In the last two decades, there has been an explosive growth in childhood food sensitivities and allergies and more serious autoimmune conditions. In fact, in 2008, more than 15% of school-aged kids had developmental disability, and in 2009, 1 in 10 children had asthma (CDC, 2013).
Scientists are furiously studying the “whys,” and though there will never be one silver bullet, one of the factors that is almost never looked at is how and when we introduce foods to babies.
Coming from Europe, it’s interesting to know that the pediatric associations there have a method of food introduction, which is remarkably different from ours in the United States.
It’s also important to note that these same childhood disorders are only a fraction of those in Europe (Naqvi, n.d.).
Folks, there has to be a correlation to this all important thing in life we call “food.”
The gut and its complex array of enzymes and the mucus lining of small and large intestines are not really ready for food until the formation of the first tooth, or at approximately nine months.
The mouth is a big part of the digestive tract, and when things start maturing (teeth poking through), the infant is ready to start trying foods.
Here is a generic outline that we recommend to our DBC patients for infant food introduction.
The Timeline of Infant Food Introduction
0 – 6 Months: Breastfeeding
In general, breastfeeding for 9 – 18 months is optimal, as it contains all of the nutrients a child needs. Amongst other numerous benefits, it has proven increases in child cognitive ability (Horwood & Fergusson, 1998).
6 – 9 Months: If still gaining 1 to 1.5 lbs/month, breastfeeding is adequate. When breastfeeding gain slows, introduce one food at a time for 4 days. Watch for symptoms of a food sensitivity, which indicates the baby isn’t ready for that particular food yet. Signs include a red ring around the anus, a breakout on cheeks or elsewhere on the body, and fussiness or red ears. Behavior change and significant change in bowel movements are other signs. Note: Some change in bowel movements is expected because we’re switching over to solid food.
If you suspect a food allergy, take the food away and wait for symptoms to disappear, and then reintroduce the food one month later.
First, try freshly prepared vegetable juices, diluting at first with 4 parts water, and moving to 1 part juice to 1 part water in 4 days. Plain, mashed sweet potato is another great first food. Then, use it as a base to introduce other vegetables like mashed carrots, squash, beets, celery, cucumber, leafy greens, and zucchini.
Next, introduce fruits; try juice from pears, peaches or nectarines diluted with 2 parts water. If there is no reaction on the first day, puree the fruit and add water.
9 – 12 Months: Adhere to the aforementioned instructions, along with adding finely ground seeds and tree nuts; raw flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, raw almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts. This does NOT include peanuts.
Important: These foods must be finely ground and added to pureed fruits or vegetables.
1 Year and Up: Adhere to the aforementioned instructions, and add in non-gluten containing grains at 16 – 18 months. These include rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and gluten-free oats. Organic meats may be introduced at 16 months if desired as well.
After 18 Months: Wait until this age to try gluten, dairy, or other allergenic foods, only if recommended by your DBC doctor.
Additional Supplements for Mom and Baby
Additionally, I often get questions about supplementing for breast milk. If breast milk production isn’t adequate, I always check to see if the mother is getting enough rest, enough healthy oils like omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil, and enough proteins and hydration.
Adding in a Nature’s Remedie’s product called Fenugreek Plus after each meal can also assist in breast milk production.
If, due to your work schedule or due to other factors, it still isn’t possible to exclusively breast feed, I recommend our Kinder Support product mixed with hemp milk and a little added flax oil. This also contains adequate vitamin D supplementation, since research overwhelmingly has proven a dramatic decrease in disease risk for the child’s entire life when this is supplemented (Kulie, et. al., 2009).
Finally, all of my babies receive oral probiotics via Ultra Flora Balance powder to build healthy gut flora and a healthy gastrointestinal tract, which forms in the first year of life.