This topic is always a complex subject to approach, as there are emotional, family, baby, religious, latching, and medical issues that families have. There are no hard fast rules here, just guidelines to consider.
If you had difficulty breastfeeding, know that you are in a long line of women, as I found this:
The earliest medical encyclopedia, The Papyrus Ebers, which came from Egypt (1550 BC), contains a small pediatric section that includes a prescription for lactation failure, as follows:
- To get a supply of milk in a woman’s breast for suckling a child: Warm the bones of a swordfish in oil and rub her back with it. Or: Let the woman sit cross-legged and eat fragrant bread of soused durra while rubbing the parts with the poppy plant.
- Perforated cow’s horn was the most common type of feeding bottle during the Middle Ages.
Wet nurses were a protected registered profession until the 19th century. Today, we are seeing a massive comeback of milk-sharing for those moms who desire breastmilk but are unable.
Formula began to be produced in 1885 and has changed many times to today’s product currently mandated by The Infant Formula Act of 1980, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure quality control of infant formulas. The FDA requires the following nutrients be present in all infant formulas: protein; fat; vitamins C, A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B6, and B12; niacin; folic acid; pantothenic acid; calcium; phosphorous; magnesium; iron; zinc; manganese; copper; iodine; sodium; potassium; and chloride. Unlike breastmilk, which changes instantly when the infant touches the breast to become what the child needs, the formula is stagnant, remaining the same throughout the child’s ever-changing growing needs. Also, the formation of the current formula uses synthetic vitamins, many of minimal caliber and detrimental to those with MTHFR genes. Many parents are returning to goat and raw milk or European recipes that are far more nutritious than many current American Formulas.
Furthermore, countries are banning direct advertisement of formula as many believe this has negatively impacted the practice of breastfeeding. The breastfeeding rate was 90% in the 20th century but decreased to approximately 42% in the 21st century. Yet, research shows
increasing trends of formula-fed babies developing atopy, diabetes mellitus, and childhood obesity.
Now that we are finished with the history lesson, you have a bit of context for where we are going next, which is when to introduce food.
The gut, digestive process, Autonomic Nervous System, gut microbiome, and intestines all reference the same body part. This beautiful web of muscles, nerves, enzymes, hormones, and bacteria all weave together to create 90% of our brain’s chemistry, 80% of our immunity, and 100% of our body’s ability to grow and heal. Paying attention to what we allow to enter this space sets the tone for your child’s lifetime. The nervous system braces for nutrients or chemicals within seconds of anything entering the mouth. The gut changes how it digests based on the first 3 seconds. Sugars and grains are two of the most destructive foods we can introduce, as both increase inflammation and destroy the gut lining, setting us up for a leaky gut. Yet many moms are told to put cereal in bottles and start with pureed fruits as first foods.
Let’s debunk these myths.
Rice Cereal in Bottles
I tell moms to avoid these practices at all costs. Although once common, adding rice to a baby’s milk offers no real health benefit. Conventional rice is contaminated with pesticides and chemicals like arsenic, which are too much for a child’s developing digestive system. We are now finding that rice can affect blood sugars and trigger inflammation setting the child’s developing gut microbiome for lifelong health issues.
Endocrinologist and Obesity Australia Chief Professor, John Funder, says:
“Starting a child off on a rice cereal diet was like giving them an oral glucose tolerance test in each bottle.”
I also include puree foods in the “not yet” section. Babies are not born with the complete array of digestive enzymes, only those for milk. The rest can take several months to develop, sometimes only once their teeth arrive. The tongue-thrust reflex protects the child from swallowing anything other than liquids. That reflex usually will disappear with either teeth or around six months. You are tricking the body into letting solids pass by pureeing, mashing, or adding juice. There are no mistakes in the beauty of how babies’ development was created. When we try to skip steps or alter this, problems can occur. This reflex serves a purpose, and the developing gut microbiome may not be ready for these foods.
Let’s move on to another set of questions.
- Do they currently have health issues? I have seen many children have severe skin and health issues with formulas, because of the corn solids or soy they put into American products. Since food has already been introduced to the gut in these cases (corn solids), I recommend a goat milk formula or creating your own formula. The Weston Price Foundation is a fantastic place to get more information. There are times when the health issue is so significant that introducing clean organic meats and egg yolk is the better option. I have tools to help introduce these foods later in the blog!
If no severe health issues, continue to the next question.
- When you give them a spoon of food, do they tongue it back out or swallow?
- If swallowed, see the next step.
- If they tongue it back out, see above on the protection reflex and pause.
- Can they sit up independently?
- If yes, see the next step.
- If no, consider waiting. While the ability to sit upright is crucial to minimize choking risks, it’s not the sole factor to consider. The inability to sit alone is a pause factor, not a no factor.
- Are they interested in food by grabbing or reaching for yours?
- If yes, see the next step.
- If no, consider waiting.
- Do they have teeth?
- If yes and all the above are yes, it may be time!
The first rule is, go slow with all foods. Pick one to begin with, and watch closely for allergic reactions. Wait 3-4 days before introducing another new food.
Adopting safety measures to reduce the risk of choking hazards is crucial. A practical test involves squeezing the food between your fingers. If it yields slightly and is soft enough to compress, it’s safe for your baby to interact with.
Foods to Start With
- Organic boiled egg yolk
- Organic Prunes
- Organic Avocado
- Wild Caught Fish
- Organic butter
- Baked sweet potato with salt and butter
- Puree Organic beef or chicken with water, bone broth, and always with added fat, especially butter, or place in a mesh bag
- Redmond Real Salt on all foods provides chlorine for hydrochloric acid production, which helps digest new foods.
After a year or more, you can introduce hard-to-digest foods like grains (never wheat), egg whites, and raw fruits and vegetables.
Baby food jars are hard to recommend, as even organic brands have high levels of arsenic and mercury. It’s easy to make your dinner and then go an extra step to mash, puree or use the mesh bag and feed your child a bit of what you are having.
Incorporating fresh herbs, spices, textures, and experimentation is crucial for your baby to grow and develop a palate. Keeping food bland is often a mistake that can affect digestion. My rule was always to taste it first. If it was gross, why make them eat it?
Remember that babies learn through play and experimentation, even if that leads to a mess. Let me rephrase. Kids eating will be messy! Take extra clothes for them and you if out in public. I often wished they had parent bibs that matched the kid’s ones.
Get a dog. You’ll never regret their clean-up help at feeding times. Embrace patience throughout this journey and allow the process to unfold. It’s a quick moment in time that you will miss.