The Actual Best First Baby Foods
My name is Ellen Lachapelle, Registered Nutritionist, wife, mama to one amazing son (Nash) and one little nugget on the way! I am the owner of A Clean Cheat Nutrition Services, where I focus on clean eating that tastes like cheating! Our food should be vibrant, filling and tasty and that goes for babies and adults alike!
I found out I was pregnant with Nash while I was still in school to be a nutritionist. I guess that happened a little faster than we thought it would, with my due date being 2 weeks after my board exam! Do you know how many times I had to pee during that exam!?
Anyways, during my schooling I naturally took an interest in pregnancy nutrition, postpartum nutrition and how to feed a baby solids. This flourished to a passion and now an expertise (if I do say so myself).
I always said if I never worked in nutrition after, the greatest thing I got from studying nutrition was how to nourish my babies and my own body. Furthermore, I’m thankful to have the knowledge and tools to be able filter through the misleading nutrition information out there (and trust me there is A LOT).
My goal is to help other mamas understand the importance of food and nutrition, which foods are the most nourishing for a baby’s development, their gut health and why we should be thinking about gut health from such a young age!
A lot of mamas out there have so many questions about infant food introduction and don’t get the resources they need from their family doctors; so they turn to the Internet!
As progressive and informative as the Internet has been for us over the last few decades, I think we can all agree it’s also a saturated black hole of crap! I do a lot of research vetting Pinterest articles, blogs, and don’t even get me started on Instagram Influencers, as they relate to the topic of baby food introduction. It seems everyone has an opinion these days. Unfortunately, not everyone has the education, research or credentials to be voicing their “knowledge.” I guess what I’m trying to say is STAY IN YOUR LANE Internet trolls ha ha!
If you’re reading this and you’ve already started food introduction or you’ve gone through this with another baby, don’t worry. I sense some of you are starting to feel a little guilty or ashamed because Pinterest WAS your go-to information guide or you stocked up on packaged rice cereal because your doctor told you to… DON’T WORRY! We as parents have so much to worry about and the guilt is already overwhelming! Bottom line is, babies and kids are so resilient. Plus, how can you know what you don’t know? It’s never too late to take in some new education, to nourish your baby or your own body! So whenever you’re starting this journey, just know that you are doing an amazing job and the fact that you want to feed your baby better food makes you the greatest mama or dada in the world!
My baby food e-book, “Baby Food Introduction for Mummies” is now available for purchase, but I do want some of this information to be free and accessible for everyone so here is a sneak peek!
Let’s debunk a few myths:
MYTH: “Fortified baby cereal is the best first food”
Let’s break this down examining our own body. If we wanted to nourish the development of our brains and our body in a BIG way, what would we do? – Let’s say we were training to climb Mount Everest, while studying for the Bar exam and our MCATS at the same time… and it all had to be done in 6 months. Would you be eating packets of bland rice porridge made in a factory or would you be eating the most nutritious foods to fuel your body? I’m simply assuming you answered this how I wanted you to, ha! This is a similar, yet ridiculous comparison scale as to how much a baby develops in the first years of its life. A baby’s body and brain are incredible, but we can always help them out with a little nutritional boost. Doctors often suggest this first food because baby cereals are fortified with iron – an essential nutrient that is a common nutritional deficiency in babies. Iron deficiency in babies is actually linked to weaker cognitive development, specifically to memory. One study done by Dr. Michael Georgieff at the University of Minnesota, showed that babies that were iron deficient were not able to recognize the voice of their own mother vs. a stranger, in comparison to babies who were balanced nutritionally that could. This tells us that a baby's hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with learning and memory) is not developing properly without sufficient iron. Therefore to be safe, fortified baby cereal has always been the go to recommendation – it’s bland so it’s usually easy to eat, it’s injected with synthetic iron so it's safe, and it fills baby up! So, this is what we’ve been doing for years and years and years because it's is a safe way for parents to know baby is getting iron. But iron straight from the food source is a better option than synthetic baby cereal, whole foods will also help baby become accustomed to more variety in their diet including flavours and textures.
As I read more and more studies, this is the common denominator:
“All the complementary food samples predominantly fed to children were not composed of adequate protein, fat, carbohydrate, energy and calcium as recommended for complementary feeding purposes.”
And so what it boils down to is that we are giving all moms and dads an easy fix to ensure nutrients are available to babies. And that’s great, it really is – But what we aren’t giving parents, are the tools and education to feed their babies using whole foods and proper food combinations to ensure not just adequate nutritional balance, but OPTIMAL nutritional balance!
And that is the main difference – baby cereals have been recommended and have worked for years and years because they are adequate – but then what? What comes after that? More packaged, pre-made meals and Flintstone vitamins because no one ever took the time to give parents PROPER FOOD EDUCATION! It’s that old saying, ”You can give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime." Is it cheesy using an old adage to get my point across? Whatever!
