on solids until she was almost eight months old because she was being adequately satisfied with milk alone. However, you should be fine at around six months if you choose to do so. We started our daughter on pureed vegetables, carrots more specifically. You might notice that this goes completely against the popular belief that you need to start your child off with infant rice cereal. The number one ingredient in these commercialized products is processed white rice flour with a sprinkling of vitamins and minerals superficially added in. How is this healthy for your child?A child’s long term food preferences and metabolism is influenced by early food exposure. So at this very critical age in their development, we are giving our children a concentrated, unhealthy carb. Metabolically, it is not much different from giving your child a spoonful of sugar!
Every child’s first food should be a real food! It shouldn’t come out of a box or a jar. You can easily and cheaply steam and puree your infant’s vegetables yourself. In fact, it will probably be cheaper than buying jarred baby food. Just make sure you wait 5-10 days before introducing a new type of vegetable or fruit to your baby’s diet. If a food is digestible and well tolerated by the infant, you can then start to combine them afterwards. We introduced our daughter to carrots, sweet potato, parsnips in that particular order (no special reason behind this other than it is what worked for us).
Once our daughter was used to the taste of vegetables, we decided to introduce some fruits. We waited to start her on fruits because we were worried that if we gave her sweet fruits, she’d be less inclined to eat the earthier vegetables. Basically, we started her off with avocados, apples, and pears (waiting the requisite 5 to 10 days in between each food). It is important to note that cooked foods are more easily digested by young tummies than uncooked foods. It’s true that you lose some of the nutrients in the cooking process so try to keep cooking times to a minimum.
When we decided to add a second meal to her day at around 10 months, we started with whole grains (not boxed infant cereals). We wanted to wait to start her on whole grains because they are harder for infants to digest than the cooked fruits and veggies. We preferred millet, quinoa, and brown round grain rice. These are all gluten free. It is best to avoid grains containing gluten as they are harder to digest and can lead to allergies and intolerances.
Nothing of what I am telling you in this blog will ever be because I have something to sell! If I recommend a product, it is because I believe in it. I’m offering you my advice because I really am passionate about contributing to a change towards healthier living and well being! To be clear, I’m not professing that my way is the only correct way. I can only tell you what I followed myself for my infant daughter based on my professional learning and the most current scientific research out there. I only hope that some if it makes sense to you, too!