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Introducing food to your baby is a very exciting time. If you’re like me, you recognize all the signs your baby is ready to start eating solids. Though our convenience culture says to introduce rice cereals and filler foods, this is not the most nutritious route to take. In fact, babies have a hard time digesting grains properly until they are a year old because they lack the proper digestive enzymes. This can leave them low on essential nutrients like zinc and calcium. It is better to first slowly introduce nutrient-dense foods containing nutrients as close as possible to mother’s milk. Wait to introduce the complex carbohydrates, grains, etc. until their digestion has matured.
So what nutrients are in mother’s milk? Mostly animal protein, fat and simple carbohydrates. This is what babies’ digestive systems are built for drinking mother’s milk, so it makes sense to introduce those same types of food.
Begin by introducing one food at a time. Keep it simple and in small bites, and wait 2-3 days to see if there are any allergic responses such as rash, diarrhea, or vomiting before introducing the next food. To thin out solids, you can use breastmilk.
The goal is quality over quantity. Your baby may only eat a few bites of the food given, so we want those few bites to be as nutritional as possible. It’s not about making your baby full so much as it is about supporting the rapid and amazing growth his or her body and brain are doing.
What are the best foods?
First food at 4-6 Months – Egg Yolk
Soft boil an egg and serve the soft yolk to baby with a pinch of unrefined sea salt. Best from organically, pasture raised chickens. Discard or eat the whites yourself, though, because the protein chains in egg whites are a bit too long for baby to digest at this age.
Jen Allbritton, a Certified Nutritionist and the author of the article Nourishing a Growing Baby, writes:
“Egg yolks, rich in choline, cholesterol and other brain-nourishing substances, can be added to your baby’s diet as early as four months, (1) as long as baby takes it easily. (If baby reacts poorly to egg yolk at that age, discontinue and try again one month later.)
Cholesterol is vital for the insulation of the nerves in the brain and the entire central nervous system. It helps with fat digestion by increasing the formation of bile acids and is necessary for the production of many hormones. Since the brain is so dependent on cholesterol, it is especially vital during this time when brain growth is in hyper-speed. (25) Choline is another critical nutrient for brain development.
The traditional practice of feeding egg yolks early is confirmed by current research. A study published in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the nutritional effects of feeding weaning infants 6-12 months of age regular egg yolks, enriched egg yolks, and an otherwise normal diet. The researchers found that both breastfed and formula-fed infants who consumed the egg yolks had improved iron levels when compared with the infants who did not. In addition, those infants who got the egg yolks enriched with extra fatty acids had 30 percent to 40 percent greater DHA levels than those fed regular egg yolks. No significant effect on blood cholesterol levels was seen. (26)
Thus, the best choice for baby is yolks from pasture-fed hens raised on flax meal, fish meal, or insects since they will contain higher levels of DHA. Why just the yolk? The white is the portion that most often causes allergic reactions, so wait to give egg whites until after your child turns one. (1, 11)”
Along with egg yolk, my other favorite first food is homemade bone broth. Bone broth is gentle on digestion and can help wake up your baby’s system for solid food.
Here is a handy list for introducing solids to your baby that I have used for my children, based on the research by Weston A. Price, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fannon and Nourishing a Growing Baby by Joette Calabrese.
Foods By Age
Small amounts of solid foods as your baby tolerates, waiting 2-3 days at least in between introduction of new foods.
- Egg yolk – from pastured chickens, soft boiled with a pinch of unrefined sea salt.
- Banana – pureed for very mature babies
- Cod liver oil – high quality, 1/4 teaspoon high vitamin or 1/2 teaspoon regular, given with an eye dropper or on a spoon
- Organic liver – grated frozen and added to egg yolk
- Pureed meats – organically and pasture-raised preferred, organ meats (liver, brain, kidneys, etc.) of beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, and fish
- Bone broth – (chicken, beef, lamb, fish) added to pureed meats and vegetables, can be offered as a drink
- Fermented foods – small amounts of organic kefir or yogurt, fermented sweet potatoes, or taro
- Raw mashed fruits – avocado, banana, melon, mangoes, low pectin fruits
- Cooked, pureed fruits – cook fruits with pectin such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, berries, and cherries
- Cooked vegetables – cooked with butter or coconut oil; squash, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, beets, pumpkin, potato
Begin increasing thickness and lumpiness to the foods already introduced.
- Creamed vegetable soups with broth or expressed breastmilk
- Homemade stews – cut all ingredients small or mash together
- Dairy – best if organic and raw to preserve the natural digestive enzymes, however, make sure it is coming from a clean, trusted source if consuming raw; cottage cheese, raw cheese, custard, cream, and smoothies
- Finger foods – for when baby can grab and adequately chew; lightly steamed vegetables, mild cheese, avocado chunks, pieces of banana, fruit chunks, and sardines
- Cod liver oil – increase to 1/2 teaspoon high vitamin or 1 teaspoon regular dose
Over 1 Year
- Grains and legumes – soaked, sprouted, or fermented
- Crispy nut butters – see recipes in Nourishing Traditions
- Leafy green vegetables – cooked with butter
- Raw salad vegetables – cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, etc.
- Citrus fruit – fresh, organic oranges, grapefruits, etc., raw or added to foods/ drinks
- Whole egg – organic, pasture-raised, cooked with a pinch of salt (poached, scrambled, etc.)
Foods to avoid
Up to 6 months: According to Nourishing A Growing Baby, “Certain foods, such as spinach, celery, lettuce, radishes, beets, turnips and collard greens, may contain excessive nitrate, which can be converted into nitrite (an undesirable substance) in the stomach.” If you do cook these vegetables, do not use the water they were cooked in. Instead, puree in fresh water.
Up to 9 months: Citrus and acidic fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, tomatoes, and pineapples
Up to 1 year: Honey (due to the inability for infants to deactivate any botulism spores that may be present in the honey), corn, cereals, grains, and granola.
- Commercial dairy products (especially ultra-pasteurized),
- modern soy foods
- margarines and shortening
- fruit juices
- reduced-fat or low-fat foods
- extruded grains
- boxed or processed foods
- chemical additive (artificial food colorings, artificial flavors, MSG, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, Splenda, sucralose, Equal, etc.)
Here are some handy printables to keep on your refrigerator. Just click the preview to be taken to the PDF printable.
Amazing Resources to Learn More
I’ve come across some amazing resources as I’ve researched my own health and how to raise my children as nutritiously as possible. The two books that opened my eyes to proper, biological nutrition are Nourishing Traditions and The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fannon.
These books have amazing information about the science behind our food, food culture, and nutrition, as well as amazingly helpful recipes. From there, I learned about Weston A. Price and his research of cultures across the globe which lead to awesome revelations about food and nutrition. Check out the Weston A. Price Foundation for great articles and resources!
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