Ways to get Kids to Eat Healthy Foods, Part 4

HOW WE INTRODUCE FOODS TO OUR BABIES MAKES A DIFFERENCE

You will likely agree that most advice given to parents around the world concerning infant feeding is based in large part on culture.  Since we eat mainly to nourish our bodies, however, it would make more sense to look at what would best nourish our babies and base our infant/toddler feeding practices on that.

That realization came to me when I was pregnant with my second child.  The following recommendations are a result of my research during that time.  I went back into the textbooks I used in college and revisited the sections on child development, the digestive system, the immune system, and much more.  I also learned a huge amount from George Wootan, M.D., who confirmed what I was learning.  (I attended his course “Pediatrics: A Course for Parents” and read his book Take Charge of Your Child’s Health.)  I successfully put what I learned into practice and have happy, healthy children who love a variety of very healthy foods to show for it. 

Much is known today about a baby’s digestive system.  The following suggestions are based on what is known about the enzymes present in babies’ gastrointestinal tracts at the different stages of development.  Enzymes are the specific protein catalysts that assist in the chemical reactions necessary for digestion to take place.  (If you want a topic for interesting research, learning about enzymes is fascinating!) 

Breast milk is all a baby needs to thrive for the first year of life.  A normal, healthy mother has no problem producing enough quality milk to completely sustain a child for the first one to two years as long as breast feeding is not rigidly scheduled and Mom is adequately nourished and hydrated.  Breast milk comes with its own enzymes, so it can be easily digested, making the nutrients in the milk completely bio-available for the baby’s nourishment.  You just can’t improve on God’s design!!! 

Supplemental formula, baby cereal, and baby food are not necessary.  Babies are not able to digest it well because babies do not produce enough enzymes of their own to adequately break it down into useable parts.  Water and juice are also not needed until baby is over one year old if feeding is done according to the following plan: 

  • Begin with protein foods (not eggs, cheese, peanuts, beef, pork, or chicken meat) at around 11 or 12 months of age.  Fresh fish such as salmon (unless there is a fish allergy in the family) or red lentils are some examples.  Believe it or not, baby’s digestive system can digest proteins before it can digest carbohydrates. 

  • Add one new food a week and watch for allergy symptoms.  

  • After protein foods, add vegetablesBabies usually love vegetables if they are introduced prior to fruit.  The closer to raw a food is, the more active enzymes that food packs.  Raw food is more digestible than cooked food because of those enzymes, so don’t be tempted to cook your baby’s food to a mush.  Instead, put your food processor to work!  Again, no more than 1 new food a week! 

  • Once baby is enjoying some protein foods and a wide variety of vegetables, grains and fruits that are both high in carbohydrates can be introduced.  Babies have a harder time digesting carbohydrates, so they should be introduced as late as possible.  Remember, only 1 new food a week! 

  • Babies (and many children and adults, for that matter) can not adequately digest cow’s milk and cheese.  It causes much tummy trouble even for those who are not allergic.  If a white liquid is needed, good alternatives are goat’s milk or rice milk.  

  • Continue breast feeding as baby’s primary source of nutrition.  It should take about six months to transition from breast milk as the primary food to solids as the primary food.

Some people will notice babies showing signs that they want to participate in mealtime around 5 or 6 months.  This desire is often interpreted as hunger.  According to Dr. Wootan, babies at that age are becoming super social and are only showing interest in the social aspect of sitting around the table and putting interesting toys in their mouths like the rest of the family.  His advice is to give each family member a toy for use only at mealtime to share with baby while the rest of the family eats.  We even let our little ones play with a plastic cup like the grown-ups.  When they feel like part of that daily ritual of “playing with mouth toys at the table”, they stop acting so “hungry” and have great fun. 

It is important to note that some exclusively breast fed babies who have been sleeping through the night may begin to wake for an extra nursing in the middle of the night around 8 months of age.  That is perfectly normal.  They are becoming much more active at that age and are in need of more calories to support their growing, active bodies.  Their little tummies are no longer able to hold enough breast milk to make it all the way through the night, so they will temporarily need that night nursing.  The temptation is to give the baby rice cereal at night to hold them over until morning.  This is a big mistake.  The rice cereal is not easily digested and fills the tummy with inadequate nutrition in place of the perfect breast milk nutrition baby needs so much (all that extra effort and energy needed for digestion causes the baby to sleep longer).  They do eventually grow out of their need for that night nursing when they are older and eating table food. 

As you begin to introduce table food to your baby, don’t be surprised that much of it will end up in the hair, on the bib, or on the floor.  At first, only some will actually be swallowed!  That’s OK!!!  Your child is learning and developing, and feeding himself is an important part of his development.  In time, more will be eaten and less mess will be made. 

Remember that every baby is unique and you will need to take into consideration your own baby’s needs when making decisions concerning feeding.  

(This article origianlly appeared in the Charis e-newsletter 02/08.)
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1 Comment

  1. theoraclemag said,

    January 6, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    This is a great post. I feel this is great information we all need. Especially those who are mothers to be. What we feed our children is more important then we think. Todays children are more unhealthy and over weight then ever. GOD bless you and keep up the good work


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