My perspective about life is that it is a classroom and every day we are presented with curriculum on the art of being human.
While I have firsthand knowledge of the dietary principles we recommend, having integregrated them into how I live day to day since 2004, I am not a mother. I haven’t given birth, breastfed, or nourished a child through the years.
Yesterday, I learned a fair amount from what appeared to be mainly mothers who commented in the aftermath of my post on Baby’s First Foods – When and What, in addition to Ann Marie Michaels post When to Feed Baby: Why Start Solids at 4 to 6 Months published on her Cheeseslave blog.
While I interpreted some of the feedback directed at Ann Marie as harsh and challenging for me to read, I took away the following I wanted to share:
While cereal is the most often recommended early weaning food, no one seemed to protest that we recommended egg yolk, liver and cod liver oil instead. The debate seemed to be centered on when.
Development vs. Calendar
One mother commented, “I would really like to stress that one should watch the baby, not the calendar.” From the feedback I read on Facebook and in the comments on the two posts, it is clear to me that some babies are ready for solids as early as 4 months and some are not really in earnest until one year. They simply aren’t interested or physically prepared. Some vomited the recommend pastured egg yolks they were given time and again, and only in their own time were ready to receive them … and even ask for them as they grew! So perhaps it would behove us to recommend that parents be aware that babies may be ready as early as 4 months, but that for some the recommendation to introduce solids at 6 months is simply not appropriate because baby isn’t ready or willing. I like the notion of recommending that babies be introduced to solids such as egg yolk, liver and cod liver oil by 6 months, but if they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready. Just honor that and try again in a week or two … or more, for some it was months. All along, mothers are encouraged to follow this Recommended Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers.
These comments by Terese in response to the post published by Cheeseslave resonated with me.
“I’m just going to chime in here and say that there is no way that one way of doing things is going to fit all children. So there is no way that everyone is going to agree with this post. This method of feeding does work, just perhaps not for all children. This is why it’s is utterly important to know your child and watch and see if they are giving you cues that they need more in their diet or if they are content and growing happily with breast milk. Breast milk quality is not the same for everyone, so no one can claim that all children would be fine with breast milk only. Both of my children showed very strong desires to want to eat solids by 4 months of age. My daughter would even try to feed herself by 6 months. I nursed them and then gave them an egg yolk as well (and cod liver oil I believe around 6 months). They were both more content, slept better and even put on more weight, which is something that they needed. I eat a very healthy, whole foods, from scratch diet, but nursing has been hard. I didn’t want to supplement with homemade formula because I wanted to keep my own supply up as high as possible. The little bit of extra calories and nutrients they received from the egg yolk made a big different in them both.”
In a question I posed on Facebook, avocado proved to be the most popular first food, followed by our recommended egg yolk. So, I looked it up as a baby food and found this:
Dr. William Sears (1988) notes that avocado is “one of the first fresh fruits a baby can enjoy.” It is a time-saver, served raw. “Low in sodium and cholesterol-free, avocados contain [many] valuable nutrients “. For example, “Ounce for ounce, avocados contain more potassium than 45 other fruits, juices or vegetables… and they are one of the only fruits or vegetables which contain monounsaturated fats, essential for baby’s development.”
In an interview with the California Grower (October, 1989), Dr. Sears stated, “When you think about it, …avocados are an ideal first food for infants. Avocados have a delicate flavor and a smooth, creamy consistency which makes them a perfect food for babies. …Avocados provide infants with more vitamin B1 B2 niacin, folacin, potassium and magnesium per 1 5 gram serving than any of the other frequently recommended fruits and vegetables [and are second to the highest in several other vitamins and minerals.]” Source
Lastly, as a point of clarification, I would like to address what I perceived as an accusation: Sally Fallon Morell, the Weston A. Price Foundation, and our own educational initiative by extension, is not against breastfeeding. Sally’s homemade baby formulas were created for those who don’t have enough milk, or don’t have it as long as they hoped … or have adopted a child. I have heard from a fair number of women who report that their babies thrived on these formulas. Sally did breastfeed herself and you can read about her own experience here: A Breastfeeding Saga
Also, we know that the quality of a cow’s milk is greatly impacted by her diet and lifestyle. Whether a cow is on pasture eating green grass as she is designed to or in confinement eating grains such as corn and soy, which is an unnatural diet for a cow, will impact the nutrient density of her milk. Vitamins A and D will not be in the butter, cream and organ meats unless these animals are on pasture in the sunlight and eating green grass. As soon as animals are put in confinement, and given hay and dry feed, vitamins A and D disappear from the butterfat, and the levels begin to decline in the organ meats. The quality of a woman’s milk is similarly impacted by her diet, so we recommend that women consume a nutrient dense diet, as outlined here: Recommended Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers
Update December 16, 2011 – This is a wonderful follow up article: When Should Baby Start With Solids by Heather Dessinger of Mommypotamus.
