You want to feed your baby the best.  We all do.  As they grow older and begin to eat solids, how can we give them the best start possible with whole foods?   If we take a look at what babies around the world, in traditional cultures are fed, we find that nutrient density is key.  If we take a look at what is for sale on the “baby food” aisle of the grocery store, we see that sugar, white flour, and cheap processed foods abound.  This is conventional wisdom, but is this the best start for babies?

In my experience as a nutritional therapist (and in my own experience as a mother) I have seen overwhelming clinical evidence to support the hypothesis that the diets we begin with set the stage for our health for the rest of our lives.  There is one common thread among all of my most chronically ill clients.  They were all fed formula as children, and started on first foods that were nutrient depleted, which set the stage for all kinds of metabolism problems throughout the childhood and teen years.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that just because you cannot breastfeed, it doesn’t mean you can’t undo the damage caused by formula.  First of all, you can switch your baby from commercial formula to a homemade raw goat’s milk formula that is highly nutritious, easier to digest, and full of live probiotics and enzymes that the body needs (of which commercial formula is devoid).  You can read about my son’s amazing story with raw goat’s milk formula.  I plan to blog more about the goat’s milk formula and FAQs related to that very soon, as I get several e-mails a week related to that!

If circumstances prevent you from making your own formula, that’s okay too.  My daughter (who is older than Jonathan) was on commercial formula for a year and unfortunately I didn’t know any other alternative at the time.  While we did have to really do a lot of work to reverse the effects on her digestive system, (thank you LORD for the GAPS diet and Nutritional Balancing), after 5 years we are finally seeing some really great results and improvements.   So there is ALWAYS hope, and kids can turn around fast.  But I believe that the window of time is critical because once puberty and adolescence hits, the nutritional deficiencies can really begin to manifest. 

So, what can one do right now to begin to nourish the body and get off to a great start, regardless of whether you were able to give your child commercial formula, homemade, or breastmilk?

First of all, it’s vitally important to understand that all children are born fast oxidizers.  The oxidation rate explains the metabolism, and since babies are growing so fast, they demand lots of fats in the diet.  Breastmilk (ideally, although not all breastmilk is the same quality) has the ideal proportion of fats, carbohydrates, and protein.  In an ideal world, if we could breastfeed, we would keep kids on breastmilk for as long as possible (up to 3 years or more) since it is the perfect food, and it changes and adjusts to perfectly suit the child.  If you can do this, that is GREAT.  Do whatever you can to nurse as long as possible.

Unfortunately, for many of you who find your way to my blog, you were unable to breastfeed for very long if at all, and so this is simply not an option.  And I totally understand and grieve with you about this.  But God was able to turn my grief of not being able to fully breastfeed my kids into a passion.  He lead me down a path that showed me that yes, you CAN nourish your children, NO MATTER WHAT!!!  But the reality is, we need to be serious about working against a nutritional deficit because, let’s face it, breastmilk is best.  But I’m here to tell you that you CAN have vibrantly healthy children who have not been able to be fully breastfeed!  My kids are living proof!  (And obviously, there is more to nourishment than food.  Your love, your intention, and the low-stress environment you can create for your children goes a LONG way towards their healing and nourishment!)

Before we go further, I want to demystify the “Nourishing My Kids is Too Expensive” excuse.  I want to encourage you to be creative and to be a good steward of your finances, and stewardship means first and formost, providing your children and family with nourishing foods.  Sacrifices do need to be made for this to happen.  Americans pay the smallest percentage of their income on food.  Around the world, many people live to eat.  If you think about it, the earliest Nomads and Native peoples of every culture built their lives around nourishment.  That doesn’t mean you “worship your stomach” or make an “idol out of food”.  God is the giver of all good things.  Food is one of those things.  Sacrificing–whatever that means for you, whether it’s growing more of your own food, or spending more money on organic produce or raw milk and living with a smaller house or less of a wardrobe– is a gift of love for your family. That is what life is all about.  Sacrifical love.  We offer these things on the alter of our lives. 

Obviously we can take this too far and we can be tempted to make an idol out of food.  But nourishing our children and families doesn’t have to be expensive. 

{Forgive me as I switch gears again.}

Understanding your babies metabolism will help you be guided towards the right choices.

Obviously babies are growing and developing at a rapid rate and need food throughout the day.  AGAIN, I will state clearly that breastmilk is best and ideally all that is needed for the first 2 years of life, IDEALLY.  So my recommendations here are to augment a diet that consists mainly of breastmilk OR a quality homemade formula or simply raw milk. 

{Ok, I need to digress again real quick:}

Why do I emphasize raw milk so much?  Pastuerized milk is basically not even a food, in my opinion.  Here are the top 3 reasons why not to even bother with it:

1) Pasteurization denatures the proteins making them unrecognizable to the body and therefore potentially allergy-producing.

2) Homogenization and pasteurization oxidizes the fats making them very unhealthy.

3) Pasteurization kills the live probiotics and enzymes (such as lactase) that allows the body to self-digest the proteins and sugars in the milk, causing more stress on the body.

There are other reasons, of course, like the Vitamin A Palmitate and Vitmin D2 that is added to the milk.  The problems with pasteurization are beyond the scope of this article. But you can read all about the TRUTH about raw milk on the Real Milk website.

