How do you start feeding your baby so that you can give them the gift of health? When I had my first baby I was terrified that she would have a peanut allergy. It seemed like one of those things that just happened, like drawing the short end of the stick. I had no idea that what I allowed into my baby’s body would help determine whether or not she developed allergies, sensitivities and other health issues.
It used to be only old people that were sick. Autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart problems, liver issues – 40 years ago these were problems of grandparents. Today, these are plaguing all ages, including our babies.
The good news is that all of these can be healed and/or avoided if we intentionally feed our children the way their bodies were designed to eat. The earlier we start healing a body, the more time they will have to live a free, robust, healthy life.
Are you ready to give this gift of health to your child? Let’s talk about how we do this!
IS IT TIME?
First of all, is your baby ready to wean? Are you ready for your baby to wean? For an exclusively breastfed child, the introduction of different foods should begin around 6 months. Most sources say that for a formula-fed baby, you can start introducing foods at 4 months. Either way, before introducing solids, check to see if your child exhibits the following 3 behaviors:
- Is your baby interested in foods?
- Does your baby sit up and support his or her own neck well?
- Did your baby lose their tongue-thrust motion?
If the answer to each of these questions is yes, then your baby is ready for the exciting new world of food! If not, give it a little more time – your baby will be ready soon!
DOES MY BABY NEED TO HEAL THROUGH FOOD?
Does/Did the baby’s mother or father have:
- Mental Health Problems
- Skin Issues
- Digestive Issues
- Asthma or other lung problems
- Kidney disease
- Frequent infections (ear, throat, respiratory, etc)
- Heart problems
- Has been on any medications in the last few years especially steroids or antibiotics
Does/Did the baby’s siblings have:
- Any physical, emotional, or behavior problems (such as those above)
- Frequent infections
- Needed tubes in the ears or a tonsillectomy
- Has been on any medications especially steroids or antibiotics
Does/Did the baby have:
- Any complications during pregnancy, labor or deliver?
- Receive any medications (including vaccinations, vitamin K, antibiotic ointment, etc)
- Any evidence of health complications
All babies are different – pregnancies are different, the labor and birth process, the health of the parents – your child is unique in what he or she needs. However, we know that the issues mentioned above can all cause damage in the baby’s gut, which can cause complications later on, even if they’re not manifesting now.
Most people say “yes” to at least some of the questions above. The good news is that through the foods that we start feeding our babies right from the get-go, we can begin the process of healing their little bodies and stopping the genetic trickle of dis-health! Let’s stop the trend of young sickness and set up a new generation of strong, healthy, capable children!
CAN’T I JUST GET BABY FOOD FROM THE STORE?
At Be Well Clinic, we operate on the assumption that a baby will thrive with real, properly-prepared foods.
Babies do best when started on foods that heal, seal, and benefit the gut. These first foods include: homemade meat stock, fresh-pressed vegetable juice, homemade probiotic juices (either whey or sauerkraut), vegetables cooked in meat stock, home-cultured dairy, meat and egg yolks. Until at least age 1, it is advisable to stay away from any grains and certainly any sugars. Babies (as all people) should not be given anything that is not a real food (i.e. cereals, puff snacks, etc.). Fake foods such as these, even when marketed as “baby food” do not provide good nutrition for your baby, and can even cause damage to the gut lining which contributes to issues like allergies, rashes, fussiness, poor sleeping, constipation and more.
While homemade foods take more time and intentionality to make, the health benefits they provide to your child are priceless. With these foods you can set them up well for strong physical and mental health for the rest of their lives. Plus, studies have shown that foods prepared in a loving environment reap more health benefits than the same foods prepared commercially!
As much as you can have the rest of your family eating these foods during meal times, the better. Everyone can benefit from these healthy homemade foods, and it will be easier on you to not have to prepare different foods for every family member! After just a few months of your baby starting to wean, he or she will be able to be eating the same good quality foods the rest of your family is eating – this is such a fun and exciting development for everyone!
