Baby Food Basics: Introducing Food Naturally!
Babies are born with an immature (under-developed) digestive and immune system. For the first 6 months of life breast milk is the only food required by most infants. Breast milk contains a bacterial growth factor that will help establish good bacteria in the colon and protect the baby against intestinal infections. Most infants normally thrive on breast milk as it provides essential antibodies that protect their immune function and nutrients (in the right proportions) for optimal growth. A nursing mother generally needs to eat an additional 500 calories (or 2 snacks) per day to meet the demands of lactation. If breastfeeding is absolutely not possible, there are hypo-allergenic formulas on the market such as Nutrimigen and Alimentum, which are easier to digest than cow and soy milk formulas.
Until about 6 months of age, a baby's digestive tract is not able to adequately digest most foods. The small intestine is very porous until this age to allow immune factors to pass from mother to infant through breast milk. This is why food particles may pass into the blood undigested… inducing allergies or intolerances. The intestine remains some-what porous until 12 to 18 months. Offering solid foods before 6 months can also decrease your milk supply. Your baby does not produce salivary amylase (an enzyme produced in the mouth to digest grains) until 6 months. This is the number one reason to hold off introducing cereals! A child that cannot sit up by him/herself has not properly developed muscles to propel food into the gut and beyond. Furthermore, it has been conclusively demonstrated in a Finnish study that prolonged exclusive breastfeeding will significantly reduce the incidence of food allergy, even in families with a strong tendency to allergy.
Guidelines for introducing solid foods:
• A baby is usually ready for solid foods when s/he is able to sit up and able to push food away.
• Introduce foods when the baby is feeling well. If the baby is sick, it will be difficult to tell the difference between a food reaction and symptoms of the illness.
• Ensure that you are not rushed! YOU, or the primary caregiver should offer the food.
• Although nutritionists usually advise introducing a variety of vegetables before fruits, this is not necessary. Fruits are easy to digest. Breast milk is almost 50% lactose (milk sugar), thus, babies have an in-born taste for sweets. However, natural sugars, found in fruits, will satisfy sweet cravings if the child is accustomed to this level of sweetness at an early age. It is crucial to avoid concentrated sweets such as those found in many jarred baby foods and processed snacks - if a child is accustomed to this level of sweetness, he will develop a taste for it. Do offer vegetables first! They are packed with minerals and disease-preventing health factors. You cannot overdo the veggies! However, every 2nd new food can be a new fruit.
• Introduce one new food every four days, at lunch time. This allows enough time to see if the infant is reacting to the food. Some food reactions are delayed. See the list below (food allergy/intolerance symptoms). Keep a chart of foods offered!
Symptoms that may indicate food allergy or intolerance:
A partial list only. Please consult your pediatrician if you have any concerns some symptoms may have other causes.
• Rash around mouth or anus (diaper rash)
• Diarrhea or mucus in stool
• Hyperactivity, irritability, or lethargy
• Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes)
• Runny nose
• Skin reactions (hives, eczema)
• Asthma, and upper respiratory infections
• Re-current Infections and ear infections
• Hayfever, seasonal allergies
• Gastro-enteritis and stomach aches, redness of face, cheeks
If there is no reaction to the food, offer it every 4 to 6 days to minimize sensitization (over-exposure). Offer a new food. If the baby refuses a food after several attempts, do not get upset. Try again in a few days. If there is a reaction to a food, stop that food. Allow the reaction to clear and then introduce the next new food. Inform your pediatrician of the reaction, immediately. It may be possible to re-introduce the food in 3 months. Avoid multi-ingredient dishes until you are sure the single ingredient foods are tolerated. Although organic produce is always recommended, you must still wash it thoroughly. You may blend, puree, mash, strain, or chop the foods. The consistency depends on your child's preference and ability to chew. Eating is a new experience and they have to learn!
DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is of an educational nature only, intended for healthy, full-term infants and toddlers without any apparent allergies or special needs. If your child has any medical conditions or allergies please seek the advice of a qualified physician or nutritional practitioner before introducing new foods or changing his or her current diet. The reader assumes all liability and is responsible for their children's health and well-being.
Kajosaari, M. and Saarinen, U.1983. "Prophylaxis of atopic disease by six months' total food elimination. Evaluation of 135 exclusively breastfed infants of atopic families." Acta. Paed. Scand. 72, 3, pp. 411-4.
Thom, D. 2002. Coping with Food Intolerances, Fourth Edition. Sterling Publishing Company Inc. New York, p. 86.
Although many of us would love to make all of our baby's food from scratch, our hectic schedules can make this impossible. Thankfully, there is a solution! Healthy Sprouts offers several varieties of age-specific, frozen organic baby foods, available in convenient "grab and go" portions. Healthy Sprouts is available in many retail health food and specialty stores in your area. To source a location near you, visit www.healthysprouts.ca for information. The story behind Healthy Sprouts is just as amazing as the quality of the food itself. The company was founded in 2004 by Canadian Tanya Moore, a new mom who was exasperated with the prepared baby food choices on the market and decided to develop a healthy line of products for her own children as well as yours. For more on Tanya's story, and useful tips and facts relating to infant feeding and the benefits of organics, please visit her website at www.healthysprouts.ca or call her at 416-505-4038.