Moving to solid foods opens up an entirely new world of taste and texture for your baby. But how do we introduce foods and why is there some sort of “order” of what to introduce when? In this edition of our blog we’ll take a look at those two issues.
What baby food should I start with?
Obviously babies start on solid foods before they get a set a teeth to chew with! Sometime around four months is usual. But with no teeth, the choice of foods comes down not only to what can be digested easily by a delicate stomach only used to milk, but what can be easily “gummed”!
It’s for that reason that children usually start on baby rice, milled flakes of rice mixed with formula or water, that add a little texture for the first time, don’t really need any chewing and don’t present any difficulty in swallowing.
Introducing foods to baby
When you’re introducing new foods, it is often recommended to only introduce one new food at a time and to feed that food for four days, along with others already in the repetoire. That way, if your baby has a reaction, you can be pretty sure what it is a reaction to. Altough allergic reactions can occrur within an hour, it is possible for them to take a few days to appear, so this simple rule is quite useful. You might also want to introduce a new food in the morning or at lunchtime, that way if you do see a reaction it’s a lot easier to get help (rather than at night!)
The Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents recommend that a rice-based infant cereal is a good food to start with, as above. Make sure your infant cereal is fortified with iron, as your baby’s stores of iron begin to run low at about 6 months of age. Bellamy’s rice cereal is.
Once rice cereal is tolerated and enjoyed, vegetables and fruit can be offered. Vegetables such as potato, pumpkin, carrot and zucchini, and fruits such as stewed apple and pear, are commonly offered first. Introduce new foods one at a time and wait a couple of days before trying another new food. This will make it easier to isolate any foods that may cause a reaction.
The Royal Children’s Hospital at Westmead, NSW advises that meat and chicken can be introduced from around 7 months. Oat- and wheat-based cereals can also be introduced from 7 to 8 months, as can rice, pasta and toast.
Cooked egg can be introduced around 10 months. It is often recommended that children with a family history of allergy should delay the introduction of potentially allergenic foods (such as egg, peanuts, nuts, wheat, milk and fish). However, recent studies suggest that avoiding allergenic foods does not reduce allergies, and may even be linked with an increased risk of allergies. If there is a known family history of allergy, consult your doctor before.
So, the things to start with are usually pureed fruits and vegetables. Apple, pear, babana, carrot and sweet potato are good. But note, while sweet potato is good, ordinary potato is not good. Due to their lower level of important nutrients and a high amount of starchy carbohydrates, it would be best to keep white potatoes out of baby’s diet until 9-10 months of age.
You’ll notice that these foods are quite intentionally bland and they have little texture. Note however that milk will still be playing a major part in providing nutrition.
As your child gets older the texture of food is getting more defined as we move from pureed to mashed. Texture is the key progression here, rather than flavour. If it’s not small or smooth enough for your child to swallow, don’t give it to them. Note also that there are still no spicy foods in the list at this point! Even pepper needs to be introduced later – and it’s an acquired taste like all spices.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents advise that reduced fat milk is not suitable for children below 2 years of age. For children below the age of 2 years, milk fat is an important source of energy, certain vitamins and important types of fat. The fat content of milk becomes less important as children grow older because other foods are eaten that contribute these vitamins and fats to their diet.
Yogurt can be offered when your baby is around 8 months old. Cheese can also be introduced at around 8 months, as suggested above. Choose the regular fat varieties. Cheese can be grated over vegetables or used in a cheese sauce with meat. It serves as a great nutritious snack once your baby can manage eating foods with his or her hands. Also try melting some cheese on toast or make some cheese muffins.
So, that should get you started. At the end of this article we have produced a chart that you can print off. It’s a reference from 4 months to 5 years.
The chart below shows when you can safely introduce foods to your baby’s diet. With the notable exceptions of whole milk, gluten and nuts, from a nutritional point of view most foods are appropriate for children once they have been weaned. Watch the texture!
From 4 months
From 6-7 months
From 9-10 months
From 1 year
Baby riceAppleCarrotSweet potatoParsnip
Baby porridgeFoods containing gluten e.g. pasta, wheat and oat cerealsCheeseButterYoghurt
strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
Fish deboned! (except shellfish)Well-cooked eggsBeans and pulsesSmooth peanut butter and other nuts, so long as there is no family history of nut or seed allergies
In this blog we thought we’d have a look at what’s in baby formula and how it got to be that way. It’s also interesting to see where some food products originated and how they have changed over time, partly as a result of science and partly as a result of cultural changes. Obviously, baby formula is an important one to look at because not only does it touch most families at some point but also because there is a huge variety available in Australia and it can be hard to choose one with which you’re comfortable.
At the outset let me say that this is not a story to promote baby formula over breast milk. At Bellamy’s Organic we believe that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, if you can and if you want to.