The following recommendations for weaning are based on the GAPS (Gut and Physiology Syndrome) nutritional protocol that was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride based on research and her own clinical experience with healing the gut to heal the rest of the body. Since developed, the GAPS nutritional protocol has healed countless people from infancy to adulthood.
While it is optimally beneficial to introduce the foods in the order outlined below, do not stress about amounts or exact times to start them. Every baby is different, some need more time or food than others. Follow your baby’s cues and have grace for both of you!
THINGS TO REMEMBER AS YOU START WEANING
Babies, even those just a few months old, pick up on your energy. If you are anxious or stressed, they will follow suit! If you are relaxed and ready to have some fun, they will be too. Plan out enough time to let mealtime be unrushed. Babies love to grab the spoon as you’re trying to feed them – let them take it sometimes. Now is not the time for table manners. Meals, even those that seem impossible to mess up, will become messy. Plan ahead – eat away from rugs, get your baby stripped down to the diaper or in old clothes (bibs never worked for my kids), put down plastic, whatever you need to do so that you’re not trying to clean as you go. Let it be a fun mess and clean up later! Finally, remember that microwaves are not allowed. Microwaves will change the actual makeup of the food, kill and distort the good things you are making for your baby. Warming foods up in a bowl of warm water or on a stovetop are best.
HOW TO START THE WEANING PROCESS
The best and easiest way to transition off breast milk is with meat stock. It should be given warm, from a spoon or in a large-nipple bottle (to make sure everything can get through), and in a position that mimics breastfeeding. This will show your baby that this is a good, nourishing and comforting food. Remember to watch your baby’s cues. You don’t have to force the food. Some days your baby may want 1 tsp of meat stock, other days he will want 5+ tsps. You can trust your baby’s body and learn how to follow what it is telling you.
- Give your baby 1-2 teaspoons of meat stock before each time you breastfeed (or as many times as is practical – you do not have to rush to heat up meat stock as soon as your baby starts crying in the morning). Make sure you keep all the fat in the meat stock – this part is essential to your baby’s growth and development! You can add a small amount of sea salt to the stock. Just a small pinch is fine!
- Introduce 1-2 teaspoons of freshly pressed vegetable juice mixed with warm filtered water once daily, in between meals. Start with just carrot juice for a few days, then add cabbage, celery or lettuce to the juicer. Use the juice within about 1 hr of pressing it, since the benefits of fresh juices do not keep for very long.
*Make sure you are not using any commercial juices. Only fresh home-pressed juices should be given to a baby.
Continue the foods above, plus…
- Add ½ teaspoon per day of a probiotic juice: either homemade whey or homemade sauerkraut juice.
- If your baby tolerates whey after 3 days you can replace the whey with homemade yogurt. Start with ½ teaspoon per day and increase if tolerated.
- If your baby tolerates the yogurt, replace or add homemade creme fraiche.
- Start vegetable soup! This consists of non-fibrous, non-starchy vegetables that are peeled and de-seeded, cooked in the meat stock until very soft. Good vegetables to use include: carrot, squash, onion, broccoli (stem-less) and cauliflower (stem-less). Once these are very soft, cool until just warm and mix with a fat. Good fats to use include: any animal fat such as tallow, lard, butter, ghee; coconut oil, olive oil, 5 drops of fermented cod liver oil. You should alternate between these fats each day to introduce different fats into your baby’s diet. If your baby tolerates yogurt, you can add a small amount to the vegetables. This can be given in chunks (large enough for your baby to try to handle but small enough so they don’t choke), or puréed into a thick soup and spoon-fed to your baby. Start with 2-4 tsp of this mixture per day, and increase as your baby wants it!
Continue the foods above, plus…
- Start adding organic boiled meats to your baby’s meals. They should be boiled in the meat stock and should consist of all the different parts of the animal – the meats close to the bone are the best nutrition (example: darker meats, skin, bits from the legs/wings/carcas from poultry).