I highly recommend reading these books by Sally Fallon: Nourishing Traditions and Nourishing Traditions Book for Baby and Child Care. You can buy these via our Amazon affiliation.
24 Responses to What I learned from mothers about baby’s first foods.
I REALLY appreciate you posting this. I purposely didn’t read the article or comments on the post on the feeding because as much as I wanted to do exclusive breastfeeding and then solids later on I just flat out couldn’t. I eat an IMPECCABLE traditional diet and with both of my girls I just couldn’t make enough breast milk to satisfy them so by 4 months when they were literally reaching for my eggs in the morning I started yolks with them along with avocados, coconut butter, and stocks. They slept better and were happier and I was so thankful they were full in their bellies. I did try everything in the book to get my milk supply up but I just don’t make as much as some women. My first born started on goats milk by 2 months and I supplemented with goat milk with my second until 2 months while my breastmilk supply was being built up and I am thankful she has been on all breastmilk since then. I usually just don’t read the stuff that condemns about starting solids at 4 months because I don’t feel I did anything to harm my girls – every baby is different and if you put yourself in another Mama’s shoes you might think differently. I would love to have a baby that only wants to nurse and my body would just give and give milk but maybe that is why my girls didn’t want to nurse much or want bottles much and did so well on solids – maybe somewhere in the genetics we read eachother and my babies just know I’m not gonna make enough milk and develop a taste for solids early. Who knows but I’m not gonna judge another Mama for doing what she feels is right for her babe and especially when she knows she has done everything in her human power to nurse.
I really appreciate your testimonial, Renee … what I’ve learned is that we need to be mindful of the fact that clearly, one size does not fit all. I have learned a lot about giving recommendations as a result. I think it would behoove us to use the words, “need to”, “should”, “have to”, and “must” very consciously.
Thank you for being so open :) I beat myself up FOREVER because I wasn’t following what a lot of natural feeding people would say but I have found that my babes are smarter than we think and will let us know what they need for THEIR bodies :) My 2 1/2 year old started talking before the age of 1, reads simple words, knows her ABC’s, can count to 30, is HILARIOUS, energetic, and an absolute joy – her skin is beautiful her weight is healthy and she has LITERALLY only had ONE COLD in her whole life :) She is the picture of health but didn’t follow the guidelines to a “T”…I followed her. My second born is so far following the same pattern! Both girls sat up the week they turned 4 months and started crawling at 6 months. I have decided since they are happy and healthy I will use my Mama instinct and follow their lead ;)
Its just not Vitamins A and D either! Some lactation consultants are spewing out false information that breastmilk is universally adequate in all nutrients no matter the diet, this can’t be further from the truth. Most modern societies healthy mothers would have adequate milk if they made sure to consume a balanced diet along with getting enough sunlight, but according to the book ‘Nutrition During Latation’ by the Institute of Medicine, it says that “In general, when maternal intakes of a vitamin are chronically low, the levels of that vitamin in human milk are also low.” But they found that Vitamin C in milk is 8 to 10 times that in maternal plasma. And in apparently well-nourished women in industrialized countries, no correlation was found between maternal serum and milk folate levels (before or after maternal supplementation). And there is evidence that folate is preferentially partitioned to mammary tissue and secreted in milk during maternal deficiency. But other than that, the other vitamins decline when maternal intake declines. The minerals are tightly regulated and in general do not change with diet. But Iodine will be low in deficiency. I thought some people would appreciate this information. It really is a good book to read if you want to know the stats on breastmilk.
