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Feeding Babies: It’s not as complicated as you’re trying to make it.

Vitality NW / Uncategorized  / resources  / Feeding Babies: It’s not as complicated as you’re trying to make it.

Feeding Babies: It’s not as complicated as you’re trying to make it.

Written by Alicia Hart, ND

Story time, y’all. With my first kid, I totally did that handmade steamed single veggie puree, each new vegetable accompanied by a 3 day wait to look for reactions to the food. We fussed and he fussed and it was a terrible time of grinding up baby oats and adding spirulina to things that had no business having spirulina on them.

Fast forward 3 years later: Girl twin started eating by stealing bacon off my plate while I was distracted by her brothers. Boy twin refused to eat for months after she started eating. I came back from taking recycling out one night to find my older kid feeding girl twin raw cookie dough (Holy Salmonella, batman!) and before a year we had pretty much given up on any semblance of doing things the “right” way.

Fast forward another year: My kids all survived and thrived despite this. So please, when you decide to start feeding your infant, don’t worry about doing it perfectly. They’re not even going to try to follow whatever eating rules you’ve heard.

feeding kids is important. you should do that.

When should you try to start solids?

As demonstrated  in the story above, this varies by child.  Pretty much everyone agrees that babies should be exclusively breastfed (if possible) for the first 6 months.

After that, there are a few developmental signs that you need to keep an eye out for.

  • Baby sits well without support. Note: this is not in a bumbo. Not in someone’s lap. Not in a reclining high chair. Full on sitting up, because we’re looking for muscle control not convenience.
  • They no longer have a Tongue Thrust reflex, so they’re not automatically pushing solids out of their mouths. Pushing things out of their mouth with their tongues is a survival reflex designed to protect their airways, so it’s a waste of food and time to try to feed them before this goes away.
  • Baby is ready and willing to chew. Note, they don’t need teeth to gum things into pieces.
  • They are developing a “pincer grasp” where they pick up things with their thumb and forefinger. Scraping food into palms doesn’t count- Truly needs to be able to control what they’re putting into their mouth.
  • Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may be grabbing food and putting it in their mouth (as above with my bacon stealing girl.)
  • Baby has a sustained increase in demand for breastfeeding that isn’t related to illness, teething, growth spurt, etc. This can be hard to call, as babies love milk and some of them are bad at sleeping on the regular.

Look at all these signs together- the way that children start eating is unique to each child. My oldest was disinterested in solids until about 14 months, and my twins started eating at 5 and 8 months. An unending frustration of parenting is that the two things you wish for them to do most (eat and sleep) are things that you can’t force the kids to do.

What should I feed them?

Well, the first debate you’re going to get into with your parent friends is purees vs baby led weaning aka just straight solids that the baby self feeds. Here’s a small argument ender: Both are good. BLW (baby led weaning is going to abbreviated from here out) is excellent for ease of feeding, developing oral coordination, and getting baby used to textures. Purees are great for ease of feeding, getting more food into a baby, and helping them with other textures. Many a time we have had “squeezy pouch treats” because I was running late and they were so simple to grab from the store on the way somewhere. Most of the time I just feed the kids what I’m eating because I’m lazy.  There is some evidence that BLW may correlate to healthier eating patterns long term, just as there is some evidence that some babies will need purees.

Whatever form of food you decide to feed baby, there are some basic guidelines that I like to start with:

  • Food before one is just for fun. Don’t get hung up on what they’re eating, not eating, and throwing on the floor.
  • Worldwide, the average age of weaning is between 2 and 7 years of age. The WHO recommends breastfeeding until 2 and then as long after as the nursing dyad (or more in multiples cases) desires to continue. Just because kiddo is eating doesn’t mean you have to stop nursing.
  • Breastmilk doesn’t transmit iron well. Some of the first foods that are offered should be high in iron to compensate for potential deficiencies. Foods that are high in iron include beets, dark leafy greens, red meat, seafood, peas and beans.
  • We live in an age of allergies. Recent studies show that introducing peanuts, fish, and eggs early helps decrease allergies later in life. These are also all great proteins and sources of important nutrients like omega 3s, choline, trace minerals, and B-vitamins.

In an ideal world, you would offer each food alone and do it for 3 days, looking carefully for rashes, diarrhea, fussiness, and lack of sleep. Realistically this doesn’t work for most families. If you can do it, good for you. If you can’t, don’t beat yourself up. Remember the 4 year old feeding the 6 month old raw cookie dough. Some things are out of your control. They mostly live through it.

Solid foods FAQs:

Can I raise my baby vegan?

Technically yes. I will tell you that I see these kids have more difficulties and that vegan diet should not be attempted without professional guidance. There are extremely important nutrients for growth and development which must be supplemented, as they are not available from vegan sources. This can be so serious that the kids are actively undernourished to the point where CPS will get involved. You really need to talk to a nutritionist before attempting this.

Should my kid take supplements?

I like to have most people on a multivitamin, a probiotic, and omega 3’s. Farming practices have decreased the bioavailable nutrients in the soil, and most people are not eating a seasonal and varied amount of vegetables. I think of these as my insurance against picky eaters as well. I like the metagenics phytomulti, Nordic naturals infant fish oil, and klaire labs therbiotic infant as a basic kit, though I do individualize treatments for each kid. You can get those here at the online medicinary.

Can I put cereal in the bottle to help them sleep?

NO. (notice that was an all caps no). It’s a choking hazard and it doesn’t work.

What does BLW food look like?

Usually something soft, cut into a stick they can pick up. A lot of people start with avocado- avocado texture is the softness you want for a kid with no teeth. Now that I have 3 kids, again I don’t worry too much because too much of it is out of my control. I still cut grapes in half, but that’s about the only concession I make. Supervised eating and knowledge of how to do a Heimlich maneuver are more important for safety.

What about juice or sugar?

I’m firmly anti-juice and sugar on a regular basis. These things are treats and should be treated as such. Even the AAP finally recommends no juice prior to age 1 and no more than 12 ounces of juice daily for kids 12 and older. Yes, that means you too, grown ups. We have to talk about soda too- no one should be drinking soda. It’s a mild health abomination that weakens bones and teeth while contributing to the obesity epidemic.

My baby wont eat {fill in the blank}

Infants and toddlers tend to balance their meals over a week rather than over a day. Keep track of all their snacks and you’ll soon find a pattern. Keep in mind also that textures, seasonings, and personal preference can be part of the game. As a kid, I hated eggs. As an adult, I hate eggs. That didn’t change, and I bet there’s foods you don’t like too. Keep offering.

I feel a compulsion to restrict many foods

Research shows that children actively seek out “Forbidden” food. If you forbid it, the contrary nature of children will make them seek it. Additionally, moral judgements around food tend to inspire unhealthy relationships with food over a lifetime. Seek to nourish, not to restrict. On the flip side, if it’s not a part of your life, they won’t ask. We don’t have sugar in our house, so our kids know that it’s a special treat when we buy some to make cookies or syrup, and they also know it’s useless to ask about cookies when there aren’t any in the house.

What about {insert cultural food here}

By age 1, baby can eat whatever you’re eating. Include the kiddo in your meal.

My kid is super picky! How do I feed them?

we have a blog post about that!

 

I think a lot of “How to feed baby” posts end up being sanctimonious and scaremongering. I don’t want you to come away from this feeling like feeding a baby is as stressful as defusing a bomb- it’s really not. Keep it simple, feed your kid on a regular basis, and try to introduce a variety of fruits and vegetables on a constant basis and it’s all going to work out. If you need individualized advice, you can schedule an appointment here: http://vitalitynw.com/schedule-appointment/

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