Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pure and nutritious baby food, Part I

I've been talking about a baby food post for who knows how long. Here is part I, I'm predicting this is a topic I'll keep coming back to. One reason why I've waited so long to post about this is because I've been thinking about how I should phrase my knowledge into words. I have so little experience in this type of writing, which is why I ask you to be open-minded and understanding. My way is not the only way, and there is a lot I don't know. If you have something to add or want to comment on anything, please do. If you have some good recipes or ideas, please share them!

First of all, I want to begin by stressing the importance of breastfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. Some nurses in Finland practically push you to feed solids after 4 months, even though even here the national recommendation is 6 months. I for one was accused of starving my child more than once. Even when she was always just normal in weight, developing right on schedule or even early. Their answer to every growth problem is solids - if your baby weighs too much, "your milk is not enough" and if your baby weighs too little "your milk is not enough". Well, what do they recommend instead? Formula made with cow's milk, pureed potatoes, corn porridge? If your baby is underweight, substituting your milk, the natural source of nutrition tailored to meet your child's needs, for overcooked potatoes is definitely not the answer. And no matter how much your baby weighs, breastmilk is still optimized to meet his or her dietary needs. Remember, breastfeeding is one of the greatest gifts a mother can offer her child. But there is also no reason to beat yourself up, if you have a valid reason not to nurse. Guilting yourself will only hurt both of you.

But what should you do when your child is 6 months? I believe it is more important to watch for clues for whether your baby is ready for solids or not, there is no exact chronological deadline for this significant step in your child's development. Some tell-tale signs include: teeth(ing), sitting upright, signs of curiosity towards what you are eating and excessive nursing needs. My daughter actually started stealing food off our plates, which was a natural time to start introducing her new flavors.

What not to feed your baby (under 12 months):
Foods high in nitrates (beets, spinach, rutabaga), interfere with oxygen transport
Honey, increased risk of botulism
Any food additives (especially avoid artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers)
Animal milk
White, refined sugar
Fructose (not fruit sugar as it is falsely called, it is made from corn starch by microbes)
Potato, deficient in nutrients and packed with starch which can cause tummy trouble
Liver, or any other animal product high in vitamin A
Corn, very often genetically manipulated and low in nutrients
Wheat, white rice
Soy, even organic non GMO, mimics estrogen (female hormone) in the body causing a harmful hormone imbalance
Nuts, mycotoxins and risk of inhaling
Cacao, caffeine, oxalic acid (lowers calcium absorption) and other harmful compounds for your baby

What TO feed your baby:
Chia seeds, good ratio of beneficial fatty acids, high in protein and fiber
Avocados, essential fats
Hemp seeds, perfect ratio of omega's, high in protein
Fresh organic fruit, berries and vegetables
Cold-pressed organic oils (coconut, canola, camelina etc)
Lucuma (highly nutritional, improves taste)
Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet
Berry powders made by freeze-drying whole berries (high in nutrients, antioxidants and good flavor, especially sea buckthorn, cloudberry, aronia berry, blueberry)

I also believe fresh, wild-caught fish is good for you baby after 7-8 months age. Remember to give different species and to avoid ones which gather high levels of toxins, fish can be served 1-3 times a week. Avoid fish altogether if there is a family history of fish allergies, as the reaction can be severe. I do not recommend restricting your baby's diet because of your personal ethical viewpoints, but rather to ensure your baby is getting everything he or she needs. There is however good reason to avoid red meats not only due to ethics but health concerns as well. Fish isn't necessary, but if omitted care must be taken to provide your child other sources of healthy fats for optimal brain development.

