There is just so much conflicting information…
As soon as you become a parent everyone likes to share their ideas, recommendations and advice (even if you didn’t ask). So we spoke to clinical nutritionist and mum of four Gina Rose for her top tips. Gina has just written a new book Tiny Human, what do I feed you, which is a comprehensive guide that shares her extensive knowledge, accompanied by scientific explanations to help you in making the healthiest food for your baby.
Why is infant nutrition so important?
Infant nutrition is crucial for supporting optimal growth and development. Think about this for one minute; choosing foods for your infant can either prevent a disease or feed one. Gina says this is so crucial, as what you feed an infant can set up patterns for life. “ As a Clinical Nutritionist & Mother I want to know that what I’m offering to my child is not going to hurt them in any way. This means providing a diet that their tiny immature digestive system can manage and absorb. I can’t emphasise this enough – the gut of a 6 month old baby is very different to an older child’s and must be treated with care.”
When is my child ready?
First of all every baby is different so there is really no magic number that says start feeding your baby on this date/ at this age. Here are a few key developmental signs:
When babies are ready for solids they start leaning forward at the sight of food and opening their mouths in a preparatory way. At around the age of 6 months your mini humans should be able to sit up and coordinate breathing with swallowing. When babies can sit up unassisted they have developed core strength for the muscles to help food move through the digestive tract this is called peristalsis. A good test is to see if they push their tongue out when a spoon or bit of food is place in their mouth.
So what foods should I introduce first?
It’s important to remember that breast milk or formula will still be baby’s first form of nutrition, however from about six months of age, baby will need to start boosting their diet with Omega 3, Vitamin D, Iron and Zinc.
Gina’s guide will walk you through introducing solids and lists the best foods for getting the key nutrients in.
Do I need to prepare these from scratch, or will pre-packaged be ok?
Gina strongly recommends preparing first foods from scratch, but says this can easily be done as part of the rest of the families evening meal prep. As a mother of four she has a variety of recipes in her book where an element of the evening meal can be easily prepared for baby saving time.
“Commercial baby food may be older than your baby!” Says Gina. “Our babies are literally growing at hyper speed during the first two years of life. They go from babbling to talking and rolling to running in such a short time frame, this physical and psychological development is dependent on nutrients from food.”
Sadly to get a product shelf stable the process destroys all the nutrients. More than half of the puree’s sold in the supermarket contain 16g of sugar (four teaspoons) and labelled as a single serve. Sweet puree pouches are not just nutrient devoid but also: Sets their palate up for sweetness & is a contributor to tooth decay & obesity.
Gina says the fact baby rice cereal is still the leading recommended first food for babies saddens her greatly. It’s recommended by mainstream to meet iron requirements because babies naturally start losing iron stores around 6 months.
Why does Gina challenge mainstream recommendations?
Gina doesn’t recommend rice cereal for the following reasons:
- Rice cereal is a processed nutrient devoid grain, which can be high in arsenic.
- Babies produce only a very small amount of the pancreatic enzyme amylase, therefore cannot digest rice cereal.
- It is a quick-burning carbohydrate therefore leaves babies cranky, fussy, and hungry shortly after consumption.
- Rice cereal can further increase the likelihood of imbalances in the micro biome (the “good bugs”) in the gut.
Rice baby cereal is naturally devoid of nutrients, so manufacturers add synthetic vitamins back in to fortify it. These synthetic vitamins are hard to digest; they commonly cause constipation & irritate the gut predisposing the child to food allergies.
Iron is naturally abundant in many foods that are not only healthy for your baby, but also deliver that iron in an easier-to-absorb format.
“I’m an advocate of feeding baby the family meal so you are not cooking separate meals,” says Gina. “This will not only help your baby’s palate but also save time in the kitchen.”
Commercial baby food is also missing allergenic foods, which is a contributing factor to why we see so many infants with food allergies. All infants should be given allergenic solid foods including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in the first year of life. This includes infants at high risk of allergy. Frequent exposure between 6 and 12 months decrease risk of food allergies.The order in which these foods are offered is important, Gina will walk you through introducing top allergen foods to prevent your baby developing a food intolerance or associated conditions such as eczema.
Eczema is a very common condition in babies and is often the first sign that a food allergy exists.
For more information and some simple nutritious recipes check out Gina’s book on her website https://nutritionbyginarose.com/e-book