At no other time in his life will your baby be growing as fast or making as many brain cells as during the first year of life—and this growth and development cries out for abundant nourishment.
During the first year of life, your baby is programed to make 700 new neural connections every second, and the cerebellum triples in size, corresponding to the rapid development of motor skills that occurs during this period. Full vision comes online in the first year and language circuits in the frontal and temporal lobes become consolidated.
During the toddler years, the number of nerve connections in the brain increases to 1,000 trillion, twice the number at birth. Myelin, an insulating material around these nerves, is diminished in malnourished toddlers because fewer cells that make myelin are produced. This can result in smaller brains. What does baby need to produce myelin? First and foremost, cholesterol! There’s no cholesterol in rice cereal or vegetables—and baby cannot make his own cholesterol at this young age, he must get it from the diet.
Your baby also needs abundant choline—another nutrient absent in typical baby foods. Baby goes through windows of opportunity when brain connections can be made—and without choline, these connections won’t occur. Consuming choline later will not help—it needs to be there and available for making the connections during the specific windows of opportunity.
Iron deficiency in 1- to 2-year-olds has been linked to learning and behavior problems, including irreversible cognitive problems. Fat is also crucial for 1- to 2-year-olds because it’s needed for the accelerated pace of myelin formation during this period. Fats carry the fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2, which are critical for neurological development. Your baby cannot absorb iron without vitamin A. For optimum brain development, at least 50 percent of a child’s total calories should come from fat, mostly animal fat.
Baby’s bones are also forming and growing—he or she needs easily absorbed calcium and phosphorus, plus vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin K2 for this process—along with numerous co-factors. Bone density is established during this first year of life.
B12 is critical to all these processes—there’s no vitamin B12 in plant foods. And abundant B6 is also important, largely supplied best by animal foods.
Given these nutritional requirements, which foods from this chart would you choose for your baby’s first foods?
|Per 100 g||APPLE||CARROTS||RED MEAT||GIZZARD||EGG YOLK||CHICKEN LIVER|
|PHOSPHORUS||6 mg||31 mg||140 mg||148 mg||390 mg||299 mg|
|IRON||.1 mg||.6 mg||3.3 mg||2.5 mg||2.7 mg||9.0 mg|
|ZINC||.05 mg||.3 mg||4.4 mg||2.7 mg||2.3 mg||2.5 mg|
|COPPER||.04 mg||.08 mg||0.2 mg||.04 mg||.08 mg||0.4 mg|
|VITAMIN B2||.02 mg||.05 mg||0.2 mg||0.2 mg||0.5 mg||1.8 mg|
|VITAMIN B6||.03 mg||.1 mg||.07 mg||0.1 mg||0.4mg||.72 mg|
|VITAMIN B12||0||0||1.84 mcg||1.2 mcg||1.9 mcg||16.6 mcg|
|VITAMIN C||7 mg||6 mg||0||3.7 mg||0||18 mg|
|VITAMIN A||0||0||40 IU||64 IU||2300 IU||34,000 IU|
|VITAMIN D||0||0||8 IU||?||1400 IU||370 IU|
|VITAMIN K||0||0||2.5 mcg||?||35 mcg||9.5 mcg|
|CHOLINE||3 mg||7 mg||38 mg||104 mg||820 mg||290 mg|
|CHOLESTEROL||0||0||78 mg||537 mg||1085 mg||631 mg|
It’s obvious that baby’s first foods should be liver and egg yolk—not only for the abundant cholesterol and choline they provide, but also for minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. For variety, red meat and gizzard are also good, but nothing can match egg yolk and chicken liver for nutrient density. Start this feeding at 4-6 months, depending on the maturity of the baby.
Natural cod liver oil, for vitamins A and D, can be given even earlier, starting at three months. It’s easy to give cod liver oil using a syringe or eye dropper.
None of the foods listed above is a significant source of calcium, but remember that baby is still breastfeeding or getting a raw milk formula. Raw milk (human or otherwise) provides calcium, phosphorus and many minerals in abundance (the exception being iron) plus a myriad of compounds that build the immune system, strengthen the gut wall and protect against pathogens. And raw milk is an important source of vitamin C for your child.
