I’d like to begin by clarifying that there is no absolute textbook way that starting solids must be done. Sure, I have my thoughts on a good way to do it and so do many other moms, medical professionals, nutritionists, authors, the guy on the street that told me strawberries contain too much sugar, etc etc etc! Some of our thoughts jive, while others… not so much.
I’ve noticed four areas that people tend to focus on when figuring out their baby’s eating plan:
- Food allergies
- Vitamins & Nutrition
- How easy it is to “chew” or eat
Truth be told, unless you feed your baby arsenic, give them food they are highly allergic to, or they ingest something rancid, any food will “work” and the child will, by many accounts, “turn out fine.” I’m not here to debate that; children can certainly survive off of foods that our family avoids.
But on the same hand…
I DON’T WANT MY CHILDREN TO MERELY “TURN OUT FINE.”
We now know that many autoimmune diseases, sunburn, bone health, even crooked teeth, autism, ADHD, and a myriad of other ailments can be influenced by the things we put into our mouths. We aren’t just talking obesity or diabetes anymore.
If there are ways for me to lessen the risks of these conditions for my children through nutrition, then I want on board! I want my children to thrive; to glean from the riches that nature & whole foods can offer them; to experience vitality.
And THAT is why I researched, read, listened, sought out, & pondered much, resulted in me creating our family’s timeline of first foods. Here are a few infographics that I made to summarize it…
THE PLAN EXPLAINED
We have also decided as a family to use the appearance of certain teeth as signs of digestive readiness, and have based our timeline and structure off of that rather than an age-specific list. Just as babies learn to sit, crawl, walk, talk or use the potty at different times, I believe their digestive enzymes & abilities develop at different times. Teeth work in synergy with other parts of the body & can be a clue to these developmental stages.
A major goal, no matter what stage we are in, is to provide real foods that are as minimally processed, chemical free, and refined sugar-free as possible.
(Begins upon arrival of first tooth or 9 mos of age – whichever comes first)
(Pictured: Darla’s first food at 7 1/2 months, homemade Bone Broth.
YES, it was spoon-fed the first couple of tastes.
You can read about my views on spoon-feeding, Baby Led Weaning, and pre-chewing here.)
FATS: Over 50% of the calories in breast milk come from fat. Babies not only possess the enzymes necessary to digest high volumes of fat, but they also need such high levels to continue for proper growth through out the first 2 years of life. Because of this, right away we incorporate:
Bone Broth (contains collagen & amino acids that help seal “leaky gut” that babies are born with), pastured egg yolks (provide cholesterol & omega-3 long-chain fatty acids found in breast milk, both which help with development of the brain), avocado, coconut oil (rich in medium chain fatty acids & Lauric acid, just like breast milk), and grass-fed butter.
(Pictured – Darla at 8 months after a self-served portion of iron-rich berries.)
EASILY DIGESTED & IRON-RICH PRODUCE: Because we avoid artificially-enriched cereals, finding natural ways to boost iron absorption is important to us and can easily be done with other foods. We also try to pick fruits & veggies that are easy to digest and that aren’t known for causing excessive gas. So, though we “allow” almost all produce, we try to go heavy on gems like: asparagus, eggplant, pumpkin, carrots, green beans, cooked leafy greens like spinach, kale, or chard, apricots, peaches, blueberries, and mangoes. (Note: we hold off on corn as it is actually a grain, and peas which are legumes)
STARCHES: Generally, starches are something we hold off on due to low production of digestive enzymes at this age, but we give bananas and sweet potatoes since they contain high levels of naturally occurring amylase, the digestive enzyme needed, which makes them easy for a young gut to handle.
(We begin moving into this stage approx 2-3 mos after starting solids)
PROTEIN: We like to offer organic/grass-fed meats, fish, & natural nut butters (with no sugar/salt/oils added). Some people prefer to wait until the 1 year mark for potential allergens such as fish & nuts, but we feel comfortable introducing them at a younger age and monitoring for signs of allergies. These “bulky” foods can make for bulkier stools though, so we make sure to introduce them slowly and pair with easy-to-digest produce from stage 1.
PRODUCE: At this point all fruits & vegetables are incorporated, including gassy culprits like broccoli & onions. We also begin to introduce citrus, like oranges or grapefruit, again, watching for signs of irritation.
DAIRY: We introduce yogurt (plain, no sugar or artificial flavors or fillers) and cheese around 9-10 months. Because these items are cultured, the level of dairy they contain is low & easily digestible. The probiotics from yogurt are great to start incorporating regularly and can build a strong gut & sturdy immune system. Breast milk is still the only beverage (besides water) we offer at this point. We would technically allow other milks after the age of 1, but for the most part we try to give breastmilk until age 2 (stage 4)
STARCHES: Toward the end of this stage we begin serving traditionally prepared (soaked) legumes like lentils and peas. Properly pre-soaking them (12-24 hrs in appropriate solution) can help to reduce Phytic acid & lectins found within that block nutrient absorption.
(Begins upon arrival of 1 yr molars)
GRAINS: We add in modest amounts of traditionally prepared (soaked/fermented) quinoa, oats, & brown rice. We remain picky about the type and frequency of grains we offer due to glycemic index, nutrition-blockers, and other factors.
SWEETENERS: At this time we begin to allow raw honey or stevia on occasion and in very low amounts.
(Begins at onset of 2 yr molars or age 2 – whichever comes first)
GLUTEN: Pre-soaked or fermented wheat, barley, or spelt will be allowed on occasion. Though I do believe a two-year-old’s digestive system has matured enough to process wheat, I don’t see much nutritional benefit in it that can’t be found in other foods… foods that aren’t associated with some of the risks and downsides of wheat and gluten (like bone deterioration, tooth decay, blood sugar spiking, Phytic acid and lectin content, etc.)
DAIRY: The plan is to give our kids primarily breast milk until at least two years of age (though we would technically allow other milks from the age of 1). We haven’t quite figured out the specifics of how & when to wean since neither of our girls have reached that age yet, but we would like to eventually add in goats milk, raw cows milk, and/or coconut milk.
Pretty much everything else: At this point, kids inevitably start to eat like anyone else in the family. Their growth will slow down some and they will begin showing more specific tastes and interests in certain foods. The goal then becomes about raising healthy eaters rather than just dishing up healthy options on their plate.
Maybe your family has a similar plan to ours, or perhaps it is completely different! Sometimes responsible parenting is identified by our conclusions, but I believe true responsible parenting is defined by how we get there; by taking the time to think it through and making the best possible choices we can for the individual children we have each been blessed with.
This post is part of our Baby Food series.