When it comes to first foods, mainstream advice is to feed your baby rice cereal. There are various reasons why this is a bad idea, starting with the fact that babies do not have sufficient amounts of the proper enzyme, called amylase, needed to break down grains in their tummies.
While infants do produce salivary amylase (source), their pancreases do not produce enough amylase for grains until their molar teeth are fully developed, which can sometimes take over two years (source). Because of this, improperly digested rice and other starchy foods will create inflammation in the already sensitive tummies of little humans, potentially leading to food allergies in childhood and autoimmune issues later in life. (source)
Another reason to avoid baby cereal: rice products have recently been found to contain arsenic, an element unsafe for human consumption in any quantity. (source) Finally, even if you baby could digest grains, there are far more important foods to focus on – foods that are nutrient-dense and essential to your baby's growth and development.
You may be shocked by the list of first foods below, but healthy traditional cultures worldwide have fed their babies like this for millennia. (source)
Three first foods your baby needs
1 – Bone broth
I know, I know. Bone broth sounds weird. Barbaric, even. But all we are talking about here is homemade soup stock – simple chicken or beef broth made by using bones like your mom or grandma may have done to make soup.
Unlike the store-bought variety, homemade broth is loaded with minerals, gelatin, and glycosaminoglycans (which include substances like chondroitin and glucosamine, keratin and hyaluronic acid and more). These nutrients help in the development and health of teeth, bones, hair, nails, and joints in babies and adults alike.
Bone broth is also a digestive elixir that helps the lining of a baby's digestive tract to mature and strengthen, preparing baby's tummy to digest more complicated foods down the road. You can learn an easy method to make chicken bone broth here. Then simply warm the broth to feed it to your baby on a spoon or offer her sips from a cup. Want the health benefits of bone broth, but don't want to make your own? Buy bone broth online here.
2 – Egg yolk
Babies need fat and cholesterol for proper brain and nervous system development, and egg yolks from pasture-raised hens provide fat and cholesterol as well as choline, amino acids, and vitamin A. While you may have heard that babies cannot digest protein, they do in fact have the proper digestive enzymes for most protein and fats that are similar to those in breast milk. (source)
To prepare the egg, either soft boil it and slice off the top, or cook it over-easy and slit the yolk with a sharp knife. Add a pinch of high quality sea salt (for essential minerals), and you can then spoon-feed the warm yolk to your baby.
Do not feed your baby egg whites as they can be allergenic, and the protein in this part of the egg is difficult for baby to digest. Very occasionally, a baby will spit up egg yolk. This is a sign that his or her digestion still needs more time to mature before introducing more solid foods. Stick with breast milk and bone broth, and attempt egg yolk again in a few weeks.
3 – Liver
After six months, you can begin adding small amounts of grated raw liver to the top of your baby's egg yolk. Nope, I'm not joking. Liver from grass fed cows is extremely high in vitamin A, a nutrient especially important in your baby's overall development. (source)
While we commonly think of orange foods like carrots and squash to be high in vitamin A, in fact, these foods contain carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Carotene is poorly converted to vitamin A in babies and children, and because of this, should be consumed only in moderation. The only way to get sufficient vitamin A is through high-quality animal products, with liver being the very best source. (You can read more about Vitamin A here).
To prepare the liver, freeze it raw for at least 14 days to destroy any harmful microbes. Then using a fine plane grater, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon over your baby's egg yolk, and serve. Even if you find this unappealing, chances are good that your baby will love it!
So now you know what to feed your baby. You can learn about when to start solids here.
If you've got more questions about how to begin solids with your wee human, head over to First Foods and Beyond.
In her program, Megan Garcia shares tips on how to introduce solids, a 3-step meal plan that you can customize to fit what's in your fridge, a handful of nutrient-rich baby food recipes, and a DEEP look at probiotics. Click here to access the program now.