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We all love experiencing each new stage with our little ones. Especially when we watch them grow from a sleepy newborn to an energetic, walking, talking toddler, and everything in between. Once your baby comes up on 4-6 months you can think about introducing solids to your baby. Keep reading to see what are the 7 best first baby foods for your baby.
- When should I introduce solids?
- What nutrients does my baby actually need?
- The truth about rice cereal
- What about food allergens?
- What are the best first baby foods?
- Here are the 7 best first baby foods:
- The 4 main food types you should avoid giving as a first food
- The final thoughts
When should I introduce solids?
Well, I guess the first question is when should I introduce solids? To make a long answer short, it basically boils down to when your baby shows signs they are ready.
Signs to watch for that your baby might be ready to start solids:
- Your baby no longer has a tongue thrust reflex
- Or your baby can sit up without much support
- You notice that your baby seems interested in your food
These are just a few signs but they can be very helpful in determining the readiness of your little one.
To give an idea, 4 months would be your very soonest you would want to start any solids, sometimes waiting until closer to 6 months can be better for some babies.
I started introducing solids with my baby around 4-5 months and started slowly with 1 or 2 options and then gradually increased as the weeks went by.
It is not a race, observe and watch your baby and go at their own pace.
What nutrients does my baby actually need?
Ok, back on track! Babies have special nutritional needs that benefit from a blend of animal and plant foods. Our digestive tracks are actually designed for an omnivore diet.
It is important to find extremely nutrient dense foods as most of those foods offer so many other great benefits, such as supporting digestion, immune function and also promoting a healthy gut.
We need to remember that our babies still have a very immature and small digestive tract, so being conscious of what we put into their tummies can play a huge role in their overall health.
Now, you may think the sound of some of these food options might not seem like your average first baby food recommendation, especially compared to what you see typically offered in the western world, but they are very similar to what traditional cultures and other countries offer for first foods to their babies.
Plus, they hold so many great benefits to your baby’s growing body.
The truth about rice cereal
Well, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of mothers are told about the one and only famous rice cereal. It seems like it would be a perfect match for your little one’s premature taste palate.
I even recall one of my pediatricians recommending it as a sleep aid and adding some to a nighttime bottle!
This is where a couple of red flags rose for me…. And so, my research began.
While rice cereal is often the most popular and often usually encouraged, it is definitely far from being the best. In a nutshell, rice cereal is just highly processed, refined white flour. It doesn’t sound too nutritious if you ask me.
Shockingly enough, rice cereal contains high amounts of the toxin arsenic. High levels of arsenic can cause all kind of problems you don’t want your baby to have and even damage your baby’s nervous system.
Here are some other key points to consider when it comes to rice cereal:
- Rice cereal has low nutritional value
- It contains synthetic vitamins such as folic acid
- Rice cereal is highly processed
- Is fortified with iron
- Very hard to digest
Although when you’re reading the box at Walmart it is very easy to become persuaded by words like “easily digestible” or “Iron-fortified”. Unfortunately, it’s not all cracked up to be as amazing as it sounds.
Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are plenty of babies that have been fed rice cereal and they are just fine. Add to that, I am not judging any of you who fall into that category, because ultimately, we do our best with the knowledge we have.
I just want to share some great alternatives to the traditional, commercial rice cereal.
What about food allergens?
Recent studies show that the sooner you introduce allergenic foods, the better chance your child has at not developing a food allergy.
Several studies such as “The EAT study“, “The Petit Study“, and “The Leap Study” help show how exposing your baby to allergenic foods such as peanuts, eggs, and milk can actually lower their risk of having food allergies.
If you are wondering how to best introduce those common allergenic foods, Ready, Set, Food offers the perfect solution for you.
They take organic peanuts, milk, and eggs and have created a powdered product that gently and safely introduces allergenic foods.
The powder dissolves right into breastmilk or formula and easily and safely helps introduce those foods to your baby.
This new approach to introducing common allergenic foods doesn’t offer all of the answers so remember to always do your own research and findings and do what feels right to you.
What are the best first baby foods?
I remember when my baby started showing some interest in food and I was a bit overwhelmed on what was best for him. I felt as though there were a lot of conflicting opinions and as a brand new Mum I felt quite inadequate.
