BABY CEREAL IS A COMMON FIRST FOOD TODAY
Your baby is getting older, starting to develop an interest in solid foods. How exciting!
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a variety of foods for baby's first foods, what is one of the first traditional solid food recommended?? Rice, oat or wheat cereal or other pre-packaged baby cereal.
And what is one of the common first finger foods for babies? Cheerios, Goldfish or some sort of teething cereal cookie.
All of these are cereals that, guess what?, your baby can not properly digest yet! And yet, for some reason, this is standard nutritional advice for babies in the US.
While we think of feeding babies cereals as ‘normal', it is not at all historically normal.
TRADITIONAL VIEW OF FEEDING BABIES GRAINS
The way baby food is marketed to parents is competely backward of how successful, traditional societies introduced solid foods to their babies. In traditional times, cereal grains as a baby's first solid food used to be unheard of.
The few traditional societies that did feed their babies a gruel of grains, had a gruel is radically different from our pre-packaged rice cereals or Cheerio snacks. People in traditional cultures would make the grains more digestible for the baby and easier on their immature digestive systems by either pre-chewing the gruel for their babies or soaking the grains for 24 hours or more and mildly fermenting them.
WHY BABIES CAN'T TOLERATE GRAINS
Why did traditional societies do this? It's always amazing to me, the more I learn about societies from 100s and 1000s of years ago and how they fed their people, how they knew what was good for them intuitively. They didn't have all of the science to explain why…they just knew.
Why is it not a great idea to feed babies cereal grains as a first food? Babies produce a small amount of salivary amylase, an enzyme that helps digest grains. They produce almost no pancreatic amylase until after molars are developed. Most babies' digestive systems are not able to handle grains/cereal (especially wheat) until at least one year old at the earliest.
EFFECTS OF GRAINS AND CEREALS ON BABIES
If babies are not producing amylase, they are not digesting grains. Undigested grains can destroy your baby's intestinal lining and disrupt the balance of good bacteria in the gut. According to Nourishing Traditions, many doctors warn that feeding cereal grains too early can lead to grain allergies later. Some researches feel that in addition to grain allergies, this can also lead to behavioral problems, mood issues, children nutritional deficiencies and other food allergies
In addition grains being undigestible for babies, grains also are not nutrient dense for babies. Feeding a baby grains is something they can't really use and is robbing them of nutrients they need to grow a healthy brain, nervous system and bone structure. If they can't digest the grains, the grains are taking the place of quality, nourishing foods that the baby could be digesting more easily.
WHAT SHOULD A BABY EAT AS A FIRST FOOD?
So….now what are you supposed to do? What should baby's first foods be? Nourishing Traditions suggests that babies first foods should be animal foods since the digestive system is better able to supply the appropriate enzymes for the digestions of fats and proteins.
If you'd like to know more about exactly to feed babies, I highly recommend the books Beautiful Babies and Nourishing Traditions Book for Baby and Child Care. They are both full of a ton of great advice about using traditional wisdom to feed and care for your baby.
This is very different than what we are taught in our society today! However, looking at the health of our society, I say we look back to traditional societies to see what worked for them because what we are doing now…isn't working out so well!
When I first had my daughter, I struggled with what to feed her. I read so many contradictory things about what her early diet should be. I had grand plans of pureeing my own baby food, but didn't know whether to start with fruits or vegetables. I diligently bought the iron fortified rice cereal, recommended by our doctor, and mixed it with breast milk as her first ‘meal'. After 3 sessions, I knew the cereal was not for us.
I quickly switched to mashed bananas, mashed avocado and store bought organic vegetable purees. I added meat purees early too, simply because I found she really liked them. I was unsure, however, if I was doing the ‘right' thing. She did snack on the usual Cheerios, puffed snacks and pastas. But mostly, I wanted her to eat food like we were eating and was happy to push the meats and vegetables on her.
These resources not only lays out what you should be feeding your child, but give extensive research into WHY you should be choosing certain foods.
So many young mothers are overwhelmed with their concern about doing everything they can to ensure their child grows up strong, healthy and happy. This book gives you the framework to help make that happen.
As I continue to learn more about this topic, I can't help but feel a little guilty that I didn't have access to this knowledge when I needed it in my life! But, as a mother, I can't feel guilty. I can only take the new information I have learned and incorporate it into my life now….AND share this information with others!
I hope you find this useful and helpful to your baby journey!
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