When it comes to starting your baby on solid foods, there are a lot of opinions and some controversy. Doctors and Paediatricians are still (mostly) recommending you start them on a cereal or ‘pablum’, but since those cereal days, there have been boatloads of research on nutrition and what nutrients the body needs to thrive.
I encourage you to take this blog article just as you do other information you find online; take it as my opinion or recommendation, but don’t stop there, do your own research, read your own books – and I will provide a couple resources at the bottom for those of you who would like to dive deeper.
Babies are still getting most of their nutrients from either breastmilk, formula, or a combination of the two. While I started to feed my babies solids when they were around 6 months old (when they could sit up and showed a strong interest in my food), I would always nurse/bottle feed them before trying them on some solids. The idea there is that the milk they are consuming is the most balanced and has all of the nutrients they need to grow and develop. Food only contains some nutrients, so to avoid them filling up on food and then not taking their milk, stick to milk first.
You need to remember that before their first year, any time they eat food, it is just practice, they are learning to chew, swallow, feed themselves, and getting a taste for foods. It WILL be messy, so strip them down or put them in a full smock, or time it before a bath. It is also nice to sit down with them and eat, modelling is the number one way they will learn.
How to Feed your baby
There are so many different ways to feed your baby, and this post isn’t about that, but you can either puree and spoon-feed, follow baby-led weening, or a combination of the two. Personally, with both of my girls, I started off with puree just to see how they could handle food and its consistency, then switched over to majority soft, solid foods (cut into tiny pieces) just out of sheer laziness. It all depends on your comfort level with the process (you may feel very scared about choking), or this may be your second or third child and just don’t have the time to sit and spoon feed them for 30 minutes. TRUST your mama instinct here! Don’t do what your friend is doing if it doesn’t feel right for you. And remember, this is a long process, my youngest is 20 months and I still have to cook/soften some of her food, and she is still a total mess when she eats.
Let’s get into 5 first foods I recommend for baby because of their high nutritional content. These foods are superfoods of sorts, containing a variety of vitamins and minerals that would benefit baby and mama. While some may have a bad rep, give it a try with baby, since knowing most mom’s, sometimes their meals are leftover from the high chair tray (guilty 🙂 ).
Make sure the eggs you are cooking for baby are free-range or from a farm you know. The happier the chickens were, the more nutrients their eggs contain. Egg yolk is referred to as natures multivitamin because it contains such a wide variety of nutrients such as: protein, calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, essential fatty acids, Vitamins A, D, E, K, B6, folate, B12. See the info below to see an entire list of all the goodness they contain.
Serving eggs to a child can be tricky if you don’t prepare it correctly. When they are a little older (probably close to 1 year), they would be able to manage a scrambled egg. But when they are still lacking the ability to chew and swallow, fry the egg in a pan so that the yolk is still soft and runny, then use a spoon to peel back the skin and feed them spoonfuls of the soft, runny yolk.
This one is always met with some resistance, so bear with me…
Liver is THE most nutrient dense food there is. Make sure your liver source is from a clean, grass-fed, antibiotic free animal (beef liver or chicken livers are most widely consumed) because the liver is what processes toxins, so if you are using a liver from a conventionally raised animal, the toxins will be elevated in the liver.
Liver is a protein-rich food, high in the following nutrients: B2, B9, B12, Vitamin A, Iron, Copper, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Zinc. See the graphic below comparing the nutrients in liver to that of other “superfoods” like blueberries and kale.
While liver can smell like dirty socks, there are palatable ways to consume this superfood. This is a recipe I’ve adapted from Megan Garcia’s First Foods + Beyond Program that you can try with baby.
Liver Pate for Baby
1/2 lb liver (clean out sinewy bits and cut into cubes)
1 apple or pear peeled and sliced
4 tbsp coconut or avocado oil
2 tbsp bone broth, heavy cream or breastmilk
spices to taste (consider 1/2 tsp thyme) or leave out altogether
- Place 2 tbsp of ghee or coconut oil into pan and sauté apple/pear slices, cook until soft.
- Add liver, spices, 2 tbsp ghee or oil of choice, cook until liver is pink inside and no longer raw.
- Put all contents of pan into blender and add 2 tbsp bone broth/cream/milk until desired consistency.
- Store in small jars or freeze cubes in silicon tray.
Avocados contain a tonne of healthy fats, fiber and Vitamins such as: Folate, B6, Vitamin E, K, C, Potassium. I love avocado’s for their portability as well, it is easy to bring one sliced down the middle with a spoon to feed baby on the go. But kids seem to be pretty divided on the avocado-train. My first hated them, and my second can’t get enough of them.
Depending on what baby prefers, you can use a fork to mash it up very smooth, experiment with a few chunks, or cut it into pieces if the child is a little oder. Make sure the avocado is nice and soft, as they will be much creamier in consistency and much more palatable. You can also mash or puree avocado’s with a fruit if they don’t like the flavour, and add some bone broth or breastmilk to make it a little runnier if needed.
