One of the most rewarding aspects of parenthood is watching your children grow and achieve new milestones in their lives. Parents are excited for their children to experience new things, and many of these experiences early in life are related to trying new foods. But, you need to be careful to not be over-eager with giving your baby solid foods, in order to support your child’s health and wellness.
Many moms are jumping the gun by introducing their child to solid foods earlier than 6 months, and they don’t often realize the risks of early food introduction. It is best to wait until the child is at least 6 months old, and there are several reasons why you should follow this rule.
First, solid foods don’t have the same amount of nutrition that is available in breast milk and formula. The optimal source of nutrition for young children is breast milk, which is very high in nutrients. Introducing solid foods too early will reduce the amount of milk the baby is consuming, which in turn reduces the nutrition that the child is receiving.
Additionally, solid foods are more difficult to swallow, and the baby’s development might not be ready to properly handle the solid foods yet. If the baby hasn’t developed to the point where they can handle solid foods, then you are risking the chance of choking. Even if the food seems soft or small enough, you might be surprised at the things that can cause your child to choke.
The last reason that it is best to wait before giving your child solid foods is because the solid foods might lead to health problems throughout the child’s life. If a child has solid foods too early, they will be at a higher risk of developing allergies and eczema. Some doctors have even suggested a link between early food introduction and serious health diseases such as celiac and diabetes.
Keep in mind that each child progresses at a different rate, so you should watch for specific developmental signs that indicate that your child is ready to start eating solid foods. Here are some of the most important developmental signs to watch for:
° The child is able to sit up without support
° The tongue-thrust reflex is in place, and the child doesn’t automatically push out the solid foods with the tongue
° The baby seems eager to participate in eating, and is reaching for food when it is nearby
° The “pincer” grasp has developed, so the child is able to pick up objects between the forefinger and thumb
° The child is ready and willing to chew when food is put in their mouth
You will likely notice these developmental markers, as well as an increased demand for breastfeeding. If the demand to breastfeed increases on an ongoing basis, then it is a sign that the child might be in need of additional calories and could benefit from solid foods.
It is important that you are selective about the types of foods that you introduce into your child’s diet, in order to support their health and wellness. Make sure that everything they eat is organic, so that you can avoid harmful pesticides. Young children are especially susceptible to the negative health effects of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
The best option is to make your own homemade baby food instead of buying food from the store. The store-bought baby food has been highly processed, and it is lacking in nutrition. Your child won’t receive optimal nutrition if the baby food comes prepackaged in a jar or plastic container.
Start with organic fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, avocados, and fruits. You can boost the calorie count and nutritional profile of the food even more by cooking in ghee or shredded liver. Once the baby is a year old, you can start to add in chicken, meat, and fish.
Some of the popular “first foods” should be avoided, because these products can actually be harmful to the child’s health. Many parents unknowingly introduce their child to grains and cereal, such as rice cereal or other mixes. These foods are often high in arsenic, and they might contain GMOs. So, it is best to stay away from pre-packaged baby food with grains, and you shouldn’t make homemade baby food with these ingredients either.
Continue giving the baby breast milk, even once the child starts eating solid foods. Breast milk is an optimal source of nutrition, and can support the overall health of the child. Breast milk should be the primary source of hydration, and it isn’t necessary to provide the child with water to drink until they are at least 8 or 9 months old.
Helping your child develop a healthy gut is the foundation of a strong immune system, and you should proactively work to make sure that you are giving the child foods that will support healthy gut flora. Like adults, babies can benefit from probiotics, and you can give them small amounts of probiotic supplements as well as fermented foods. Before you introduce these things into the baby’s diet, it is best to research the individual ingredient/product that you are going to use to make sure that it is safe for your child.
Also, consider adding cod liver oil and grass-fed butter to your child’s diet. These ingredients provide high sources of nutrition, and one important thing that is hard to get in other food sources: vitamin D. Boosting vitamin D levels will help your child to be healthy and have a strong immune system.
By following these food guidelines, you can set your child up for success to have a foundation of good health.