MYTH: “I have to wait 6 month’s to begin food introduction”
Quick anecdote: I recently had one client whose friend joined a baby mama Facebook group. (I think we can all agree joining these groups can feel helpful at times but there are always a few moms in the group with a fake Medical, Law, and Psychology degree that won’t shut up.) Similar case here, this mom shared with the group that she started infant food introduction at the beginning of 5 months and got completely annihilated by some judgy moms. NEWSFLASH Brenda she was totally right in doing so! The golden rule with infant food intro is to let your babe tell you when THEY are ready… it’s not up to you (as I’m sure you’ve realized with most of your baby’s milestones).
I actually started feeding my son solids around 4.5 months. My sweet boy was an absolute savage when it came to food!
Between 4-6 months is an appropriate time to introduce solids if your baby is showing signs of interest:
- Staring at you prepping food or eating
- Mimicking chewing
- Trying to grab your food, fork or spoon
- Seeming hungry shortly after breast feeding or taking more breast milk/formula than usual
- Showing general interest in all things food
MYTH: “BABY LED WEANING IS THE ONLY WAY… NO PURÉES ARE THE ONLY WAY!”
For anyone who doesn’t know what baby led weaning is, it’s essentially giving your baby small pieces of whole foods on their tray or table so they can learn to eat their food on their own and get used to different textures while developing their fine motor skills. Purées on the other hand, are like thick smoothies and you would be responsible for feeding them to your baby, as they probably won’t have the motor skills to navigate a spoon! Both methods come with their pros and cons and that is why I recommend a dual approach. I think baby led weaning is an excellent way for a baby to explore food, develop motor skills, get used to different textures and colours of food – but if we’re being honest, most of it ends up on the floor. And that’s totally ok! But to ensure that baby is also getting optimal nutrition and experimenting with foods in other ways purées are an effective wonderful way to achieve this. The one thing with purées that can get tricky is forcing too much food at baby and not watching for satiety cues. Overfeeding is common, as you have control of the spoon and us moms can get a little too excited watching our baby wolf down food (I am sooooo guilty of this). So ensure you’re reading the signs:
- Turning their head away from the spoon
- Not opening their mouth for the spoon
- Spitting out their food
We may think we know what’s best for our little one and that usually includes MORE FOOD, but those little bubbas are way smarter than we give them credit for, so listen to them!
So what are the best first foods for baby?
- Fats and proteins!!
When solid foods are introduced – not right away but eventually. Mother’s milk is made of predominantly fat, with most of that being saturated fat. The weaning off of mother’s milk or formula opens the door for nutritional deficiencies for baby’s growth and development. The nutrients that are commonly shorted when weaning include protein, zinc, iron, and B vitamins – all of which are found in large quantities in meats and good fats!
In the United States, Dr. Nancy Krebs headed a major infant growth study which found that infants who were fed purées with strained meats as a primary weaning food grew at a faster rate than infants given predominantly baby cereals. Furthermore, meats and animal fats, specifically, provide high amounts of vitamins A,D, and K which are necessary for protein and mineral assimilations, growth and hormone production – which are all vital to your baby’s developing body.
I’m not trying to poopoo on a predominantly veggie or vegan diet but you can’t get B12 from any plant source. There is a small amount in eggs but B12 is only found in meat and fish. B12 deficiency in little ones has serious consequences like vomiting, lethargy, failure to thrive and a regression of developmental skills. So if you are choosing that veggie route for your kids – ensure you are supplementing with B12…. But better yet I would encourage you to still offer them these powerhouse foods:
- Egg Yolks
- Bone Broth
To actually introduce food to your baby, pick one food to introduce at a time. Use that food for 4-5 days only. If you’re child does have an allergy or sensitivity it may not show up for a few days and this is the only way to pin point the food giving your baby issues. After 4-5 days of no issues move on to something else!
This was my son’s beginning:
- Nash's First Food: Egg yolk –Soft boil so the egg white is congealed (about 3 minutes) but the yolk is still runny and soft. Squeeze out the yolk. Spoon feed!
- Egg yolk + ghee – graduated to a mixture after the egg yolk was well received. I added in the extra healthy fats to compliment the iron/choline/omega rich egg yolk
- Avocado – mashed/puréed
- Avocado + Egg Yolk + Ghee - Mixed and puréed
… And so on and so forth!
I hope this snippet of information from “Baby Food Introduction for Mummies” has also inspired you to find joy in feeding your little ones. I know it can be messy, overwhelming, it can be a lot of work, and it's more expensive feeding an extra mouth, but food will always be part of your child's life. So just know, all the hard work you put into nourishing their little lives is setting them up for success in the future.