Wondering what to do about milk? If you're from Finland, I'm sure you are aware of the "Calcium myth". The nurses and doctors will stress that dairy products are the only source of calcium. The national recommendation is giving your child cow's milk several glasses a day after 10-12 months of age. Did you know that only around 30 per cent of the calcium in animal milk is properly absorbed? Compare this with the 60% of total calcium content of sesame seeds that is absorbed (even higher when soaked in water for 8h and sprouted for 6h-3 days). Did you know that most zoo animal babies are fed goat milk because if they where fed cow's milk they would die or become very ill? Many of you are aware of these things, and those who aren't I strongly encourage to do your own research and then decide for yourself. Calcium is crucial for normal bone development among many other things, so cow's milk or nut milk or no milk, make sure your child is getting enough calcium. Remember also that WHO recommends breastfeeding be continued at least for the first 2 years and after that for as long as it feels natural for both mother and child. Because this is considered unrealistic and thought to guilt mothers, Finland ha s set a recommendation to nurse for the first year. My daughter will be a year soon, and I plan on breastfeeding until she is between 12-18 months (when most experts feel it is easiest to wean). I just started making her smoothies with sesame seeds a couple times a week. My husband and I both feel strongly about avoiding animal milk, especially because I get a strong reaction from it.

How to cook for your baby?
Does the food necessarily have to be cooked? All fruits and berries can be served raw for babies any age. For first foods, hard vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, can be steamed briefly and then pureed smooth in a food processor. When it is time for finger foods, serve fresh vegetables and fruit. If you want to give your child cereal/porridge, I recommend grains like millet, spelt, amarath and quinoa. In Finland Holle makes organic baby cereal where you only need to add (breast)milk. No cooking or heating necessary. NEVER, EVER use the microwave for anything that your child eats.

All this text and no recipes? Well here are some:

Berry porridge (6 months and up):
Holle-cereal, preferably millet or spelt
Aronia berry, sea buckthorn, blueberry, cranberry or other berry powder to baby's taste
Hemp powder, to baby's taste

Measure out an appropriate amount of dry porridge flakes (4 or more tbsp usually). Express milk to desired consistency, stir. The natural enzymes in breastmilk will start breaking up the protein and other nutrients in the cereal and it will get a bit runnier, but there is no need to add cereal flakes. Stir in berry powder.

Chia-banana smoothie (6 months and up):
0,5-1 tbsp Chia seeds
1/2 C water
Berry powder of choice
Hemp powder or hulled hemp seeds to taste
(Lucuma powder to taste)
0,5-1 banana

Soak chia seeds in water until a gel forms. Blend in a blender with banana and berry powder. Add hemp powder or blend in hulled hemp seeds. My daughter loved this from the get-go, it is still one of her favorites. For variety, substitute banana for a pear, apple, mango or any other fruit or berry. You can also substitute Chia for soaked sesame seeds.

Sweet-potato salmon meal:
organic sweet potato, cubed
fresh, wild-caught salmon
coconut oil

Lightly cook salmon in coconut oil on low heat on a frying pan. Cook only until just done, don't brown. Steam the sweet potato. You can also steam the fish. Process smooth in a food processor. This is another favorite of my daughter.

Vegetable-chick pea meal:
1 part sweet potato
1 part carrot
1 part chick peas (soaked and boiled, start with smaller amounts)

Steam veggies, blend with boiled chick peas. Add water if too thick. Again, one of my daughter's all-time faves.

Suitable finger foods:
- fruit chunks, vegetable chunks
- dehydrated coconut-oil coated banana chips
- sundried organic raisins or other sugar-free dried fruit
- organic boiled eggs

A basic foundation for a healthy meal:
80% parts vegetables (raw or steamed)
10% part quality grain (such as quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, boiled until done to avoid indigestion)
10% part protein (fish, organic chicken, chick peas, lentils etc)

Avoid all soy products. Start feeding legumes slowly to see if your child can digest them. Your baby needs protein, but quality is more important than quantity. Nuts should be avoided due to risk of mycotoxins (highly poisonous or deadly compounds from Fungi) until at least 1 year of age, which is why especially vegan families need to be especially careful about adequate protein intake.

