A new study led by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finds that more than half of all babies are introduced to solid foods earlier than recommended. The research, published this month in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, followed the dietary habits of more than 1,400 babies and found that about 16 percent of infants received other foods before four months and 38 percent at between four and five months. Feeding your baby foods other than breast milk can cause nutrition deficiencies. Let’s say you feed your baby puréed mangoes in the morning before you nurse. Chances are that your baby will fill up on the fruit and consume less breast milk. That means that your baby gets more sugars (albeit natural ones) and less of the perfect nutritional composition delivered when you nurse.
What should babies eat? Before six months of age, your baby gets everything he or she needs from your breast milk—it’s actually tailor-made to fit the needs of your infant! Breastfeeding is always the best choice for your baby for the first six months. Breastfed babies have healthier immune systems, digestive systems, and gut microbiome, and these infants are less likely to be overweight or obese, to experience diarrhea or constipation, or to develop type 2 diabetes or ear infections than those fed formula or other foods. Your breast milk is easily digested, and comes with all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals a newborn requires. If you are unable to breastfeed, I highly recommend a formula that is organic and pesticide-free.
Does Mom’s diet matter? Absolutely. What you eat influences the quality and nutrients in your breast milk. Make sure to eat a diet full of natural organic whole foods, and get good fats including avocados, raw nuts and seeds, organic ghee, and coconut oil. There are tons of diet hacks you can use to make sure that you have plenty of healthy breast milk. It’s important to avoid alcohol when you breastfeed, and limit fish to two servings or fewer per week because both can be passed through breast milk. Try this postpartum smoothie:
Dr. Taz’s Postpartum Smoothie
- 1 cup unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, hemp, etc.)
- 1 large handful of greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, etc.)
- ½ cup frozen organic cherries
- ½ frozen organic banana
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free oatmeal
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 1 tablespoon cacao
Blend non-dairy milk and greens together. Then, add the rest of the ingredients. Blend on high. Drink as a meal replacement, snack, or take sips throughout the day to keep your energy up in a natural way.
When you should you introduce solid foods? At six months, you can begin to introduce puréed fatty foods first including avocados, full fat plain Greek yogurt, organic grass-fed meats, organic and unsweetened nut butters (peanut butter last because of allergy risks), and raw seeds such as pumpkin. Healthy fats support healthy gut and brain development, protein and iron are essential nutrients, and antioxidants and fiber from fruits and vegetables come next. You don’t want to begin by introducing fruits, both because it sets up a baby to expect a sweet taste, which can make it more difficult to introduce other foods later (humans can be predisposed to sweetness if it’s the first taste we experience), and because it has been linked to higher levels of Candida yeast, which can cause thrush (an oral yeast infection) and diaper rash in babies. At around eight months you can start puréed fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It’s best to stick with organic choices whenever possible.
Don’t stop nursing. It’s good to continue breastfeeding alongside other foods until your baby is 12 months old. After this, you can nurse for as long as you and your baby wish.
What are some of your favorite recipes for baby food? Homemade baby food is the best because you can control the quality of the ingredients. There are tons and they are all fun. It’s good to start with individual foods like those listed above because you’ll be able to easily know if your baby has intolerances. Then you can try some simple combos such as the following (you can make these ahead and freeze them in ice cube trays if you want to have extra on hand):
- Avocado and Sweet Potato Mash: Steam sweet potato, mash with ripe avocado and blend with a small amount of coconut milk.
- Banana Kefir Blend: Put plain full milk kefir and a ripe banana in a blender. Voila.
- Apples and grains: Peel an apple, core and slice and cook it up with some oatmeal or quinoa, cool and blend. You can put in ice cube trays to freeze for later.