Bone broth is an amazing food to help heal the gut and improve immunity. This is especially important if baby doesn’t drink breastmilk, they are not receiving as much immune building antibodies from mom and could use a boost from other areas. Bone broth is high in collagen and contains vitamins and minerals that are present in the bones of the animal. You can use any bones from a grass-fed animal, I like to do broth with my chicken carcass after I’ve cooked the chicken, to get all the nutrients out of the bones, you need to simmer them for at least 12 hours. Bone broth is high in: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, as well as some others.
Bones need to be simmered for 12-24 hours to get the maximum benefits, see this recipe for ideas on what to add to the broth while simmering. Go light on the salt for babies broth. In terms of feeding it to baby, you can put it in a sippy cup for them to drink, spoon feed them little bits, or add a couple tbsp’s to their pureed foods. My first daughter had to start really slow with thicker food, so for her first couple months “eating” solids, I limited it to bone broth until she could handle thicker purees.
Fatty fish are high in Omega-3’s which are beneficial for providing protein, promoting gut health, brain health and growth and reducing inflammation in the body. Depending on the fish, they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals including B Vitamins, Selenium, and Potassium. Do your research with fish, and get wild caught whenever you can. Try any of the below:
- Wild Caught Salmon
- Bone-in, skin-on canned sardines (they contain more nutrients especially calcium with bones. Make sure to puree.)
Cook fish until flaky, serve to baby in small pieces or puree with some cooked sweet potato and a splash of bone broth. If pureeing, keep the skin on and bones in if they are soft and can be blended smooth.
Times have change with the research and when to introduce allergenic foods to baby. The idea these days, is that exposure builds up tolerance, so introducing baby to foods that we were once told to avoid can be given to them earlier. This includes eggs and peanut butter. Have a gander at this blog article by Megan Garcia all about how to introduce allergens to baby.
A Note On Food Preparation
In case you haven’t caught on yet, babies need healthy fats, so try to add it in to purees or cooked food wherever you can. Add ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, or bone broth when you can.
To avoid having to make a new food everyday, try making a larger batch and freezing them in silicon ice cube trays. Then label and bag the cubes and keep in freezer. To defrost, use a microwave or hot water.
The best way to get nutrients into your baby is to provide them with a variety of whole, nutrient dense foods. Focus on feeding them a wide range of colourful foods, including berries, kale, carrots, and sweet potato to feed the gut bacteria. As well as starchy foods like cauliflower, broccoli, beets to provide prebiotics to the body (food for the probiotics and healthy bacteria).
A few reasons why baby might need to take probiotics:
- if they were delivered via c-section
- if Mama was on antibiotics when pregnant**
- if baby received antibiotics after birth
- if baby drinks formula instead of breastmilk
A note on breastmilk: the longer they breastfeed, the longer they receive the benefits of the mothers immune antibodies and absorbable vitamins, minerals and enzymes. That being said, I am all for formula feeding if that is what Mama decided to do, or wasn’t able to breastfeed. If your baby is not getting breastmilk, that is absolutely NOT a reason to feel guilty or feel like you are depriving your child of nutrients, because there are things that can be added into their diet to supplement and they will be just fine :).
Here are a few different probiotics that come from reputable brands I would consider giving baby:
- Genestra HMF Natogen (HMF stands for Human Micro Flora, which is a more effective probiotic).
- Probiotics containing Bifidobacterium infantis and Lactobacillus acidophilus like this one by flora.
- Renew Life Flora Baby
Give to baby daily in powder form on finger on on nipple if breastfeeding.
**While some vitamins and minerals pass through breastmilk (like Vitamin D), probiotics don’t pass directly through breastmilk from Mama to baby (they live in the digestive tract and don’t get into the bloodstream). It is still a good idea to be taking the probiotic as a mother, especially if you delivered via cesarian or were on antibiotics during pregnancy or postpartum. Even though the probiotics don’t pass directly to babe, they do get the benefits of the immune-boosting effects the probiotics provide to Mom.
Balancing an Ideal Diet with Real Life
Now, these 5 foods are my recommendation when you have the time and capacity to prepare it for your baby. If you are on the go and can’t bring their food with you all the time, don’t fret if you need to feed them something else. Offer them a variety of whole foods whenever possible. Try as much as you can to limit precessed foods at the beginning, but even saying that, they will get their hands on some cheerios or fish crackers. My opinion of this all is that you can try to stick to nutrient-dense whole foods 80% of the time, and let the other 20% of time be what it is. Don’t stress, your child will pick up and learn from your relationship with food, so try and be as neutral as possible if they are eating something you don’t want them to eat and model the behaviour you want to see in them with your own healthy food choices.
If you are interested in learning more about ideal nutrition for baby, I recommend Meghan Garcia’s course (First Foods + Beyond) and/or Sprout Right.
I hope this has helped you a little bit and given you some ideas on what to offer to baby to maximize the nutrients getting into their little bodies. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them below!