Best Baby Foods
So youâ€™ve just brought your newborn home and are already thinking about what to feed them from now until theyâ€™re around one year old. When do you switch from breastmilk or formula to solids? How do you boost your milk supply? Which solids are best and when should you introduce them? How can you make your own baby food? I spoke with two nutritional professionals to find out.
Breast is best
Breastmilk provides all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months at least and contains the perfect balance of fatty acids, lactose, amino acids and water. Breastfeeding contains oodles of immune-boosting nutrients and lowers your babyâ€™s risk of allergies, ear infections, infections, eczema, asthma, urinary infections, to name a few, plus itâ€™s eco-friendly and free â€” saving you $1000â€“$2000 a year.
Nutrition while breastfeeding
Be careful what you eat, as traces of it end up in your breastmilk! Common aggravating foods (eg causing increased wind and irritability) for baby include chocolate, citrus fruits, spicy foods, cauliflower, prunes, onion, cabbage and foods containing caffeine.
While breastfeeding, make sure you eat a balanced, healthy diet (and donâ€™t skip meals), get as much rest as possible and drink at least two litres of water a day. If youâ€™re having problems establishing or increasing your milk supply, try the herbs fenugreek, milk thistle, fennel and/or blessed thistle. There are also nursing herbal teas in healthfood stores that may help.
If you canâ€™t (or donâ€™t want to) breastfeed, formulas are the only other safe option. You can buy formulas specially developed for babies with colic, reflux, lactose intolerance, constipation and always hungry bellies. Vegans will love soy-based formulas and there are also organic and goatâ€™s-milk-based types sold in supermarkets and healthfood stores.
When to start solids?
Nutritionist, mother-of-two and author of What Do I Feed My Baby? (www.sneakys.com.au), Leanne Cooper, says the best time to start is when baby is between four and six months old and is showing signs of readiness: â€œBaby should be able to hold his or her head up well so the throat is unobstructed; you should see a diminished tongue-extrusion (poking) reflex, which shows they are moving away from sucking to chomping; and they show a clear interest in food.â€
Guide to starting solids
Naturopath, medical herbalist, nutritionist and author of Elixir, Janella Purcell, says the first solids you give your baby determine what they crave later in life. Hereâ€™s her advice on starting solids, the holistic way:
â€œStart introducing purÃ©ed vegetables â€” pumpkin first then sweet potato and carrots. Fruit such as red apples, bananas and pears are also fine. PurÃ©ed sweet potato is a lovely combination that freezes well in an ice cube tray and may be served with rice cereal [after six months is best] or as a dessert with goatâ€™s yoghurt.â€
Mix rice cereal with bancha tea for calcium or use breast (first preference) or goatâ€™s milk. â€œGoatâ€™s milk has about 10 times the amount of fluorine of cowâ€™s milk, which is important for immunity, teeth and bones,â€ she says.
Add purÃ©ed green peas and beans, and oats to your babyâ€™s diet; plus chicken or turkey broth if youâ€™d like to introduce animal products. â€œPlease buy organic produce as their little immune systems arenâ€™t fully developed yet, so they canâ€™t deal with the hormones and antibiotics used in non-organic farming.â€
Introduce dark-green vegetables such as zucchini and broccoli, plus capsicum. â€œBeetroot, turnips and spinach should be introduced last due to their high nitrate content, which is a difficult substance for a babyâ€™s body to deal with.â€
You can add apricots to the diet at around eight months, but leave other stone fruit out until 10 months.
Please note: Your babyâ€™s diet should consist of 50 per cent breastmilk/formula until theyâ€™re one year old.
Green apples are OK now (too acidic before), along with lowâ€“starch vegetables, organic eggs (in moderation), vegetable juices, soy products, sprouts, small amounts of sea vegetables, and fish. â€œFruit juices are too concentrated for consumption at this age, so give sparingly as they will weaken your babyâ€™s digestion,â€ warns Janella.
â€œAt around 18 months, the first molar teeth will appear, suggesting that stomach juices are getting ready for more solid food; however, the majority of the diet should still come from grains, cereals and vegetables,â€ says Janella. Now is a good time to start including legumes and starchy vegetables (soak legumes overnight before cooking).
Janella says their digestive tract is usually matured by now, so you can introduce more protein and carbohydrates. â€œIt isnâ€™t advisable to introduce these foods until now, as they need to be chewed properly and a child under two isnâ€™t able to do this,â€ she says.
How to make and store your own baby food
You can buy organic pre-made, ready-to-eat baby foods from healthfood stores and supermarkets, but making your own is more economical and can be fun. Hereâ€™s what to do:
- Wash, then peel skin off fruits and vegetables; trim fat off meats and remove skin from chicken.
- Steam or boil the foods and save some of the cooking liquids.
- PurÃ©e in a food processor or with a hand blender. Add some of the cooking liquid if you need to smooth out the mixture. If your baby is over eight months, just mash vegetables and fruits with a fork and chop meat finely.
To serve, remove ice cubes of food and warm them on the stove. Stir the mixture well to avoid hot spots. Test the temperature with on your lip before serving to baby and discard any leftovers â€”never refreeze.
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