We know that babies who are breast fed have a major health advantage over babies who are fed formula. That is a fact that has been proven in countless studies. But, what should we feed our babies when it is time to start adding food? Rice cereal has been touted as the least allergenic grain and therefore, the perfect first food for baby. I’m sure most parents would not consider giving their babies a spoonful of white sugar as a first food, but sadly that is what they are doing if they follow current standards. Rice cereal is an incredibly processed carbohydrate. It is stripped of it natural nutrients to preserve it and enriched with synthetics that babies can’t even use. It causes distress on an immature digestive system and sets it up for many problems down the road including obesity, allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, and behavioral disorders. Babies produce little to no amylase, the enzyme needed for grain digestion. That is nature’s way of telling us that babies should not be consuming grains of any of kind. They can’t be properly digested which leads to sluggishness and longer periods of sleep. For sleep deprived parents, hearing the pediatrician recommend adding a spoonful of cereal to make the baby sleep all night is music to their ears. That is just plain wrong on so many levels. Stuffing them with undigestible carbohydrates is a recipe for disaster.
So, if not cereal, what are the best, first foods for baby and when should you start introducing them? First of all, don’t be in a rush to start giving your baby food. Some babies are ready at 6-7 months and others not until 9-10 months. Look for signs from your child. Is he able to sit up on his own? Is he showing interest in what you are eating? Does he swallow any of the food or is his tongue thrust reflex still too strong, causing him to spit it all back out? If he’s not ready at 6 months or even 9 months, don’t fret! Breast milk is a complete food if mom is eating whole foods with plenty of proteins and healthy fats.
Babies need healthy fats for brain development from easily digested foods. Soft eggs yolks (preferably pasture raised), and ripe avocados are both great first food choices. Bananas contain high levels of amylase and have a ton of nutrients for your growing baby. Steamed, pureed vegetables (introducing one at a time), are also good choices. We usually recommend trying most of the vegetables first and then adding fruits. Some babies aren’t anxious to eat that broccoli or those green beans when they have been consistently given only sweet foods. Babies also need protein to fuel their tremendous growth. Free-range, organic meats can be added next. Be sure that the pieces are very tiny or pureed.
We recommend waiting until your child is around two years old before introducing grains. A good rule of thumb is to wait until their molar teeth are fully developed. This is a pretty good indication that their digestive systems are mature enough to produce the amylase necessary to break those grains down. As with any food, look for immediate reactions to determine possible food sensitivities.