Ideally, breastfeeding should be maintained for a year, since the first year of life requires the balance of fats, protein, cholesterol, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that human milk provides. But what solid foods should be introduced and when? While your pediatrician should give you general guidelines here are some suggestions for introducing healthy foods to your baby:
First of all, think “whole foods baby.” Just like your own diet, you will want to avoid processed and refined foods for your baby. In fact, to ensure quality, nutrient-rich foods, you can make your own baby food from organic, whole foods. (You can even make it ahead of time and freeze it in one-serving sizes for later use!) However, be sure to introduce new foods one at a time and continue to feed that same food for at least four days to rule out the possibility of an allergic reaction. Remember that your baby’s digestive system is still developing and have limited enzyme production, so foods like cereals, grains and breads will not be the best choices.
A baby's earliest solid foods should be mostly animal foods—especially nutrient-dense organ meat. The reason? When weaning begins, the nutrients protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins begin to wane—and one food group providing these nutrients in ample amounts is meat. The protein in meat helps the baby more easily absorb iron from other foods. Meat also contains a much greater amount of zinc than cereals, which means more is absorbed.
Don't Forget Fats
A majority of mother’s milk is fat, much of it saturated fat—and when children are fed solid foods that are low-fat and low-cholesterol, they fail to grow properly , . Children need high levels of fat throughout growth and development and milk and animal fats give energy and also help children build muscle and bone. In addition, the animal fats provide vitamins A and D necessary for protein and mineral assimilation, normal growth and hormone production.
Foods to Introduce
Egg yolks, rich in choline, cholesterol and other brain-nourishing substances, can be added to your baby's diet as early as four months. The best choice for baby is yolks from pasture-fed hens raised on flax meal, fish meal, or insects since they will contain higher levels of DHA. Why just the yolk? The white is the portion that most often causes allergic reactions, so wait to give egg whites until after your child turns one. Baby may also be given mashed banana during this period; ripe banana contains amylase enzymes to digest carbohydrates.
Puréed meats can be given at six months. Meats will help ensure adequate intake of iron, zinc, and protein with the decrease in breast milk and formula. A variety of fruits can be introduced at this time. Avocado, melon, mangoes and papaya can be mashed and given raw.
At about six to eight months, vegetables may be introduced--one at a time. Carrots, sweet potatoes and beets are excellent first choices. All vegetables should be cooked (steamed preferably), mashed and mixed with a liberal amount of fat, such as organic butter or coconut oil, to provide nutrients to aid in digestion.
At eight months, baby can now consume a variety of foods including creamed vegetable soups, homemade stews and dairy foods such as cottage cheese, mild harder raw cheese, cream and custards.
At one year, whole grains should be the last food given to babies—as these have the most potential for causing digestive disturbances or allergies.
Here are some quick recipes for healthy first foods:
Egg Yolk and Liver: Boil an egg for three to four minutes (longer at higher altitudes), peel away the shell, discard the white and mash up yolk with a little unrefined sea salt. (The yolk should be soft and warm, not runny.) Small amounts of grated, raw organic liver (which has been frozen 14 days) may be added to the egg yolk after 6 months.
Pureed Meats: Cook meat gently in filtered water or homemade stock until completely tender, or use meat from stews you have already made up for the rest of the family. Make sure the cooked meat is cold and is in no bigger than 1-2 inch chunks when you puree. Grind up the meat first until it's almost like a clumpy powder. Then add water, formula or breast milk, or the natural cooking juices as the liquid.
Baby Pate: Place 1/4 pound organic chicken livers and 1/4 cup broth or filtered water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for eight minutes. Pour into a blender (liver and liquid) with 1-2 teaspoons organic butter and a pinch of sea salt and blend to desired consistency.
Vegetable Puree: Use squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots or beets. Cut vegetables in half, scoop out seeds from squash and bake in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, or steam them (in the case of carrots and beets) for 20 to 25 minutes. Mix in organic butter when puréeing. You can cook these vegetables for your own dinner and purée a small portion in a blender or food mill for your baby.