More important than specific meals is the balance. Most of your child's diet should be fruit or vegetables, and a significant portion of the food either raw or just lightly steamed. Always organic, because even if you can't afford all organic yourself, your baby eats so little it doesn't cost much. It is still cheaper than feeding all regular can food. Check everything twice for food additives, avoid them all. I invite every mom and dad with healthy baby food recipes to share these in the comment box, I hope this will trigger discussion and that everyone learns something new!

The picture shows my daughter with her veggie-chick pea meal, after she had poured water into it and tried to eat it herself first with the spoon and then with her little hands. :)


Chaos said...

Great post! :) Microwaves really do suck, they're no good. I know one person who warms her childs foods almost everytime in microwave, and that can be seen in them...

Aletheia said...

Chaos, thanks for the comment :) I feel so sorry for that child. Is there no way to convince the parents to quit exposing their children to cancerous radiation? It is impossible to comprehend how any parent fully aware of how harmful "cooking" in the microwave is could still be using it for their kids meals. I wish that the Neuvola-system would start educating mothers and fathers so that everyone would know the risks.

Yaelian said...

A very good posting and your daughter is so cute in that picture!I wish I had had better knowledge when my son was a baby many years ago,but I had to put him into creche at 7 months( I lived here then, before returning to Finland) so most of his meals then he had there,which were soy/fish/veggie based,no meat. That you were accused in the Neuvola of starving your baby is horrible! I breastfed until I returned to work when my baby was 7 months, but I remember I was told to start to give him some solid food,like fruit or veggie puree, already at 3 months! How times have changed!

Aletheia said...

Thanks Yaelian for the encouraging and nice words. I wrote you a long reply, unfortunately it got lost in the IT-universe. I feel guilty about things I ate and did in the past before I knew what I know now. When I was pregnant, I ate as healthy as I knew how. But I still used the microwave at work to heat up my home-made lunches. Unfortunately the past cannot be changed, but we can better the future for both ourselves and our children. We have the priviledge and responsibility to teach our children what we have learned.

How the Neuvola system often blatently ignores national and global recommendations is incredible. Most of the mothers I have met listen to what Neuvola recommends as if it were the law: feeding their children Piltti and Muksu starting as early as 3-4 months. Breastfeeding is so discouraged, it is no wonder the news headlines write about how the average mother breastfeeds only for a month or two or not at all. Formula is generally accepted as an alternative choice for breastmilk, even though it should be the final resort. This is so frustrating.

Vale said...

Grandfather's told: Children without teeth have got to eat pulla soaked in coffee (in a busy dairy farm). My father has been grown by this way...

HW said...

Nice - I was planning to post about this topic today :) Thanks, thanks for a very good and informative post. As a breastfeeding advocate I especially like how you emphasize the importance of breastfeeding according to the WHO recommendations!

My post will be focusing mainly on baby-led weaning and other ways of starting solids. This was very informative regarding WHAT to feed on your baby and which foods have best nutritional value.

Aletheia said...

Vale, it is unfortunate how unaware most people were of nutrition in the past. Luckily the information is available to us now, and we can through spreading the message in time improve the health of all children and the entire population.

HW, I'm looking forward to your post as well. Since I only have one child, which I haven't weaned yet, I have no personal experience in baby-led weaning. I'm happy to hear that you are a fellow nursing advocate, it is so very imporant that every mother feels encouraged to nurse and knows exactly how good it is for both her and her baby.

I soon hope to post more about baby food, tackling mostly the challenges of a baby's vegan diet and the importance of vitamins B12 and D for normal growth and development.

HW said...

My post is there now. :) Efficient use of kids' daily nap time! :D

One comment regarding the breastfeeding recommendations mentioned in your post:

You mention that "WHO recommends breastfeeding be continued at least for the first year and after that for as long as it feels natural for both mother and child".

At least WHO recommends 2-years breastfeeding and Finland (STM) breastfeeding be continued at least for the first year. (As strange as it sounds, I have read that the reason behind this is that Finnish doctors thought it would be unrealistic to recommend 2-years breastfeeding here and it would make Finnish moms feel guilty).