- You can also give your baby organ meats, especially cooked liver, that is blended into the stock!
- Add ripe avocado, starting with 1-2 teaspoons the first couple of times, and increasing as your baby wants it (heads up, this one makes a mess)!
- Increase the amount of yogurt or creme fraiche that your baby eats with each meal. Work up to 1-2 teaspoons with every cup of soup or stock
- Add 1 teaspoon of ferment juice (whey or sauerkraut juice) to each cup of soup/stock
This week, if your baby has been using formula, start replacing the formula with soups. If you have been breastfeeding, continue to top off with breastmilk after each meal.
Continue the foods above, plus…
- After doing a sensitivity test (see explanation below), add 1 raw organic egg yolk to your baby’s stock or vegetable purée. At this point, do not introduce the egg white, since this is harder for your baby to digest, and we are focusing on easy-to-digest nourishing foods.
- You can also try some cooked ripe apple, sautéed in a generous amount of fat. (Tip: you want to start with just 1 teaspoon to see how your baby tolerates it. The rest can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for a few months! If you freeze it, freeze in an ice cube tray so you can just thaw a small amount at a time.)
- Watch for loose stools. If your baby experiences loose stools, stop doing the apple for a few weeks and try introducing again around week 6-7.
Continue the foods above, plus…
- Increase the homemade yogurt to 3 teaspoons per meal (you can even add it to your baby’s fresh juice)!
- Increase to 2 raw egg yolk in soup/stock per day.
- Increase the amount of meat your baby is consuming throughout the day.
- In this stage, if your baby has been on formula, stop using the formula all together. If your baby is breastfeeding, you can continue breast milk following meals (or adjust to mornings and evenings as your baby is asking for it).
Continue the foods above, plus…
- Try some Nut Butter Pancakes! Use soaked or sprouted almond or hazelnuts to make your nut butter. Mix with squash and eggs, and give 1 small pancake to your baby per day. Fry it in a generous amount of fat.
- Increase the amount of fresh juice, and start to add a small amount of apple to the juice. Keep adding yogurt or creme fresh in with the juice.
- Try some raw veggies! Start with blended lettuce or peeled cucumber. If tolerated, add blended raw carrot, celery and cabbage one at a time.
Week 10 and beyond
Continue with all the foods above, plus…
- Time for scrambled egg, including the whites! Scramble with a generous amount of fat.
- You can introduce some fruit: raw apple, without the skin, and ripe banana. Make sure your baby is eating the fruit away from meals, as it could affect the digestion of proteins if eaten together.
- Make cottage cheese from your homemade yogurt, and introduce 1 teaspoon to your baby. Increase this amount as tolerated.
Once you’ve reached this point, your baby has graduated to “Full GAPS.” Congratulations! This opens up a whole new world. You can start adding different spices and experimenting with other foods!
Remember to always watch for signs of intolerance (loose stools, constipation, rash). If any of these develop, stop the new food for a couple weeks and then try again.
Even after your baby has “graduated,” continue with meat stock, ferments, and all the other foods he had been eating for the last 10+ weeks. These will just keep him in his best health and set him up well as he encounters the new foods and environments in his future.
Good job taking the best possible care of your baby. While preparing foods like this may stretch your time and experience, learning to properly prepare quality foods is invaluable to you, your baby and anyone else you nourish. Enjoy this phase of seeing your baby’s independence, and getting your body back to yourself. While weaning, you can continue to breastfeed for as long as it makes sense for your baby and you. Just because he or she is eating food does not mean that you need to stop. Your breastmilk is still supplying many nutrients that will continue to benefit your baby, as well as providing a place of comfort and security for your child. If you do stop breastfeeding once your child is eating these foods, just remember to continue snuggling your baby throughout the day, and try to make mealtime as peaceful as possible. The messes can always be cleaned up. Relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy this special time with your child.