Throughout history mothers who could not feed their babies, or who were in a position in society where it was fashionable not to, used what were termed “wet nurses”. These were women who had had children of their own and continued to “wet nurse” the children of others. Perhaps the most famous of these was The Nurse in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. The nurse was actually Juliet’s wet nurse! The prevalence of wet nursing decreased in the 19th century and was replaced by feeding babies mixtures that were based on animal milk. Feeding itself was a bit of a problem and although bottles with hard spouts go back thousands of years, it was not until Elijah Pratt invented the rubber nipple in 1845 that things got a bit easier! The practical soft teat we know today didn’t make an appearance until the 1900s.
First, some little-known stuff about the background of baby formula! In 1867 Justus von Liebig, one of the great German chemists of his time, developed the first commercial baby formula. (He also invented the beef extract that become trademarked as “Oxo” and the yeast extract that became “Marmite”). By around 1900 complex mixture formulas recommended that parents mix cow’s milk, water, cream, and sugar or honey in specific ratios to achieve the nutritional balance believed at that time to approximate human milk, reformulated in such a way as to accommodate the believed digestive capability of the infant!
In the 1920s evaporated milk appeared. By the late 1930s, the use of evaporated milk mixtures in the United States surpassed all commercial formulas, and by 1950 over half of all babies in the United States were reared on such mixtures! But by the 1970s these had pretty much disappeared. Thankfully!
Nutritionists continued to analyse breast milk in an attempt to develop baby formulas that more closely matched it.
Since the early 1970s, industrial countries have witnessed an increase in breastfeeding newborns and infants to 6 months of age. This upswing in breastfeeding has been accompanied by the later introduction of other foods (such as cow’s milk). This has resulted in an increase in breastfeeding and the use of infant formula between the ages of 3–12 months.
Today’s Australian Standard defines an infant formula as: “a breast milk substitute for infants which satisfies the nutritional requirements of infants aged up to four to six months”.
Formulas have come a long way. A modern formula, like Bellamy’s Organic Step 1 Infant Formula, is designed to be as close to breast milk as is practical. It’s made from certified organic cows milk. Protein in milk consists of two major classes: whey and casein. The main protein in cow’s milk is casein, so cow’s milk is casein-dominant and it has a whey-to-casein ratio of 20:80. Human milk is whey-dominant, with a whey-to-casein ratio of 60:40. As result, Bellamy’s Organic Step 1 is also whey-dominant so that babies can digest it more easily. It’s blended with essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals so you can be sure you are offering your baby the best nutrition in accordance with world-class Australian Food guidelines and standards.
Specifically, we include vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, calcium pantothenate which is a form of vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin E (natural), folic acid, vitamin K1, d-biotin and sodium ascorbate which is an antioxidant.
These vitamins are essential nutrients for small growing bodies and help keep your child healthy. At Bellamy’s we do not add ingredients “to be different” or to create a “marketing fad”. We’re about giving your baby or toddler a pure start to life. That’s why we’re organic.
Obviously the most important thing about baby formula is that it must provide all the nutrition that a baby needs, but it also needs to be as “pure” as it can be.
Organic baby products, just like organic food in general, are a good choice when you want a natural product that hasn’t been produced with harmful chemicals. But it’s even more important that babies get an organic, pure start to life, without harmful toxins in their diets.
Organic baby products are particularly important, because there is evidence to indicate a significantly increased risk to the sound development of babies and toddlers, where they have been exposed to pesticides and other toxins in their food.
Mothers know that a healthy diet is vital for a healthy body. The vitamins and minerals found in fresh vegetables, fruit and milk build strong muscles and bones. What some mothers might not realize, however, is that some foods feed the brain. Because these foods improve brain function, concentration and memory, they promote early learning and childhood development.
Many of the foods that feed the brain are valuable because they provide a lasting source of energy. This steady source of fuel allows a child to perform better at school than foods that provide temporary bursts of energy which are followed by a crash. Other foods are composed of vitamins and minerals that do everything from forming memory stem cells to producing neurotransmitters.
Foods high in protein, whole grains and fibre provide your child’s brain with steady fuel without crashing. This is because they are digested slowly. Foods that are high in antioxidants improve memory, thinking skills and protect the brain. Foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids, like cold water ocean fish, are thought to literally build up your brain. Choline (found in eggs) and omega 3 fatty acids aid in concentration and improved brain activity.
Children’s brains are built differently depending on what they are fed when they are rapidly growing. Healthy brains are about 60 percent structural fat (not like the flabby fat found elsewhere in the body). As the brain grows, it selects building blocks from among the fatty acids available in what the child eats. The most prevalent structural fat in the brain is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), one of the omega-3 fatty acids. DHA is also a major structural component of the retina of the eye. A large number of studies have suggested that low DHA levels are associated with problems with intelligence, vision, and behavior.
What are healthy meals?
DHA is the most prevalent long chain fatty acid in human breast milk, which suggests that it’s intended for babies to consume a lot of it. Studies have shown that babies who do not have DHA in their diets have significantly less of it in their brains than those who have. My point here is, as we have said before, that growing children quite literally are what they eat. When you think about this, you begin to feel differently about “junk” food and about what we call “Mindful Eating”.
