If there is one lesson that I’ve learned so far as a mother, it’s that Every Single Baby is different. This applies to all of the biggest themes of parenthood: Sleeping, Eating, Milestones and Abilities ...they are all different- and there’s no “secret” solution for any of them! I was asked recently if I have any tips for sleeping, and the best answer that I could pass on was- Get to know your individual baby, their needs, their personality- and listen to what it is that they are telling you. I tried so hard to follow sleep plans that worked for other babies, but Piper had her own path...as she should!
So when it came to food introduction, I was honestly a bit intimidated for a few reasons. First of all, Piper has had a “finicky” tummy since day 1. She has a tendency to get gassy, and at times she was full on Colicky. We also had a run with Silent Reflux and some scary symptoms surrounding that. It took a lot of tweaking and paying attention to my own diet while nursing to help alleviate her stomach pain and diaper rashes. Eventually we narrowed it down to some common culprits: Dairy, gassy vegetables, black beans (beans in general), and certain grains. We then had a whole adventure with Formulas when I started to supplement a bottle a day- trying out the most popular formulas, lactose free formulas, organic formulas...all of them upset her stomach. So we just gave up on Formula altogether until about 9 months when I started to ween using Holle Organic Goat Formula- which was the winner!!
So, as we approached the 6 month milestone, we were a little intimidated by food introduction. I asked friends, I read books, and also met with our Naturopath and Family Doctor to create a plan. All of the advice we received was so helpful, however it made things so much more confusing because as soon as we thought we had a plan- another opinion would make us question everything: start with grains? Or not? Purees or Baby led weening? Etc etc.
I went with an intuitive approach where we started with the safest “P” foods for digestion: Pear, Peas..and then from there, we introduced foods that didn’t bother her tummy while nursing. Pureeing her food seemed like a natural option for her stomach for smooth, easy digestion, and we decided to hold off on cereals. In terms of the cereals, I follow the school of thought that believes that infants can get their Iron and other vitamins and minerals from the food they are eating-rather than giving them food that is Fortified with Iron for example. So we introduced Meat and fruit and vegetables that are naturally high in Iron as an alternative to the most common route of starting baby out on Iron Fortified cereals. I am not going to say that I judge people who do...or that I made THE RIGHT decision and therefore any other decision is THE WRONG decision. I just knew that this was the route for us (bringing me back to- Every Baby Is Different). I was also hesitant to start on grains in general until she developed the proper enzymes needed to break them down closer to 8-10 months. Anyways-we got creative and made all sorts of fun purees with every vegetable and lots of fruits, eggs, meat and fish.
Today Piper eats a mix of food we make for ourselves (Meat, ancient grains, whole grains, vegetables, starches like sweet potato), as well as some purees! She is slow to eat finger foods, so adding in a couple of chunkier purees A) Gets more in her belly B) I can sneak in lots of things that she wouldn't eat by hand such as fresh herbs, spinach, onions etc.
All of our decisions surrounding food were (I will fully admit it) Painfully and Straight up Crazily thought out. Why so Crazy? I think it all stems from my personal digestion problems, and a long battle with stomach issues in general!
So, IF you are interested in learning more about Infant Diet and Nutrition, and you wish someone would just answer all the questions out there...I hope this helps!
I am going to share with you a Q and A with a well respected Naturopathic Doctor named Lisa Maddalena who has guided my personal journey with Piper's food and nutrition. You will see that she does not suggest ONE single approach...a be all or end all or a black and white solution. Rather, this Q and A will reveal a refreshing perspective on the biggest questions out there. At the end of this post I will leave Contact information for Lisa, should you want to contact her for further guidance or an appointment!
1. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions! Before we begin, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to become an ND?
My name is Lisa Maddalena, and I have been practicing as a Naturopathic Doctor for 4 years now. I studied Biomedical Sciences, with a minor in Nutrition in University. From there I decided to do my Masters in Nutrition and Neutraceutical Sciences. It was my supervisor, when I was studying my Masters, who introduced me to Naturopathic Medicine. It was a perfect marriage between my traditional medical science background and my interest in Nutrition and disease prevention.
2. In regards to Infant Diet and Nutrition, how would you describe your general approach?
I believe that children should be offered real, whole foods from day one. I don’t believe in “kids foods.” It is important that children are fed many types of flavours, and that the focus of each “meal” or “introduction” is nutrient density. I also believe that children should be given set meals so that they are hungry for their meals and that they know the difference between meal time and activity time. Children don’t start out as graisers, they become that way when they are fed snacks all day long, especially if they like the “snack foods” better. Also, I never recommend using food as a reward, distraction or comfort.
3. What are your thoughts about purees vs. baby-led weaning?
Each child is different. What works for one child may not work for another and therefore there is no right or wrong. If baby-led weaning works for your child then I really like this approach because it helps children learn more than just eating. By letting children feed themselves they improve their fine motor skills. In addition, it is an important step for babies in learning self regulation: learning to stop eating when they feel full.
If your child does not take to baby led weaning, than purees are fine; I just recommend that you make your own. It doesn’t have to be difficult. You can just cook things more than you would regularly and mash it up.
