Welcome to Part 1 of Introducing Solids to a Baby - a two part series aiming to teach you how to introduce wholefoods to your baby. Originally aimed at being a single blog post, there was just too much to cover in one post so it was turned into a series.
As a parent there is always so many decisions to make. To breastfeed or bottle feed? Use cloth nappies or disposables? Go back to work or stay at home? Immunise or not immunise? When it comes time to introducing solids it is no different. There are many different opinions about what sorts of foods to offer and at what age. Today, I am teaming up with Gina Ulrich from Nutrition by Gina Rose to bring you Introducing Solids to a Baby - a Wholefood Guide. Gina is a Bachelor Qualified Clinical Nutritionist, specialising in fertility and preconception care. Gina is a mother herself to three children and has much experience in the area of introducing solids.
In this interview we discuss many important factors. These include gut health in both the mother and the baby, providing the right balance of nutrients, what foods to introduce first, signs of allergies and food intolerances to look out for AND how to introduce foods as well as foods to avoid.
As you know, gut health is of key importance to our health as a whole. There are thousands of studies showing what negative impacts poor gut health can have in humans. How would you say the gut health of a pregnant mother can affect the unborn baby?
During pregnancy, your microbiome is crucial for your baby’s health because of the relationship between the gut & immune system. 75% of the immune system is housed in the gut, if you have impaired gut function you may be predisposing your unborn baby to an array of conditions such as autoimmune diseases, allergies like eczema & asthma, even behavioural conditions.
The mothers microbiome is also passed onto her baby through a vaginal delivery & via breast milk. There are specific probiotics that are recommended during the 3rd trimester & postpartum to support a mother & baby’s microbiome. These supplements will be recommended by your natural health care professional.
Having good gut health means that we can absorb and metabolise our nutrients more effectively. Would you say that the gut health of a baby differs from that of an adult and is it something that we need to take into consideration before introducing solids?
The gut health of a new born baby is very different from an adults, they have a very delicate gut that is extremely permeable, meaning food can pass through the gut lining and into the blood stream. Starting solids is not about filling them up, it is about healing the gut. What you feed your baby in the initial phases can set them up for vibrant health or it could predispose them to allergies & other health conditions. You are literally feeding a disease or preventing one & I know that sounds harsh but their very delicate tummy should be nurtured with foods that are easily digested & assimilated.
What sort of balance between fats, carbohydrates and proteins should we be looking at when introducing the first foods?
Mother nature gets it right every time which makes me want to look at the composition of breastmilk to know what babies require nutritionally. Breast milk contains fat, it's an important nutrient that babies need to grow and develop, it plays an important role in nervous system development.
Babies also need amino acids, the building blocks of protein that support growth & development also a major component of breast milk.
Carbohydrates are also required but be mindful of the type of carbohydrate. Babies have a small amount to digestive enzyme amelayse which is required to metabolise carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates in a whole foods form is best for baby.
There has been much conjecture in the past as to what age is best to start introducing solids. When my eldest was a baby, it was recommended to introduce at 4 months, which then changed by the time I had my third to 6 months. At what age do you recommend to start introducing solids and what signs should we look for that show that our baby is ready for food?
It is best to wait until baby is 6 months or older to introduce solids. This is when their digestive systems have matured and therefore allergies are much less likely to occur.
There is no magic number or weight to say they are ready, look for your baby’s individual cues:
- Sitting without support
- Lost the tongue-thrust reflex (does not automatically push food out of their mouth with tongue).
- Is starting to use a pincer grip (between thumb and forefinger).
- Baby is ready and wanting to chew.
- Is interested in meal times & food.
What is your opinion of rice cereal as a first food and what other foods should be avoided at this stage? What would you say a more beneficial first food would be?
Rice cereal is often promoted as a first food for infants. As a wholefood advocate and nutritionist this goes against everything I know and stand for. White rice cereal is highly refined and processed, very inflammatory and provides food for harmful bacteria. I recommend foods that protect and nourish the gut lining and importantly foods that your baby can digest.
Fabulous first foods are bone broth, egg yolk, tropical fruits like papaya; these contain enzymes and then also fermented foods to build your baby’s microbiome.
Note: Rice cereal is often recommended as a first food as it is fortified with iron. At around 6 months of age the amount of iron in the breastmilk drastically reduces. Rice cereal is often fortified with iron, hence why this food is recommended. There are many other, fantastic first foods that are high in iron, that are far less inflammatory and gut friendly. These foods include broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, organic prunes, egg yolk, bone broth, organic chicken liver and other lean meats.
More and more children are becoming diagnosed with allergies. We noticed the appearance of hive like rashes on Frankie, which made us question allergies. What other signs should a parent look out for that could indicate a food allergy?
Food allergies are common when introducing solids, it really shows how delicate their little tummy’s are.
Signs that indicate a food allergy are:
- Bloating, gassiness, diarrhoea.
- Skin rashes, eczema, hives.
- Runny nose, constant cold symptoms.
- Red rash around mouth and or anus.
- Generally cranky, irritable, colicky.
- Increased spitting up.
- Ear infections & Asthma
Note: If you are concerned with a potential for allergies in your baby, you can introduce foods safely using the following method:
- Rub a small amount of the food onto babies skin. Wait 15 minutes to see if there is any reaction.
- If no reaction, take a small amount of the food and rub on the inside of the lip. Wait 15 minutes for a reaction.
- Still no reaction, feed a small amount of the food to your baby and wait 15 minutes. If no reaction, it is more then likely that this is a safe food for your baby.
Noticing any of the above symptoms in your baby could indicate an allergy. Please take your baby to a general practitioner for their opinion and to seek further testing.
Each time I introduced solids I did it slightly differently. Dylan was introduced purees to begin with, gradually increasing the texture and thickness as he was ready. Evie was completely baby-led weaned and Frankie was a mixture between purees and baby-led-weaning. How did you introduce solids to your babies? Do you have a preference between purees and baby led weaning and if so, why?
I am quite the same as you Sarah, my 3 children have also started solids 3 different ways. We all do the best we can with what we know at the time & as research & education grows so do we. I also believe every baby is different & we should follow our baby’s cues.
When given the opportunity and presented with healthy options, babies know how much to eat and which foods they need to properly nourish themselves.
What are three of your favourite food combinations for a baby from 6-9 months?
- Bone broth
- Egg yolk
What foods would you be looking to introduce for a baby aged 9-12 months?
- Chia pudding with probiotic apples
- Banana & tahini
- Chicken liver pate made using organic chicken livers
Are there any foods that you recommend should be avoided all together, for all babies and toddlers?
Honey is the only food that has been linked to infant botulism, a rare but serious form of food poisoning that only affects babies up to 1 year.
Aim to make your little one a whole foods baby, and just keep offering. They may not like something the first or even fifth time you offer it to them but keep offering.
Starting solids is all about learning something new, let them play with their food it is an important part of eating. The more familiar they become the more likely they will want to eat it. I also recommend involving them in family meal times, they are keen observers and will copy what you are doing.
Thank you so much to Gina from Nutrition by Gina Rose for her words of wisdom. You can find Gina at her website www.nutritionbyginarose.com or on Instagram and Facebook using the handle @nutritionbyginarose. I hope you found this first instalment of this two-part series, Introducing Solids to a Baby, helpful and informative. Stay tuned for Part 2, Introducing Solids to a Baby - a Wholefood Guide, in the coming weeks. In the meantime, to read more about what wholefoods are all about, click here.
With health and love,
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