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Early Childhood Nutrition


I spent 9 months growing a human inside of me and it seemed relatively effortless. 

Then babe arrived, and as I held this beautiful bundle in my arms I couldn’t help panicking a little. Do I know enough? Enough to keep this little one healthy and safe? It is the most magical time I can remember: holding MY baby. But it was also really tough. There were challenges that I had not heard much about, including latching, cracked nipples, and lots of crying (even though I was avoiding all the potential colicky creating foods).

I think the most important thing a new Mom needs to know is “You are ENOUGH”.

Know that although it may not be easy, you’ve got this. 
 



From birth

It can take your little bundle up to 2 years to have a fully sealed (protective) gut lining, so this time is possibly the most crucial time to be diligent in how you nourish babe. Breast milk is a superfood like no other so start here and go as long as you are able. If you are not able to breast feed or sustain it as long as you like DO NOT WORRY. There are options! Milk Banks, for one (look it up - super amazing. This is Calgary’s) OR, you can make your own formula (check out Sally Fallon’s book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Childcare for recipes from cow’s or goat’s milk). This way you are ensuring there are no unwanted (harmful) additives getting into your little one.

As babe grows, more food will be needed. The idea of introducing foods can be another daunting moment for new mothers. Take it slow. In the beginning (anywhere from 4 - 8 months) the foods are supplementing the milk, and milk is still your little’s primary source of energy. You’ll start with liquid-ish textures, similar to milk. Watching how baby does, you can start moving more towards purees. Always stick with what you’re comfortable with. After this time (from 8 months or so) you can start giving soft small chunks or chunkier purees. After a year it is pretty much fair game. This is the first time you would introduce high potential allergens, foods that have been shown to be risky for babies (12 months) or foods that can cause gut issues in babes, like egg whites, nuts, honey and grains.
 



4 - 8 month old Babes

Solids can be slowly introduced anytime here. Try to follow your little one’s signs. If they seem interested in food at your meal times start planning to try some solids and/or if you are feeling like they could eat more right after they’re done nursing or a bottle.

Start with foods that will supply similar growth nutrients found in breast milk. Some of the essential ones being protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins. Both of my babies started solids with egg yolk. Yes, egg whites are a high potential allergen and should be avoided until 1 year old but yolks are full of some super goodness for babe. You can soft boil an egg, separate the white completely, poke a small hole in the yolk and drain into a dish, then lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Watch baby enjoy and love the fact that he/she is getting a nice healthy dose of brain developing choline (a nutrient essential to brain development). 

Once you have introduced a food you want to stick to only that food for 4 days and watch for any signs of intolerance. This could be anything from skin irritations, disrupted sleep, bloating or gas etc. - so make sure you monitor closely.

From here you can continue with nutrient powerhouses like liver and avocado. Yes, liver! From pasture raised animals, make it into a pate or freeze it and then grate onto egg yolk. This is one food that is packed with all those essential nutrients for babe at this point.

Animal proteins, specifically meat and eggs, are the foods that have all those essential nutrients we want all together. Plus, starting with meat, like grass-fed beef or pasture raised chicken, and fats (ghee being the best) has a bit more to it than just the nutrient profile needed for growth. It is also key to aiding your babe to develop a healthy digestive system. The enzymes required to break down carbohydrates aren’t functioning fully in our little ones until at least 16 months, other than lactase (to break down the carbs in milk). Baby is however producing the enzymes need to digest proteins and fats (pepsin and lipase) much earlier than this.

After 6 months you and your little can start to get a bit more adventurous with your introductions. Still taking time and only adding one new food at a time (for 4 days), you can add in:

  • Broth
  • Meat purees (with some ghee)
  • Small amounts of ferments like kefir
  • Vegetable purees (always with fats added such a butter, ghee or coconut oil)

Oh yeah - Baby also needs salt. Use high quality sea salt (with 50+ minerals) and lightly sprinkle on baby’s foods.

 



8 -12 month old Babes

Now you can keep playing. Stick to similar foods, but you can now add variety in combinations, texture, small pieces left in the mashed puree, and so on. Now is a good time to try:

  • Soups or stews with small pieces in them
  • Little chunks of chicken or turkey - dark meat (fat is good)
  • Ground beef small chunks
  • Zucchini cooked in ghee (was my little guy’s fav!)
  • Avocado chunks
  • Chunky fruit purees made with ghee or butter (pears were our favourite)
     


Babes over 1 year

After 1 year is when you can start to introduce grains, nuts and whole eggs. Always start slow and wait (the standard 4 days) between each new food. I found it was comforting for me to do a skin patch test the day before first introduction of these. I would rub a very small amount onto baby’s wrist and watch for any reaction.

Soaking of grains or fermentation (eg. sourdough) are ways you can make grains more nutrient dense and easier to digest. This is essential for the still developing digestive system of your little ones and also a good idea for the whole family. 

To soak grains, you will fill a glass mason jar 1/3 full with the grain and then the rest with filtered water. You may also want to add 1-2 tbsp neutralizer (whey, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) to help predigest and breakdown enzyme inhibitors in the grains. Let your jar sit at room temperature for 8 - 24 hours and then cook as you would. The longer the soak the shorter the cook time will be. There is no need to drain soaking water or rinse grain, except for quinoa.

From here the ultimate guide is whole foods. Up until about 7 years old is when you will have the most control over what your offspring consumes. Use this time to guide them on what helps, heals and hurts their body. If they have too much cake at a birthday party and complain of tummy pains, help them make the connection.

Once there is a peer group, sports team, class mates and so on they will be exposed to lots of different foods and likely will want to try all the packaged, brightly coloured options. Teach them about moderation and continue to fuel with them whole foods at home.

Raising tiny humans into exceptional young adults is not easy or simple and yet it is done all the time by Moms just like you. Moms who care more than you would have ever thought possible (before having kids). It is ok to have treats and let your little ones experiment with the bright coloured pre-packaged food on special occasions. You can trust in all the work you’ve done to nourish them at home and the connection with food you’re sharing with them. Remember there is energy in food and experience. I talk with my littles often about how when we are with friends or at a party there is no worrying about foods being “bad” for us, and that it’s all good if we enjoy it and the energy of the event.

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