Bottom line? If you want to feed your children milk, look into finding a good raw source.  Most all raw dairy farms are small scale operations, and they take utmost care because they know their customers (who all buy farm-direct) will trace any problems directly back to them.  Farmers know they have an obligation to use the cleanest practices for their customers.  All the farmers that I know (and I do know a few!) drink the milk themselves.  Never buy from a farmer who won’t drink his own milk raw!  Our family has been drinking raw milk for over 3 years now and there has never been a single problem in terms of “food poisoning”.  I even purchased my own milking goats last spring because I realized that it would be more economical for me (and a friend who I partnered with) to just milk our own, and it’s not that difficult to keep it clean and sanitary.  So I don’t merely say this as a customer. I say this as a dairy goat “farmer” myself!!!!

{OK, step off soapbox}

So with breastmilk or a good raw milk formula as a foundation, how do we augment an older baby/toddler’s diet?

When to start solid foods really varies based on the individual baby.  A good rule of thumb is that when you sense your older baby (6 months +) just needs something “more” shortly after a feeding, then it might be time to introduce solid foods, if well tolerated.

1. First of all, with FAT.  Here are some great finger foods you can provide for your child:

*Chunks of grass-fed butter cut into little bit sized pieces. (Kerrygold is grassfed, and is cheapest at Trader Joe’s…you can follow that link to see what I love and hate about TJ’s!)

*Mashed ripe avocado.

*Full-fat, plain, whole milk yogurt.  Trader Joe’s organic European style yogurt is great. 

*Full-fat, plain kefir (you can read all about this on my Kefir for Kids post!)

*Sardines (this are full of great omega-3 fats.  If you get them introduced to these early, they will love them!) You can mash them and mix them with a good quality sour cream and make it more of a puree.

*Steamed and pureed veggies (green beans, peas, squash, sweet potatoes) mixed with a little cream or butter.

*Pureed liver pate (BUT ONLY ONLY ONLY if you can get really good, organic livers from a trusted source).

*Fish eggs (roe or caviar).  Good luck finding these; online mail order is your best bet.  Fish roe is nutrient density at its core, and you can fine affordable caviar, believe it or not.  These are full of brain-building nutrients and were prized by traditional cultures for growing children and pregnant and nursing mothers.  You can purchased Dried Tuna Roe and use it as a condiment to sprinkle on dishes in place of salt.  Or you can serve fresh salmon roe (an affordable choice from Marky’s Caviar online)  Remember that nutrient density is the key. It’s quality, not quantity. So you don’t need a lot of it!

*Egg yolks from pastured, free-range hens.  The yolks should be soft-cooked so as to enhance digestion.

*Meats: Dark meats are best, as they contain the most fats, vitamins, and minerals.  And the good news is that thighs and drumsticks are the cheapest usually!  A nice, tender pot roast or lamb roast is also great.  I do not recommend pork products, as they can harbor parisites even when cooked.

But what about cereals, crackers, and juices? 

I do not believe that these have a place in a young babies diet.  First of all, babies do not produce salivary amylase (the enzyme responsible for digesting starches) until they have their 2 year molars.  Crackers and cereals (even Cheerios) are mostly full of refined flour, and are “enriched” with vitamins that are not the most bioavailable.  They are an unbalanced food and are not suitable for fast oxidizers at all. They don’t really nourish and are certainly not nutrient-dense. It’s like heating the house with paper instead of logs. It works, sort of, but eventually it gets very inefficient, and over time can really unbalance the body nutritionally. 

Juices are way too sugary and really serve no purpose in the diet either. If necessary, you can add a little to “flavor” plain water if your child has already been introduced to juice.  Fresh vegetable juice like carrot juice, on the other hand, is a great choice for little ones; about 3-4 oz. per day.  Unfortunately, babies lack the ability to really convert much of the beta-carotene in carrots into a usable form, but carrot juice is a good source of bioavailable calcium.

What about fruit?

Yes, this is the most difficult one to give up.  I believe that fruit is God’s candy, and we should view it as candy.  Feed it to your baby as much as you would feed your baby candy.  If you would not feed your baby candy, then don’t feed fruit.  Yes, fruit is way more nutritious than candy in terms of minerals, but most modern fruit is full of sugar and should still be consumed in moderation.  Unfortunately, fruits do not contain body-building nutrients and therefore, for optimal health, should be given as a dessert and in moderation.  Fruits obviously are amazing gifts from God, full of enzymes and nutrients. Please don’t misunderstand.  But I believe fruit should be eaten in season and in moderation as a treat after all of the more nutrient-dense foods have been consumed.

Obviously, I take a pretty firm stand in a lot of ways on childhood nutrition.  If what I’m saying totally doesn’t work for you, then that’s totally fine. I don’t judge you. I am simply sharing what I have observed from both personal and clinical experience, as will as through my nutritional studies.  For some additional information that goes much deeper into the Foundation of My Children’s Nutrition Philosophy, you may visit the Weston A Price Foundation Website’s Feeding Babies and Children section and also the website of Dr. Larry Wilson, MD, who has worked with many children and families over the past 30 years developing scientific nutritional programs based on the above dietary principles:  Dr. Wilson’s Article on Feeding Children and Babies.

If you would like to begin to make changes but need some more personalized guidance in this journey, I offer an extremely discounted package for babies. I have such a heart for helping babies (especially those of the dear mamas who tried hard to breastfeed, but couldn’t) get on the right start nutritionally, and I use hair analysis to put together a specific nutritional program to balance your child’s physiology and offer support with meal suggestions and general moral support.  Please inquire by e-mailing carriethienes [at] nwholisticnutrition [dot] com with the Subject Heading “Baby Nutrition”.

Smile! YOU CAN DO THIS.  You are not alone, and you will find help in this journey, and the answers will come when we seek them out of love for our children.  This has been my experience, and may you be blessed in your journey to nourish your family in an organic and thrifty way!

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