Baby Food 101

I can vividly remember a sense of both excitement and fear when it was time to introduce solids for Sloane.

I did my research and decided to start on fruits and vegetables at about 6 months. Gluten free grains were introduced around 8 months and I am continuing to experiment with bigger food pieces, new flavours, textures and seasonal foods. Each child’s needs are unique so do what is best for you and your baby.

First food was avocado.

One study showed that babies who were exclusively nursed for 9 months had no signs of any nutritional deficiencies. This is great news for parents who want to wait a bit longer than the recommended 6 months. Keeping this in mind, it’s another reason that as mom’s we need to be aware of choosing whole foods that will provide nourishment for quality breast milk.

Here are a few pointers to help you on your baby food making adventure....

When do I introduce solids for my baby? Breast is best for as long as possible, and food introduction generally starts around 6 months of age. This is certainly up for debate and every child will be different. You want to look for developmental signs that your child is ready such as sitting up and being interested in food. It’s recommended that you wait until at least 6 months of age so that your baby’s digestive system is better equipped to deal with solid foods and not create an immune response, which can develop into digestive problems, allergies and sensitivities later in life.

What foods should I start with? There are several schools of thought from current western medicine, traditional food ideas, and other new age approaches. The goal is to provide your child with the building blocks for growth, development and optimal health and wellness. Choose foods that will provide vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein and other essential nutrients so your babe can thrive!

Here are some general guidelines for food introduction:

Note: this is NOT an all-inclusive list, but I hope will serve as a bit of a guideline for some fabulous whole food choices.

  • Vegetables: Sweet potato, squash, zucchini, carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, eggplant, beets, kale, and bok choy.
  • Fruits: Avocado, banana, pear, apple, grapes, peaches, berries, and kiwi.
  • Plant based protein: Chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, hemp seeds, lentils, etc.
  • Animal protein{organic whenever possible, usually recommended after 9 months}: Chicken, beef, lamb, liver {organic!}, wild caught salmon or white fish such as halibut.
  • Grains{recommended around 9-12 months of age}: Use your motherly instincts and do what you think is best for your baby but I would say, that your baby would benefit more from vegetables and fruits than grains as their first foods. You can buy prepared cereals OR better yet, make your very own! Head to the health food store or somewhere to buy things like oats, quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, etc. Use a coffee grinder or food processor to make your grain into a powder. Add your grain to water on the stove, bring to a boil, simmer until cooked {5-10 mins} and voila – homemade cereal! This not only is better for your baby but is much more affordable too.
  • Dairy: The dairy debate is one that I’m not going to touch a lot on. I wish we were able to purchase raw dairy and truly receive the benefits of raw milk. But because dairy is pasteurized it doesn’t hold much nutritional value when you can consume whole foods and get plenty of calcium and protein. It is often recommended you wait to give your child dairy until 12 months old. Sheep and goat products such as yogurt and cheese make great alternatives to dairy. My daughter currently drinks 2 bottles of full fat goats milk and she loves it!
  • Other healthy additions: It’s a great idea to add things like coconut oil, hemp seeds, flax seed oil, flax seeds {ground}, and {grass fed, organic} butter to your baby’s meals or snacks. All of these are super sources of healthy fats that are essential for your child’s brain development and in many cases increase the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals found in food.

QUALITY vs. QUANTITY: The convenience of prepared baby food is attractive when you are on the go but I want you to consider making as much of your own food as possible. Quality of food is of the upmost importance and I encourage you to choose food that is in its most natural state. Choose local, organic and any other foods that have undergone the least amount of processing possible. By choosing quality over quantity you are focusing on giving your baby the most nutrient dense options. Not only is choosing to make your own food best for your baby, but it is also a much more affordable option than purchasing pre-made baby foods.

Healthy blends: Once you have introduced individual foods to be sure your child doesn’t have any sensitivities or allergies, here a few ideas for some nutrient packed blends for your babe.

  • Black beans + avocado + banana + kale
  • Sweet potato + carrots + parsnips + apple + dash of cinnamon
  • Chickpeas + sweet potato + bok choy + banana
  • Green peas + broccoli + banana + apple + hemp seeds

I want you to consider how influential you are as a parent, your child forms a relationship with food. Not only does optimal whole food nutrition provide your baby with the nutrients he/she needs to thrive and to develop but you are helping to create a relationship with food - one that lasts a lifetime.

Don't over-think it and have FUN. Include your children in grocery shopping and meal prep so they can see what their food is and how it gets to their plate.