Thank you so much, Janelle. I will look into this resource myself and greatly appreciate your contribution here!
Thank you so much for sharing this post, Sandrine. You’ve echoed my own thoughts exactly. Breastfeeding and when to start solids seem to be polarizing issues, with each side making assumptions about the other. I think it’s because it’s so very intimate and personal. (I know that as a breastfeeding mother of three, there is little else in my life as intimate as the nursing relationship I had with my babies.)
In my mind, it’s kinda like the issue of when to introduce grains. Babies don’t produce pancreatic amylase (the enzyme needed to digest grains) until they’re at least a year old, sometimes two! So, how can a momma know when to introduce properly prepared grains? When her baby’s molars come in! That’s usually at the same time that they start producing pancreatic amylase. In other words, there are visible, outward signs of baby’s internal digestive development. In the same way, babies have outward, visible signs of being ready to eat solids — namely sitting up on their own, developing the pincer grasp, and losing the tongue reflex that pushes food out of the mouth. (Essentially, when they are able to feed themselves.) For all three of my kids, this happened somewhere between 6 to 8 months old. They weren’t “late bloomers” or anything of the sort, this is just how their little bodies grew. I’ve met 4 months old that could do all these things, and I totally marveled since it was so outside my own experience.
Thanks for sharing your firsthand experience with us!
Beautifully done, Sandrine. I just read through all the comments on both Cheeseslave’s post and one by The Healthy Home Economist (I haven’t seen your original one yet), and you really put it all together so eloquently and with just the right tone. Tone is something hard to get right in print, especially with it being so easy to quickly comment on things we read online. I’m a huge fan of your work with Nourishing Our Children. Brava!
Thank you for the support! I concur about tone … it is not always easy to convey in the written word.
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I’m so happy you started a blog, Sandrine! I can see it’s already becoming a safe place for respectful, open dialogue <3
Thanks, Heather – I think a blog, in addition to our website and Facebook presence will work very synergistically!
I am quite passionate about Non-Violent Communication https://www.facebook.com/nourishingthewholechild/posts/312640125413694 and when there is conflict, as we’ve experienced, I am particularly aware of the benefits of this learning and practice.
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Here is a really interesting paper I just found:
I will need to read it further (and it is getting late) but it has some interesting conclusions:
“It is estimated that in developing countries, where the relative benefits of optimal feeding are greatest, fewer than one-half of children 4 mo of age are exclusively breastfed (22) and the median duration of any breastfeeding is only 18 mo (23)”
Of course, this is not exactly what we are looking for because they are including modern people. While they are in “developing” countries, they are not necessarily, I think, the people Sally is referring to when she says “primitive people”. Sally, I believe, is talking about people who do not have contact with the industrialized world. I’m not sure yet if this paper is including people who do have contact with industrialization or not — I’d have to go through all the sources and really analyze it. And it’s almost 10 pm…
That said, the people in this study are all over the map. Some introduce solids early, others later, others very late. However, according to this, the median age for introducing non-breast milk liquids is 2 months and the average age for introducing solids is 5.5 months.
Comparison of Infant Feeding Patterns Reported for Nonindustrial Populations with Current Recommenda
Sandrine- Thank you for this post. I too read the Cheeseslave and Mommypotamus posts. I somehow missed yours until now. I love the fact that you read comments and responded to what mothers were saying with another post. In my experience as a mother of two, one was ready for solids at around 7 months and the other had little to no interest before a year old. They are both healthy robust, babies and I think by listening and responding to their cues, I was able to honor their bodies and their timing. I also wanted to add that I had a lot of success with baby-led weaning http://nourishedkitchen.com/baby-led-weaning/
That was a great article . Thank you so much for sharing.
