The first year of baby’s life is so very important for development and overall well-being. Nutrition plays such a vital role in helping baby thrive both now and in the years to come.
The proper foods and supplements can reduce inflammation, help with proper digestion, and maintain a healthy gut ecosystem and intestinal wall. Because the majority of the immune system resides in the gut, nutrient-dense foods can also help your baby fend disease and bounce back much more quickly when exposed to bacterial and /or viral infections.
Nourishing foods, along with reducing the overall toxicity load, can help prevent chronic and degenerative diseases that are now so prevalent in our society. The right foods can also bring healing when those conditions exist.
Sadly, the opposite is also true. Processed, genetically-modified, and highly-sugared foods can lead to a variety of behavioral disorders and chronic conditions.
These are the first foods you’ll want to include, postpone, and prepare to give your baby a healthy start.
For at last the first 4-6 months, a baby’s first and only food should be breastmilk. Breastmilk begins as colostrum, one of the most nourishing super foods available. Colostrum is produced for just a few short days after birth, but it has all that is needed to seal the gut, clear the intestinal tract, and prep baby’s immune system with antibodies, protective white cells, and immunoglobulins (1)! Colostrum can truly give baby a healthy start, and I strongly encourage you to provide this for your baby if at all possible.
After colostrum, breastmilk provides baby with all of the essential fats, sugars, and nutrients needed for growth and development. It also has an amazing ability to change and adapt in order to provide baby with any necessary antibodies for fighting disease and illness, along with the specific nutrient profile for baby’s developmental needs.
Breastmilk changes along with baby and is truly the best form of nourishment for the first few years of life. Breastfeeding mothers should make sure to stay hydrated and well-nourished in order to increase the nutrient content of their breastmilk and keep their own bodies healthy and strong. Homeopathic China can be taken X times a day in order keep Mom healthy alongside her baby.
Although breastmilk is ideal, it is not always possible to breastfeed for a number of reasons, including a low milk supply and adoption. If access to raw milk is available, consider researching the Weston A. Price homemade infant formula recipes. The recipes also include dairy-free options for babies, who are sensitive to casein or lactose. Read more about homemade infant formula here.
Homemade infant formula can be a wonderful alternative to store-bought formulas because it includes cleaner and more nutrient-dense ingredients. Sadly, many of the infant formulas available in the United States contain GMO’s (genetically modified) foods, BPA, fluoride, soy, corn syrup, and many other concerning ingredients. Soy-based infant formulas also contain more estrogen than is found in birth control pills!
If making your own homemade formula is not an option, though, look for an infant formula such as Baby’s Only Organic Whey Formula, which includes lactose sugar (similar to breastmilk) rather than corn syrup as the carbohydrate source. This is much easier on baby’s tummy and will not be made from a genetically-modified source.
Whatever infant formula you choose, consider supplementing from time to time with infant probiotics and later runny egg yolks (not the white part!). You can find more information on this in Super Nutrition for Babies.
If baby is exclusively breastfed, you may consider waiting until 6 months before introducing solids. If baby is on formula, however, you may begin as early as 4 months in order to provide extra nutrition.
First foods should include protein sources, such as runny egg yolks (not the white part!), bone broths, or meats in soups. This is because baby’s tummy only produces certain enzymes during this time. These enzymes are perfect for digesting breastmilk and proteins, but not, grains or other complex carbohydrates.
At around six to eight months of age, first foods can include avocados, bananas, apples, pears, tropical fruits, and lacto-fermented vegetables. Vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and parsnips can be cooked in ghee for added nutrition and easier assimilation of fat-soluble vitamins.
At nine to twelve months, you can add more spices and herbs, raw yogurt, raw butter, raw cheese, berries, pineapple, and well-steamed leafy greens.
After that, more and more foods can be introduced, including honey, maple syrup, soaked and dehydrated nuts, properly-prepared gluten-free grains, and finally properly prepared gluten grains.
For a more detailed list of first foods, including recipes and nutrition-dense options, check out Super Nutrition for Babies.
When it comes to grains, it’s best to wait until at least 18 months of age before introducing them. This includes rice cereal, which is often recommended far sooner. Grains can be very harsh for an adult gut and can have far greater consequences for an infant, whose gut is still not fully developed and is unable to produce the proper enzymes needed for digestion.
A compromised gut can be linked to a weakened immune system, behavioral disorders, and digestive issues. Waiting for at least the first year can help ensure a strong foundation in overall gut health and well-being.
Preparing Baby Food
The best solids for your baby are the ones you prepare yourself. Store-bought foods can have a number of pesticides and herbicides, along with other synthetic preservatives and vitamins. Organic store-bought options will often be free of these chemicals, but they will not be as nutrient-dense as freshly-prepared foods.
- Simmer or cook a large amount of veggies and firmer fruits in filtered water.
- Add olive oil or ghee for additional nutrition.
- Blend with breastmilk, formula, or more filtered water to the desired consistency.
- Pour the puree into silicone ice trays and freeze until needed.
When you’re headed out, simply pop out a few of the prepared frozen cubes into a stainless steel or glass jar and pack it up with a spoon and napkin. The puree will be thawed and ready to serve in a few short hours.
Another option is to keep some jars in the refrigerator for 1-3 days for easy packing and serving.
When purees are not available, carry an avocado and plastic knife and spoon or a banana for easy mashing and serving.
As baby eats more of a variety of foods, simply chop or blend whatever you are eating as a family and serve it. You may also want to learn more on baby-led feeding or weaning, which encourages baby to chew and suck on whole foods as they are ready. This may be something to consider if you prefer not to prepare purees for your baby but want to give him whole, nutrient-dense foods from the start.
Baby Food Pouches
Feeding baby with a spoon or letting baby “chew” on whole foods is ideal for proper oral development, but sometimes, it helps to have food pouches available, especially when traveling or on the go.
I personally used the Infantino squeeze station to create my own at home. I set aside some time about once a month to batch prepare baby food pouches for when I needed something quick and on the run. These could easily be frozen or kept in the fridge to use when needed.
Sugar and Processed Foods
Sugar can be extremely addicting, and it can feed the bad bacteria in the gut, leading to meltdowns and behavioral issues. Avoiding sugar for at least the first year will help keep baby’s gut flora balanced and healthy. Consider all-natural sweeteners, such as honey (after 1 year!), maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar from that point forward for a boost of sweetness and added nutrition.
I’d also encourage you to avoid processed baby foods as much as is possible. Many of the processed foods are full of sugars, complex carbohydrates, GMO’s, and artificial preservatives that can wreak havoc on the gut. They also are “fillers” that take the place of real nutrition and food. Use sparingly to keep your baby healthy and thriving.
A Healthy Start
Taking the time to prepare your baby’s first foods will give her what she needs to keep her body and immune system strong. It’ll also help you establish good habits for future development as well. The investment you are making today is not just for your healthy baby. It’s for your healthy child. And that is a gift that is truly worth striving for.