Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Baby Eats

Our littlest beauty is now 8 months old.  It's hard to imagine, really!  It always is, though...  I'm amazed that though she was almost our lightest baby at birth (8 lbs even), she quickly gained and outpaced even her 100th+ percentile sisters (interestingly, Organique was our heaviest at birth, but definitely the 'skinniest' from a few months old).  She has been holding at 22 lbs this past month or so, which is good, since her rear-facing infant carseat has a 22-lb weight limit.  So glad we went with that brand...!

A few months ago I began to give thought to what we might need to start feeding her.  Her cousin, at a day older, has been eating solids since Christmas or before!

We followed the Nourishing Traditions suggestions for baby food with Organique, which was the yoke from a barely-boiled egg and some sea salt from 4 months, often some (raw!) grass-fed beef liver, bananas from 6 months, and then other vegetables and meats towards 9 months.

This baby hasn't exactly seemed under-nourished, so I haven't been in much of a hurry to introduce solids, though we're fairly regular with feeding her just recently.

We have done the egg yolk, though not daily.  I drizzle some melted coconut oil with the egg, and use RealSalt.  Hubby ate all the liver from the last cow we bought, and I haven't been highly motivated to find more.  I've fed her avocado lately, sometimes mixed with banana, and the same oil and salt.  Which kinda cracks me up, considering I probably once thought adding fat and salt to baby food was a horrific idea.

Reasons we do it this way?

It was probably Nourishing Traditions that first informed me of much of this, and I've done more reading since then, of course.  First, we know Mama's milk is best for Baby.  What is in mother's milk?  Lots of fat, for one.  Protein.  Lactose is the main carbohydrate, and it's important enzyme-counterpart, lactase.  Lactase does the job of breaking down the milk sugar, lactose (people with lactose intolerance can often drink raw cow's milk - where the lactase is still alive and functional).  If we assume Baby's digestive tract is geared for these nutrients, but little else (which we know is true), super-processed cereals begin to look less and less like a good "first food."  Grains are notorious allergens these days, anyways.  Ever heard someone suggest putting cereal in Baby's bottle to "help them sleep through the night" at a young age?  It's no wonder it might; taxing the immature digestive tract with complex carbohydrates and proteins that they aren't ready to break down yet?  That's a harsh sleep aid.  I suppose a fever, or virus, might put a strain on Baby too, but we wouldn't recommend that!  For us, while it's certainly a convenient and conventional option, we're not using cereals or grains just yet.  The liver is recommended for it's iron (and raw is full of those handy enzymes), and banana happens to be high in amylase - the enzyme to break down the banana's own carbohydrate.  Ta-da!  I think that's why bananas turn dark so quickly is their active enzymes.  Keep in mind, however, that a little jar of bananas, with a cute baby on the label, is NOT the same thing.  If it's in a jar (or any other shelf-stable packaging), it's been cooked to death.  And enzymes keel over somewhere near 120˚-130˚, far less than the 240˚ or so at which the canned goods are processed.  The avocado we are feeding her is also alive, of course, and the coconut oil is "virgin, unrefined" - processed without heat or harsh solvents/chemicals.  I think the salt is dead.  Or unalive.  :)  But the salt is important to brain development!  Even if it's dead/unalive. ;)

Well, without liver on hand, I got to thinking about the whole iron thing.  My baby sure doesn't seem like she's got any deficiencies in her diet, but all baby cereals/formulas/snacks advertise "iron fortified!" on them.  Can I feed her spinach?  Meat?  I remember pediatricians recommending iron supplements for babies who were exclusively breastfed.  I thought I should google for more information.  I found some information on kellymom, which was interesting.  The whole "iron at six months!" thing turns out not to be popular because babies tend to need iron at six months.  No, that would make too much sense!  It's more like:  Formula babies need more iron.  Breastmilk has less iron than formula.  Therefore, breastfed babies must REALLY need more iron.  Yet,
Healthy, full-term infants who are breastfed exclusively for periods of 6-9 months have been shown to maintain normal hemoglobin values and normal iron stores. [...] researchers concluded that babies who were exclusively breastfed for 7 months (and were not give iron supplements or iron-fortified cereals) had significantly higher hemoglobin levels at one year than breastfed babies who received solid foods earlier than seven months. The researchers found no cases of anemia within the first year in babies breastfed exclusively for seven months and concluded that breastfeeding exclusively for seven months reduces the risk of anemia.
(emphasis mine)
All iron is not created equal.  That in breastmilk is absorbed at four to twenty-plus times the rate of formula's iron.  Also, apparently bad bacteria need iron.  Giving baby iron via supplements, drops, formula, cereal, etc provides a lot of iron to bacteria, while there are specialized proteins in Mama's milk that keep the iron from those critters. (oh, how I wish I knew some of this when Big Sister was little...)

Obviously there are babies that might need extra iron - premature infants, for one, and those who actually test anemic.  I would first choose naturally high-iron foods before considering something iron "fortified." 

There are some high-iron foods listed at the link.  And yes, spinach is on there. :)

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