From the WHO homepage:
"Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond."

Aletheia said...

Thank you very much HW for the correction. This is what I meant to say, but I phrased it wrong. It is corrected now.

I've also noticed to equalities:
Baby nap time = Mommy blog time
Mommy work time = Mommy blog time


anna said...

Hyviä linkkejä raskaudesta sekä raakaruoasta ja superfoodeista:

(odottavien ja imettävien äitien on syytä välttää MSM:n nauttimista)

Seuraavia superfoodeja/lisiä kannatta syödä raskaana:
- kookosta
- gojia
- grill oil
- D-vitamiini
- hampunsiemeniä
- spirulinaa
- Siitepöly
- maca
- marine phytoplankton

Raskaaksi pääsemiseen voi helpottaa:
maca ja royal jelly, Bee Pollen

Tätä varmaan söisin, jos olisin raskaana tai imettäisin:

Aletheia said...

Kiitos, Anna! Erityisesti uutena tietona tuli ettei raskaana/imettävänä saa syödä MSM:ää. En ole sitä kyllä syönyt, mutta nyt tiedän olla ostamatta.

Eevukukka said...

Thank you for a very inspiring post! I've been studying about the benefits of organic and raw food and the risks of e.g. microwaving and vaccines for about two months now and how do i wish that I knew what i know now already two years ago! I'm the single mother of a one year old boy and the sole resposibility over my kid sometimes feels such a burden. I have to decide everything alone and I've done so much wrong! But luckily I can do better from now on.

I stopped nursing when my child was 10 months because he was biting me so much. That started already at the age of four months when he got his first teeth but at ten months that was becoming quite unbearable. So I started to feed him Semper formula. I tried to continue pumping but i could only get like 20 ml a time... But i still feel so guilty! Even thoug Neuvola encouraged me to wean already at 6 months... I wish they would have given me some tips on how to continue without getting too hurt. ;)

Now I've changed the Sempernformula into Holle powder. Any opinions/info about that? Would the goat one be better then? I'll definitely try the sesame seeds and chia asap! Lucuma and berry powders are already in his menu!

And what about the canned organic Hipp baby food? Is that any good? I sometime feed them if I'm really busy or tired. They all contain rice, pasta or potatoe, though... Luckily my son is already 1 year and I can let him try a bigger variety of vegetables.

Another thing that has really been burdening me are vaccines. Luckily I got the real information before the svine flu vaccines, but during spring I let my son join the vaccine research for pneumokokki by the university of tampere. the children get either the pneumokokki vaccine or b hepatitis. Now i've read about the risks of e.g. MS disease linked with b hepatitis vaccines and i'm horrified! I cannot believe what i've done! the research was recommended to me by Neuvola, but i made the decision. The guilt...

But I shall look towards the future, better late than never, huh? But I'm so gratefull for all these blogs where I can learn how to feed my child and myself better. Nice to get help and advise from somewhere as the neuvola's recommendations are a bit quationable... Thank you!


Aletheia said...