In those first few months, I did hours upon hours of research trying to figure out what was best for my baby, because let’s be honest, we all want what is best for them.
One of my first learning experiences was with my baby’s very first foods.
Here are the 7 best first baby foods:
- Egg yolk
- Sweet potato
- Healthy fats
- Bone broth
- Ground meats
1. Egg yolk
Egg yolks are filled with so many amazing nutrients for your little one. When I first came across this information, to be honest I kind of didn’t want to try it.
It just didn’t seem like something that people should give their babies as a first food. To add to that, I personally don’t like an egg over easy just on its own (although, now after learning more about how great eggs are I think I may have to change my taste palate) so naturally, I didn’t think my baby would either. Silly thinking, I know!
Like I said yolks are filled with so many nutrients. They contain cholesterol, which is pretty crucial for brain development, and remember babies need fats! (That is why breast milk contains plenty of cholesterol.)
Along with cholesterol they supply choline and iron and plenty of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K.
Vitamins and minerals are really crucial for your baby’s development. For parents that feed egg yolks to their little ones, it is common that they will often see early development in language skills and being able to take directions.
After I delved deeper into my research I decided I had to give it a try and my baby LOVED it.
It is best to go with organic, cage free, pasture raised hens, or even better farm fresh from chickens raised on a good quality diet.
They are so much better than what you buy at the grocery store but if you don’t have your own chickens or access to farm fresh then just do your best. That’s all we can do.
How to cook a soft a boiled egg:
Bring the water to a boil and once boiling place the egg into the water and let it cook for 4 ½ -5 ½ minutes (time may vary depending on altitude) The key to a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg is that you still want the yolk to be runny.
Once cooked, run the egg under cold water. Peel the egg and then separate the whites from the yolk, which will still be runny.
The yolks are very rich, so don’t expect your little one to eat the whole thing his first time trying it. You can gradually increase a little bit each day until you are feeding the whole yolk.
It is pretty common nowadays to hear, don’t feed your baby any fruit as a first food because then they will develop a preference for sweetness. Well, truth be told breast milk is sweet so I don’t think you need to worry too much.
Bananas are a great carbohydrate source for babies and are one of the fruits that contain amylase, an enzyme that is necessary for the breakdown and digestion of carbohydrates.
They are also a great source of magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Not to mention super easy to prepare and feed!
It’s a win win!
How to prepare a banana
It is important to feed very ripe bananas (with brown spots) to your beginner eater. This is because the starch has converted to simple sugar, which makes it 10 times easier for little immature digestive tracts to handle.
Simply peel your banana, and either mash it up or you cut it up and put it into a self-feeder. Bananas are also great paired with mashed avocado or breast milk.
Avocados are quite the wonder fruit.
They contain so much goodness and they are full of good unsaturated fat, (which we know is essential for babies) and a great source of vitamins, potassium and folate (the natural form of folic acid). Avocados are also soft in texture, making it easy to feed and digest.
Just like many of these first foods, avocados also contain nutrients that are essential in brain development.
Babies need plenty of healthy fats (like the ones in avocados) this type of fat is one of the most important raw materials for a well functioning and complex brain.
Little tangent here, but communication mechanisms and brains cells are built from fat. Good, healthy fats are essential in your child’s brain especially in the early stages of development.
It can truly affect your child’s intelligence because it makes up the brains building blocks.
So don’t skip out on this little green wonder!
How to prepare an avocado:
Peel and cut into long slices if you want your little one to work on self-feeding, or simply mash and spoon feed. It pairs great with bananas too!
4. Sweet potato:
Sweet potatoes always seem to be a hit with the littles. My guy LOVED them! Along with being desirable in taste they also contain some goodies too. They are rich in several nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and vitamins A, C and B-complex. It is a no brainer!
How to cook a sweet potato:
I always prefer either steaming vegetables or baking them in the oven. I think these methods are the best at keeping in all of those great nutrients in your veggies.
Often when boiling them, you sadly boil out a lot of the goodness. But if you do choose this route, that’s fine just used the stock water to add into the potatoes to make a mash.
Boiling isn’t always bad if you can use that water that all the nutrients are in!