For the egg yolk, boil a whole egg for 3 ½ minutes, then peel and discard the white. Add a pinch of salt to the yolk (which will still be soft). Start by feeding just ½ teaspoon on a spoon (or have baby lick the egg yolk off your finger) and gradually build from there. An even easier way is to dip your finger in the runny egg yolk of your own fried egg and let baby lick it off; then graduate to giving it to him with a spoon. If baby does not adjust to the egg yolk or has an allergic reaction, hold off for a week or two and then try again. Some moms have found that babies don’t tolerate egg yolk on its own, but do fine with egg yolk mixed with liver puree.
Baby’s first pureed liver should be very runny—and have salt added. You can also stir in a little butter or cream.
Once baby has adjusted to his egg yolk and liver, you can add other foods, such as pureed vegetables with butter or cream, pureed fish, pureed dark chicken meat, and pureed fruit and vegetables with cream or butter. Puree meats with water, bone broth, raw milk or cream, and always with added fat, especially butter. Introduce new foods one at a time and observe any possible allergic reactions. For recipes and details, consult my book The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care.
As he matures, baby can also be given finger foods cut into small pieces, such as banana and cheese. Salmon eggs make a great finger food as do dried anchovies. For a real treat, give baby bits of natural bacon!
Another critical food for baby is salt. Salt provides chlorine for hydrochloric acid production—without salt it will be difficult for your baby to digest the meats you are giving him. And the sodium in salt is essential for brain development. Formula makers learned this lesson the hard way when they produced a low-chloride, low-sodium baby formula called neo-mul-soy. The babies on this formula had very retarded intellectual development (compared to babies on regular soy formula) and, after several lawsuits, the formula was removed from the market. Yet, very little baby food contains salt and almost all books on feeding babies claim that babies should not consume salt. For shame! Be sure to put salt in all your baby’s purees and egg yolk, and also consume plenty of salt while you are breastfeeding.
As for fruits and vegetables, in the early days, these should be well cooked, then pureed or mashed, and mixed with butter and cream. Raw fruit contains pectin, which is very hard on the immature digestive tract. The exception is ripe bananas, which are a fine early baby food and a good source of vitamin B6. Mash a few banana slices with a little cream and a pinch of salt–your baby will love this!
As for hard-to-digest foods like grains, egg whites and raw fruit and vegetables, it’s best to wait until baby is at least one year old for these. Again, introduce slowly and watch for any allergic reactions. Introduce whole egg as scrambled egg made with extra yolks and cream. Grains should be soaked overnight in an acidic medium and then well cooked. A toddler can eat bread if it is genuine sourdough bread–spread thickly butter of course.
Remember that above all, babies need animal fats. They are critical for growth, hormone production and indeed practically all functions in the body, right down to the mitochondria. Animal fats provide cholesterol for neurological development; arachidonic acid for healthy skin, brains and digestion; and fat-soluble vitamins needed for just about everything, including iron assimilation and hormone production.
Intimidated by the thought of making purees? It’s not hard, and there are plenty of gadgets available for this task. Just cook baby’s food gently in water or stock, drain off liquid and puree, adding the cooking liquid as needed. (I would avoid the gadgets that steam baby’s food, as you don’t want to be steaming baby’s food in plastic.) Then stir in butter or cream and salt. Leftover puree can be frozen in ice cube trays, which make individual servings that can be removed and steamed to thaw.
Believe me, it is not hard to make baby food purees, and doing so will get you into the habit of preparing all your family’s food as baby grows.
Above all, remember that you are in control, especially during that critical first year. In fact, this is the only time in baby’s life that you will have complete control over what baby eats. It’s the time when habits and tastes are created, and the path for optimal growth and development is set. As baby grows into a child and then an adult, you will not have that control, but the good start you give your baby in those early years, especially during the first year, will protect him against the inevitable indulging in processed food that will occur as he makes his way in the wider world.
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