I recently received a question (love your questions BTW!) from a passionate grandmother who was wondering what her daughter should start feeding her paleo baby as a first introduction to solid foods. As a response, I've briefly summarized the 'chat' I have with all my clients about how to introduce solids into your babies diet.
Canadian Paediatric Society, WHO and well as me, Meg the Paleo Midwife, all recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age and continued breastfeeding for as long as possible. You know your baby is ready to supplement breastfeeding with some solids when he/she can meet the following milestones: Can sit up and lean forwardCan communicate to mom and dad that they are full (e.g. turns head away)Can pick up food and put it in their mouth and are usually interested in what's on your plateHas good head control
Infants need a diet rich in iron and healthy fats (mostly from cholesterol) for growth and cognitive development (BIG BRAINS). At 6-months, babies nutritional needs increase considerably and are usually unable to be met by breast milk alone.
In North America particuarly, for the past 50 years, the first recommended solid foods were iron fortified rice cereals (aka pablum). I'm not too sure exactly why we started doing this. The ability to digest carbohydrates (besides lactose) usually comes later in digestive development around the age of two and I've never heard of a traditional culture feed their babies grains as a first introduction to food. This was likely clever marketing on the behalf of cereal companies.
Recently, the Canadian government has recognized that whole food sources of iron are a better start for our babies and now recommend starting babies off with meats, beans, legumes and other "whole" protein sources. That being said, I am in no way recommending starting your baby off on tofu! Some things the government dieticians get right and some things they get so terribly wrong (aka Canada Food guide).
It is well known that the best way to absorb iron is via heme- iron, which is only found in animal sources such as meats, eggs and fish. In most Aboriginal communities, the first foods that are introduced include meat, fish and eggs. Introducing paleo friendly meats and animal protein early also helps your cavebaby's digestive system learn to produce adequate stomach acid, and sets the stage for good digestive health.
So what should you feed your paleo baby?
The new Canadian guidelines state that babies should be offered iron rich protein sources twice a day and that the amount of food offered should be guided by the your babies hunger and satiety cues. That's pretty much bang on. The Weston A Price Foundation also has a fantastic guide for introducing solid foods.
Meat should be well cooked and pureed (think the Baby Bullet) and ideally mixed with breast milk which will provide supportive enzymes and fats which will aid in digestion and protect their immune function as these "foreign foods" are being introduced into the developing digestive system. Babies foods should be organic whenever possible, as their systems are extremely vulnerable to toxins and could place additional stress their developing liver.
Try foods a few times. Most mom's I talk to say it takes at least three or four times of trial and error with a new food before children will accept them. Remember, new tastes and textures take time to adjust to. After the third or fourth introduction, your baby should start to recognize them as familiar and will either accept or reject the food based on their individual tastes. The best strategy for developing "non-picky eaters" is to avoid making a big deal out of the food rejection, just move on and offer something new.
Here's a quick list of nutrient rich paleo friendly foods to keep your little cavebaby happy and healthy:
- Grassfed Liver (think homemade pates)
- Bone Broth
- Egg Yolks
- Pureed grassfed beef
- Pureed Dark Poultry meats
- Yams (best offered later in development and fermented if possible to aid in carbohydrate digestion. Find the recipe here )
- Coconut oil
- Grassfed butter
- Fermented cod liver oil (start with the unflavoured kind)