Start your child’s day off right by giving them some whole-grain oatmeal. This will provide them with lasting energy. Improve their memory by adding a glass of orange juice. This contains vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that will improve their brain function. Add an egg, which contains choline to aid her memory. For lunch, try some chicken and a glass of milk. This contains an amino acid that produces the neurotransmitters that will help them remain alert. An afternoon snack of omega 3-fortified yogurt and some apple slices will continue to build their brain power. For dinner some iron-rich foods, such as a small lean steak, grilled, or fresh spinach in a mixed salad are really good.
Foods to avoid
Feeding the brain is not just about choosing the right foods. It’s also about limiting a child’s exposure to the chemicals that are used to preserve foods, as well as artificial flavors and colors. According to the US Center of Ecoliteracy, the consumption of preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors is linked to poor behavior in children as young as 3. Wholesome, naturally grown foods are best for children. Certified organic foods don’t contain any chemicals or artificial fertilisers, of course.
Giving your baby a pure start to life really begins nine months before birth.
It’s not so surprising really, given all that rapid and miraculous cell growth and division is fuelled by you. So what to eat when pregnant is a key issue because that truly is the real baby food!
On the other side of the coin, there are some things that are definitely not good. Alcohol, nicotine and other “recreational chemicals” need to be avoided, preferably before you conceive. Enough said on that score.
There is no “magic food” to consume. As usual the answer is simple and logical. The best things to eat when you’re pregnant are simply wholesome fresh foods. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, obviously, but choose a balanced diet from each of the five food groups. Although you’re eating for two, remember its quality not quantity that you’re after. Let Mindful Eating be a guiding principle. Just think about what’s going in your mouth and eat what you should, not what you could, and make water you’re preferred drink.
The interesting thing about this approach is that you’re likely to feel a whole lot better, be healthier and possibly even shed some unwanted fat, even though that’s not the objective. And remember it’s not good to be dieting during pregnancy without the agreement and oversight of your doctor.
Make sure too, that the foods you’re eating contain enough of the key nutrients for pregnancy. Most of us get these through a balanced diet, but you might want to check out choline, usually grouped with the B-complex vitamins. Choline isn’t technically a B vitamin, but it is often included in the B-vitamin family because it does work closely with other B vitamins, especially folic acid Vitamin B9) and cobalamin (Vitamin B12), to process fat and keep the heart and brain healthy. We’ve blogged on choline recently.Pregnancy is a time when the body’s demand for choline is highest. Choline is particularly used to support the fetus’s developing nervous system. I mention it again because studies show intake is low and feedback to our previous blog shows that women don’t know this particular “vitamin”, despite it being an essential nutrient. You can get it through eggs, by the way.
Obviously, as an organic baby food company we like to keep abreast of the latest findings on organic food. The University of Barcelona has just released a study that shows that organic tomatoes contain more polyphenolic compounds than conventionally produced tomatoes.
Phenolic compounds are organic molecules found in many vegetables and have proven human health benefits. Polyphenols are natural antioxidants and are considered to be of great nutritional interest because their consumption is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular and degenerative diseases. Most interesting is the researchers view of why this might be. Organic farming doesn’t use nitrogenous fertilizers; as a result, plants respond by activating their own defense mechanisms, increasing the levels of all antioxidants. It seems that conventionally fertilised plants “don’t have to try so hard” and as a result their production of phenolic compounds is lower. Numerous scientific investigations show that the consumption of these antioxidants has a variety of health benefits. Researchers claim that more studies of clinical evidence are still needed to be able to state that organic products are truly better for our health than conventional ones.
We’re often cajoled and exhorted to take dietary supplements in pregnancy. Advice comes from everywhere and it’s often difficult for pregnant women to decide what to do.
What’s for sure is that for pregnant women, vitamins and essential nutrients play a big role.
Interestingly, some of the evidence about special nutrients in pregnancy is a little misleading, to say the least, with women on perfectly healthy diets being coaxed to increase their intake of things their bodies are producing naturally. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples: biotin and folate.
Folic acid (not itself biologically active) and its naturally occurring form in the body, folate, are forms of vitamin B9. This vitamin is essential for the production of DNA and the rapid growth of cells, such as those of a growing embryo or a small child. Interestingly the word folate comes from the same source as foliage, as it is found in green leafy vegetables.
As in all things, a complete absence of folate can cause problems. The good news is that many of the foods we buy already contain added folate. Indeed there’s so much of it that my doctor says she finds high levels in virtually every blood test she does! Further, a complete absence of folate takes months to result in symptoms because the body has its own stores. So, if you’re into Mindful Eating and you keep a properly balanced diet during pregnancy, you really don’t need to worry about your folate levels!
What about biotin? Well here’s another interesting case. Biotin is also known as vitamin B7. It is also necessary for cell growth and the production of fatty acids. There is also some evidence that it helps maintain blood sugar at even levels. All very important, for sure. But here’s the thing. There is no recommended Australian dietary guideline for daily intake of biotin. Why not? Quite simply, because the bacteria in our intestine produce more biotin than we need every day. As a result biotin deficiency is very rare.
So there you are. If you follow your own good sense and the principles of Mindful Eating, you and your growing baby will be just fine on a well-balanced diet with lots of fresh, natural ingredients.