Once cooked, you can either cut up into bite size pieces or mash up and make a puree. Depending on the age of your baby, may dictate the way you serve it.
If you are looking to make it into a puree, a baby food maker can make this process so much easier and can be used for all types of foods.
Sweet potatoes are also great paired with butter and or bone broth.
5. Healthy fats:
We have already talked a lot about healthy fats and why they are important, so no need to repeat myself. Hopefully, you get the picture.
Butter, virgin coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil are all really great options.
Butter is very nutritious and provides the necessary fat and cholesterol. Just make sure you are choosing a good brand of butter from a good source. I highly recommend Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter.
This is hands down the best out there. If you can buy it at Costco the price is pretty reasonable.
Virgin coconut oil has a large content of medium-chain fatty acids, just like breast milk. Both breast milk and coconut oil are high in lauric acid which is great for immune defense.
Olive oil contains a high degree of monosaturated fats as well as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. Olive oil is pretty well known for its health benefits and is a great source of good fats for your baby.
How to feed healthy fats to your baby:
Well, this is probably the easiest preparation. Really, there isn’t any prep. You just add it to your baby’s food. It goes well with vegetables, after steaming or cooking them.
Or you could even mix it in with your egg yolks or avocado. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter, just make sure your baby is getting them.
6. Bone broth:
Broth seems like an odd choice for your baby’s first food and especially bone broth. We all are familiar with chicken broth or beef broth but bone broth is even better.
Bone broth is easy to digest, it is a prebiotic, a superfood for gut health and is full of nutrients. We could spend a lot of time on bone broth alone but in a nutshell, it is something you don’t want to miss.
How to make and or serve bone broth:
You could either make your own broth or buy it. Just make sure when buying you buy a quality brand. Simply serve warm on a spoon, in a bottle or add it to some food. It would pair well with ground meats or even with sweet potatoes.
7. Ground meats
Meat is a natural source of iron and zinc and doesn’t require amylase to be digested, which makes it a great first food for babies. It is also a complete source of protein which is an essential part of our diet.
Babies are born with the ability to digest fats and proteins so it is important to make sure their diets consist of components they can easily digest.
How to cook ground meats:
Choose grass-fed organic meat (lamb, beef, turkey or chicken) once cooked you can either grate into small pieces or puree the meat and add broth to it.
The 4 main food types you should avoid giving as a first food
You may be wondering, are there certain foods I should avoid giving to my baby. The answer is yes, especially when it comes to a first food.
When introducing solids to your baby, you need to keep things simple and not just give your baby anything and everything to your growing little one.
1. Acidic foods
Your baby’s digestive system is immature, sensitive and still has a lot of developing to do. With that in mind it is best to steer clear of highly acidic foods until around 9 months of age.
This is to avoid irritating or causing your baby to have an upset stomach.
Acidic foods could consist of:
Infant botulism has been associated with raw honey, so even though the risk may be small, it is usually best to avoid honey until your baby is close to a year old.
If your baby’s diet is quickly filled with artificial sugars and sweeteners from an early age, you may find yourself with a child who only has a taste preference for sugary things.
You can easily sweeten things naturally with fruits like bananas, applesauce, and dates.
Since young babies have little to no pancreatic amylase, digesting grains at a young age can be proven very difficult for little ones.
Your baby’s digestive system most likely won’t be ready to digest complex carbohydrates as a first baby food.
By all means, grains will be part of your baby’s diet at some point but don’t rush into feeding them grains as a first food. Wait until at least 7-8 months+ before adding grains into their diet.
Presoaked, well cooked grains are going to be the easiest way for your baby to digest them well.
The final thoughts
Well, there are my 7 very first baby foods. I know they might not fall into your average baby food category but I can promise you they are a much better choice and will provide your baby with so much more goodness and promote a healthy childhood.
Babies thrive off of good whole, nutrient dense food. It will greatly impact their health, mood, brain, and offer a strong immune system.
Start your baby off on the right foot when it comes to introducing solids, you won’t regret it.
If you’re already past the baby stage and are trying to get your toddler to eat healthy check out this awesome article, “15 secrets to how I got my toddler to eat healthy and not be a picky eater.”
Have you started introducing solids to your baby yet? What foods have you tried and have you considered trying any of the options I recommended?
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