Newborns to 6 months old.
The recommendations at this age group, according to the World Health Organization & Unicef, is breast milk, expressed breast milk, donated breast milk and as a fall-back formula.
At this age you should not be supplementing your baby with anything, they strictly need to nurse (or bottle feed). At this stage their little intestines and digestive system are not mature enough to handle food. This does not mean that you need to wait till they turn exactly 6 months; some babies are ready a couple weeks sooner and sometimes a few weeks later, follow your babies lead.
Some health practitioners may recommend introducing solids at 4 months; this should not be the case and can be very risky. Introducing solids too young can increase your little one’s risk for food allergies and other health problems. Even though some young babies will show interest in what their parents are eating and reach out for forks and spoons, this does not mean they are advanced and ready to eat. It simply is curiosity and mimicry.
6 to 9 months
At this age most of your baby’s calories should still be coming from breast milk, with a slow introduction of food. Introducing food means getting them use to the idea of eating. Some breastfed babies will still show little interest in food at this point, do not panic, babies are not cookie cutters, keep reminding yourself of this.
At six month of age babies don’t need pureed foods, they were created for previous generation who introduced solids much too young. Babies at this age can pretty much eat what you are eating just mushed up or soft and mushy. Babies can also break things down by sucking and gumming things at this age. They have interesting gag reflexes that usually prevent chocking, but please use common sense and do not offer foods that could present a chocking hazard.
Baby led is key, follow the same cues as you did with nursing, offer to breastfeed followed by food and see if they are interested. Do not make a big deal if they refuse, babies are excellent at reading body language. If they sense you are stressed they will associate negativity with food and this is something you do not want to happen. Don’t focus on three meals a day, set them up on the proper grazing path that omnivores are supposed to follow. Babies and young children who eat frequent small meals actually get more calories as apposed to adults who get less.
Foods to offer this age group are plant based foods that are iron rich, protein rich, and contain healthy fats; such as quinoa, lentils, peas, avocados & bananas. Health Canada recommends meat as a first food to meet daily iron requirements. Although there is nothing wrong with offering animal proteins at this age I have concerns with this recommendation as it can lead to an overconsumption of animal proteins. A high animal protein diet increases risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. This risk is present in general when one consumes more than 10% animal proteins in their daily diet, babies and toddlers are no exception. I also have a concern with calcium balance, diets high in animal protein cause negative calcium balance and increase risk for bone health issues.
Another issue associated with high consumption of meat is the increased risk of iron toxicity, which increases the risk for heart disease along with other health issues. There are plenty of high iron foods that are plant based. These are a non heme form of iron, meaning the bioavailability is low; however, you can increase this by assuring there is plenty of vitamin C available within or alongside the food they are eating.
Introducing animal proteins before 12 months old or at all is a personal parenting choice and is in fact not necessary in one’s diet, even the diet of a 6 month old as long as one is offering a variety of healthy plant based foods and breast milk. I do not however recommend the addition of dairy products to the diet. Studies show an increase risk for both type I & type II diabetes with early introduction of cow’s milk. Not to mention the overload of naturally occurring hormones that occur in yes even a grass fed cow on an organic farm, cow’s milk is designed to get a calf to grow into a cow quickly and to support very large bones. That is a lot of estrogen! In the end if your little one is breastfed there is absolutely no need for milk from another species.
At this point generally baby’s calories should be split, half coming from breast milk and the other half coming from foods. Your little one is still learning about foods and how to enjoy them.
Again focus on quality plant based foods that have a good iron/protein/healthy fat/vitamin C content. For those who wish to add in some healthy animal products try fish, chicken and turkey in moderation (the dark meet has heme iron, the light meat has non heme iron). Avoid processed foods. Many of the foods that are “designed” for baby are junk food and should be avoided. Babies at this point should be pretty much eating what you are eating (as long as it’s healthy), just in baby size portions. Finger foods are now becoming fun for most babies so choose some healthy finger foods like cooked beans, steamed carrots, or avocado slices.
Some parents will introduce juice to their babies at this time; however, babies only require breast milk at this age. If you want to substitute be sure to not do so frequently and substitute with water. The only exception to giving juice is juicing with a proper juicer. I recommend the Nutri-Bullet or Vitamix to make quality juices that have the full synergistic effect of using the whole fruit/vegetable as apposed to one’s that separate pulp from the juice. Juicing can actually make the transition to solids a lot easier for those babies who are a little more stubborn when it comes to switching from being exclusively breastfed to solid.
Dana Clark, CNHP, CHN, CHC owner or From the Roots Holistic, Certified Holistic Nutritionist at SBJJ & Muay Thai Academy.
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