4. Do you have any staples or principles for optimal infant nutrition that you follow?
Once again, every child is different. Each child will show interest in food at different times. If your child prefers breast milk, for instance, they are getting a great amount of iron, fat and protein from that and therefore you can really take your time, starting with fruits and vegetables slowly. If your child doesn’t seem to be growing as quickly as they should, or seems to be more interested in solid foods early on then you will want to start with fat, protein and iron rich foods early on. I actually recommend starting with eggs. The yolk is the best to start with and some would argue that the white should be left out until later on due to high allergic potential. However, there has been new research indicating that avoiding foods with high allergic potential does not prevent allergy or atopic illness (like eczema or asthma). Many, including myself are now recommending that babies be introduced to whole egg right away. I also recommend early introduction of meat, especially due to high iron levels and bioavailability. A 2011 study stated that meat consumption between 6 and 24 months was associated with more favourable iron status in late infancy and improved psychomotor development.
Also, babies need fat! It is so important for their developing brains. Therefore eggs, avocados, and fish (or a fish oil supplement) are really great introductions early on.
Please note: Many mom blogs will recommend feeding children liver, or making formula using liver. Though small amounts of liver can be very nutritious, liver contains high amounts of vitamin A which can be toxic. Therefore, I do not recommend making this a staple in a young child’s diet.
I don’t feel the need to introduce 1 food at a time. Doing things that way takes a long time giving children the opportunity to become picky since, by the age of 2, children naturally become less apt to try new things. Feed them from your own nutritious meals.
I am not a supporter of snacks. Introduction of snacks allows for a child to become picky at meals because they know that they can have a snack later. A child should be getting more than enough with 4 meals, or 3 meals with 1 snack.
5. What is your stance with the “cereal debate”, are you for or against? Why?
I feel that cereal is unnecessary and often used as a tool to placate children as opposed to the important source of nutrients that some dietitians and doctors make it out to be. Other than iron, which cereal is fortified with, cereals are not nutrient dense foods. Also, infants innately crave carbs and sweets. This is because, in nature, sweet equals safe. So, if we are providing our children with a diet that is carb and sweet heavy, they will quickly start avoiding other more nutritious options. The more that you can stick to whole foods and avoid grains until after age 1, and even closer to age 2, the easier it is to keep your child eating foods that are the most nutrient dense.
6. For parents who are supplementing with Formula, do you have a Company that you recommend to your patients? Why?
As far as formulas go, I don’t really make special recommendations unless the child is having an intolerance. When it comes to formula, I would always start a child on a cow's milk formula with an added probiotic and DHA. This is because commercial formulas have specific guidelines that they have to meet to ensure appropriate nutrient balance for your infant, so you can be sure that your child is getting what he or she needs. The added probiotic and DHA is usually more expensive, but worth the money since DHA is important for brain and eye development and probiotics are important for gut and immune health.
If a child is having issues with their formula, then I recommend a goats formula like Holle or an easily digestible cow’s milk formula like Similac Alimentum. I never recommend a soy or other plant based formula unless there are serious issues with all other options.
7. When planning our babies diet, it is often hard to navigate their needs in terms of food vs. formula or breastmilk. Should we be prioritizing increasing whole/solid foods and decreasing formula and breastmilk? What are your thoughts about this!
Breastmilk or formula should be primary source of nutrients in the first year. From 6 months to 1 year, depending on your child’s readiness, solid food should be incorporated slowly. If breastfeeding, it is ideal to continue to include this up to year 2. If using formula, then it is ok to switch to whole milk or full fat goats milk (out of a cup or sippy cup) after 1 year, as long as the child is eating a variety of solid foods at this point.
Note: long term bottle use is not recommended because it is bad for a child’s teeth.
8. Do you believe that infants should be getting their nutrients-minerals/vitamins and probiotics from the food they are eating? Or do you recommend additional supplements such as a probiotic, or “D-drops”?
All babies should be taking 400IU of Vitamin D each day.
A daily probiotic and fish oil is also recommended.
Everything else should be obtained from food, especially if they are still breast or bottle feeding.
9. Many parents opt for rice husks or cookies for quick snacks. What are your thoughts about these? Can you recommend alternatives?
As I indicated before I am not a fan of these convenience foods. They really encourage grazing and picky eaters. If your child is getting what they need from their meals, snacks really aren’t necessary. If you MUST do a snack then making a healthy muffin with almond meal, or a brown rice cake with nut butter or hummus. Something that has protein and fat included or fiber. The best “convenience” snack is an unsweetened squeeze applesauce.
10. Finally, for the parents out there that are trying to figure out a balanced diet for their littles-what are your top favourite meals for infants that support their growing needs?
This is really difficult because every child is different, in terms of what they can tolerate or what they want. I am a huge proponent of making a healthy meal for the family and feeding your infant from that meal. Something easy could be chicken or salmon with sweet potato and avocado. Soups are great because you can pack in lots of vegetables that are soft, but a little more challenging for them to eat. Or scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach. Even smoothies work because you can put tons of fruits and vegetables.
Like all parents, I am not perfect. I know that things can be challenging at times, and that you will sometimes give them things that are less than ideal. There will also come a time when they will ask for things and you cannot keep them in a bubble. But you can set a good example by showing them what it is like to eat well.
If you would like to contact Lisa, you can reach her via her website - lisamaddalenand.com
I hope this was helpful! My hope is that- out of all of the questions I asked Lisa-perhaps 1 or 2 of her answers applied to your individual path that you are taking for your baby!!...and that you were able to take away Something that will make life easier xoxo
Hi! My name is Amber, I am a wife and mother to Piper June. Welcome to my blog. You will find my path towards natural health and wellness as well as my honest discoveries as a new mother. In all aspects of life, I strive to cultivate Balance through a mindful existence. I share my experiences as a mother, helpful product reviews and companies that I am passionate about for our family. I am so grateful for your visit xo