Eevukukka, from one mother to another: I'm not a single mother and I can't imagine having all this responsibility and work by myself. I've even struggled alone when my husband's at work. Like now, my daughter has a bad ear infection and has barely slept for the entire week and every second is screaming, with nothing I can do to help. What is getting me through this day is knowing that I'll get help in 4 more hours (and that she is now finally napping, albeit for only a short time). So I raise my hat to you. Don't feel guilty for your decisions, because you have always had your sons best interest at heart. The fact that now that you know these things and are taking action immediately accounts for so much.
Breastfeeding and guilt seem to go hand in hand, unfortunately. I completely know what you mean when you say that your son bit too much. My daughter is the same. Neither one of us is talking about little nibbling, or just a few bites. My daughter started this about the same time as your son, but it got so much worse after 9 months. She has 6 teeth, and those sharp little daggers nearly have bitten my nipples off. I fought to continue nursing, even though the pain was excruciating. I bled and had 0.5cm thick bite trails all around my nipple. My husband was horrified and thought I might need stitches! Only this week I started pumping, she gets around 1dl milk morning and evening, plus Holle-porridge made with milk. I thought now that she is sick and crying, I could ease her pain by breastfeeding. Unfortunately she won't nurse anymore and seems completely uninterested. My point is, I've been beating myself up about it for the whole week. Now I'm finally coming to terms with it, I understand I did not quit because of the pain but I quit because I had to. She could've really caused permanent damage. I also think this severe biting might be natural sign to stop nursing, because the baby is not even really getting much if any milk if he or she just bites. No one who has not gone through this horrendous pain and the hormone-intensified sensations of guilt can really understand what it is like. I believe you did the right thing when you stopped nursing.
As far as formula goes, if your son is a year old, I myself do not think it is necessary anymore. I believe some highly energizing and nutritional Chia smoothies could even provide more nutrients than baby formula. Just be careful about calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B-12. It is more important to provide your toddler with all the building blocks, rather than a "milk-like" drink. Of course organic formula is better than non-organic, but I myself worry about cow's milk altogether. Most important is that your son is getting everything he needs from his diet and absorbing it too. Neuvola told me to start giving only buttermilk and then regular milk after 10 months, so I'm sure organic formula or Chia shakes, anything must be better than that. Remember still, I am not a doctor nor a health care professional, this is just my opinion as a mother and as someone who has studied physiology. My knowledge of nutrition however comes mostly from reading on my own.
Organic baby food cans are superior to many home-made non-organic meals. Especially when they have no additives or preservatives, no added sugar or salt and only organic ingredients. When you buy it, I'd leave out all pasta, potato and corn dishes. I'm not entirely sure, but I remember seeing Hipp organic yogurt meals, with decent ingredients. They may be a good alternative for formula, combined with baby smoothies if you wish to keep some form of dairy product in his diet. Milk fermentation improves digestibility as it contains beneficial bacteria and is therefore a better alternative to regular milk.

Aletheia said...

There is also no good reason to guilt yourself about the vaccine. One shot will not make your child suffer MS, especially since a healthy diet works wonders in preventing it. Instead of hating yourself for that one decision in the past, you can make a promise to your son now to every day make decisions that improve his health. Get him involved in exercise, avoid additives and through a wholesome lifestyle help lower his risk for future diseases. You still have years and years to have a lasting impact on his life.
It truly made my day to hear that this post has helped you and your son. This feedback really made writing that long post so much more than just worth-while. My best wishes to you guys! I hope this reply answered your questions... my daughter did wake up, and I had to feed and change her poopy diaper in between so excuse me if there are some non-sequitors or typos.

Sorry about the unfortunate formatting, too long for blogger so I had to delete spacings and write in two parts!

Eevukukka said...

Thank you so much for your rapid answer and kind words! Yep, guilt and motherhood go hand in hand and it starts already during the first months of pregnancy. And the guilt trip never ends either so best not to go too deep in it...

But future looks a lot brighter nowadays, thanks to all those lovely bloggers I've found. You do make a difference!

All the best for you and your family. Sorry to hear your daughter is ill. Hopefully she'll get well soon.

Anonymous said...

I have always liked baby food,. I know I should be ashamed taking my age into consideration, but I like it because it is very nutricious and I can combine it with viagra online

A very happy woman said...

I loved your article. I was researching chia seeds and baby food and yours is very informative. I have a question though: Did you come up with this recipes by yourself? or Did you find them in a book? I'm interested in knowing where you got your info because I'd like to get it too ;) I seriously couldn't find anywhere anything about chia seeds and your article really talks the way I think about my baby's food. I already feed him some vegetables and fruit but I don't know where to go from here. Thanks for sharing this info and recipes. I will definitely use them.

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Sarah said...

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