Sandrine, can I also add my many thanks to you starting this blog? As I have commented on another post here, I am new to the world of NT. Not necessarily to some of the ideas, but several. For instance for 2 years prior to conceiving I was a vegetarian, bordering on vegan, and truly thought at the time I was doing the best for me (I suffer stomach pain when I eat too much animal protein, at least I used to). I found during my pregnancy that I had horrible sickness and craved meat, so I adopted meat eating again, to some degree, following my instincts. In the past weeks my sister’s mother in law lent me NT, and as a source of great knowledge told me to read through it even though it went against my “vegetarian” tendencies. I am so grateful to her for loaning me her copy! This book has truly opened my eyes and I am raring and ready to start making changes to adopt the new lifestyle of eating, it simply makes sense.
Now onto the baby side of things that makes me truly adore this post. My son (our first) is 8 months old. He is breastfed and very good at it. At 4 months he did start showing an interest in solids, having not found this, I started him according to the recommendations in a book called “Whole Life Nutrition.” (They do advocate a grain free diet until about a year and a gluten free diet as long as you wish but the longer the better). It did become apparent right away that the solids we chose were not agreeing with him at all. He has always been a bit gassy and never a good sleeper, at 8 months he still rarely sleeps over 2 hours. I researched and researched and have gotten increasingly frustrated by all the opinions out there contradicting each other. As I have been reading through NT, I of coarse skipped right ahead to the “feeding my baby” section. I was instantly interested (and leery, I come from the generation of over sugar, over sterile, cook it till it’s dead..yada yada), this posting, your blog all of it, is a God Send. I now have somewhere where I can talk to real live people who have fed their children this way and had amazing results. The post above and others that follow have given me the courage to throw the current hype in baby feeding out the window, to clean up my eating habits pronto, and introduce my son to REAL food, and real foods that are good for him and follow my instincts.
Though I understand your concerns Christina, there are so many different opinions out there. Egg yolk (not the whites) is one of the only foods recommended before 6 months. In fact the nutrition it provides is very beneficial. I almost want to call it a perfect first food, but that is just my opinion. I didn’t give egg yolk to my son until he was 8 months old (however he was born 3.5 months early so he was more like 4.5 months old.) He wasn’t very interested in it, but he ate it without problems. I struggled with my milk supply since his birth and was unable to provide him with 100% breast milk. To me, giving him egg yolk (a wholesome organic free range yolk from an outdoor chicken) helped me feel like I was filling in the gaps in his nutrition. And honestly, how is it an different than the homemade raw cows milk formula I was supplementing with? Imagine the milk proteins running through his gut every 3-4 hours… It just made sense to me. And I think it’s paid off. My 14 month old preemie who spent 4 months in the ICU fighting for his life is thriving.
The concerns that Desiree has responded to are copied below, via one of the members of our Facebook group Nourished Children:
I still have some concerns here. The general guidelines tend to ignore many of the signs baby may be ready for solids, like sitting unassisted, which happens a few months later than 4 mo. I also don’t see why when there is a possibility of creating problems for the child by introducing anything other than breastmilk/formula before 6 mo, that an organization would recommend doing so. Women with milk supply issues at 4 months may have hungry babies reaching for the food in the table, but that doesn’t mean the baby needs the food more than she needs breastfeeding support or donor milk or formula. Watching the baby instead of a calendar sounds potentially better than it may truly be. Also, there is the part about babies having naturally leaky guts and sensitizing the gut to foods by introducing them too early. “So leaky gut is good for babies, but only to start! You REALLY want those gaps to seal up before introducing solids in earnest. Here’s why: A huge glob of proteins – whether they be from rice, or egg, or banana – that enter the bloodstream in an undigested state could be recognized as an invader by baby’s immuno-naive system. What does it do? Fight, of course! Baby’s body will create antibodies to combat the invader – i.e. the food. It’s a simple mistake for an immature immune system to make, but it has lifelong consequences. The body will learn to recognize the food as an enemy and will behave accordingly. There’s no magic date the gut seals, but for most babies it seems to be around six months. However, for babies fed commercial formula, the closure often takes longer or doesn’t happen at all.³”
[…] posts, here’s one of her new posts that has already gotten a lot of attention: “What I learned from mothers about baby’s first foods.” (You can also read my posts about feeding baby […]
[…] on what parents in our community, mainly mothers, have reported. I summarize in an article titled What I learned from mothers about baby’s first foods., par of which is copied […]
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Besides breastfeeding, I did avocado, sweet potatoes, peas and pumpkin