Meet my friend Lisa. We connected over Instagram, and what started as a cute little collab turned into a full-fledged friendship. She’s so kind, generous and funny as hell. She’s also been a fantastic resource for me with anything to do with food, baby, nutrition, you name it. And when I find someone (or something) that’s super valuable, I have the need to tell everyone!
I am SO thankful she agreed to do this interview with me. Because honestly, this is HUNDREDS of dollars in information that you would be paying a naturopath/nutritionist at a clinic. She lays it all out right here. I sent her a handful of questions that I had along with some common ones from first-time Moms with regards to Baby’s nutrition. What I love most about Lisa is that her approach is realistic and nonjudgmental. She’s not going to tell you that what you’re doing is all wrong because a mother’s instinct is always best. Instead, she’s here to provide you with a framework and really simple steps that you can take right away. I know you’ll learn a ton and love her as much as I do.
Before we jump in, I just want to brag about Lisa for a sec. She has received certification and formal training from the top two leading schools for Holistic Nutrition in North America plus four years of intensive mentorship with some of our top Naturopathic Doctors. So, without further ado, here she is!
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BABY’S FIRST FOOD?
You’re going to make me choose three?! This is a tough one because truthfully baby doesn’t eat much initially, so from a nutritional perspective, we have some wiggle room. The intention, however, should be to choose foods that are both nutritionally-rich while also being gentle on a brand-new digestive system.
With this in mind, my almost unanimous choice is traditionally made bone broth. This is an ancestral food for babies but it carries incredible wisdom! Bone Broth is not only a mineral powerhouse which is intrinsic to the rapid development of baby’s skeletal system, but it also encourages the ‘sealing’ of the digestive tract which is otherwise permeable at birth. We now know that the integrity of the gut lining is paramount to efficient digestion and also for mitigating potential allergies, food sensitivities, or even skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
Beyond broth, I love root vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots, or anything from the squash family. These foods are rich in many of baby’s necessary nutrients containing almost the entire spectrum of easy-to-absorb vitamins including beta-carotene and Vitamin C, as well as important minerals like zinc, trace minerals, antioxidants, and even gentle fiber.
Lastly, I would choose anything under the umbrella of ‘healthy fats’ for a baby starting solids. With good reason, the importance of iron is showcased among most health-care providers, but healthy fats are lesser known and I hope to change that.
A baby’s brain grows to 65% of its adult size by 12-months of age (which is staggering), and 75% of the nervous system is comprised of fatty tissues! It is vital to provide appropriate nourishment by offering the essential nutrients for the brain. My favourite fats for babies are coconut oil, EVOO, grass-fed butter, cod liver oil, avocado, and ghee. I recommend avoiding industrialized oils such as canola, soy, corn, or safflower.
For iron-rich nutrition, we absorb and assimilate wholefood sources the best! Some framework to consider:
[wp-svg-icons icon=”heart-2″ wrap=”i”] Synthetic sources (as found in grain cereals) is absorbed at 3 – 11%.
[wp-svg-icons icon=”heart-2″ wrap=”i”] Vegetarian sources (lentils, steamed leafy greens, quinoa, molasses) is absorbed at 30%.
[wp-svg-icons icon=”heart-2″ wrap=”i”] Non-vegetarian known as heme-iron (organic liver, pastured egg yolk, beef, lamb, wild salmon) is absorbed at 50%.
[wp-svg-icons icon=”heart-2″ wrap=”i”] Mother’s milk, though low in iron by design is absorbed at 70%!
BESIDES HONEY, ARE THERE ANY FOODS YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY AVOID IN BABY’S FIRST YEAR?
I typically recommend avoiding both grains and cow’s milk for the first year of life. Though fortified grain cereals are often suggested as a first food, they are nutritionally empty and also quite difficult for an infant to properly digest. The enzymes responsible for splitting these starches come into full force after 12-months of age and though root vegetables, for example, are also starchy by nature, they don’t warrant the same digestive strain as refined grains do.
If grains are desired, it’s ideal to choose a whole grain source such as rolled oats, quinoa, organic rice, or barley and to give them a good soaking for 12 – 24 hours prior to cooking, just the way our ancestors prepared grains. Click here to read more about babies and grains.
Cow’s milk, especially when pasteurized, is a highly allergenic food for many of us including babies and toddlers. During the pasteurization process (high heat) we destroy valuable enzymes and nutrients that are necessary for the proper digestion of milk sugar and proteins (lactose, casein & whey). To offer some perspective, the lactose molecule from a cow is 4x larger than that of breastmilk which can pose some unsuspecting challenges!
After 12-months of age, if a family chooses to include cow’s milk for their baby, a wonderful choice would be traditionally made yogurt, kefir, or raw milk if it’s available in your area.
IF WE WERE TO BUY ANY PROCESSED OR PRE-PACKAGED FOODS FOR BABY, ARE THERE ANY BRANDS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?
There are some lovely products out there for when we need snacks or meals in a pinch, and let’s face it, it’s a modern world! Aim to seek out certified organic ingredients with as few preservatives as possible. My personal favourite for on-the-go is Love Child Organics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON PUREES VS BABY-LED WEANING?
Great question! I love a baby-led table no matter if a family chooses purees or finger foods. In recent years some have said that baby-led-weaning cultivates healthier habits since the cornerstone principle is to self-feed. But the truth is we can achieve these qualities in our children with any style of first foods.
The most important thing is to respect baby’s cues and to let them lead during mealtime. I use the expression “baby is boss of their tummy” since this will encourage long-term healthy habits more than any suggested approach.
Personally, I love to begin with purees since we can create recipes that are so nutritionally dense! And babies are great at communicating while being spoon-fed, just like they are with breast, bottle, and finger foods alike.
When they want more they’ll lean in or grab for the spoon. On the contrary, when they’re uninterested or full, they’ll simply turn away. It’s important to trust our babies while they’re coming to understand their own nourishment.
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS DOES BABY NEED TO TAKE IN THEIR FIRST YEAR?
I am a huge advocate for Cod Liver Oil, a quality probiotic, and Vitamin D for babies.
Cod Liver Oil offers the highest concentration of DHA / EPA, as well as Vitamins A + D which simplistically speaking, is pure brain food! It also increases our capacity to absorb nutrients, support the immune system, and lubricate food moving through our intestines which can quickly remedy constipation.
For probiotics, it has been suggested that 80% of the immune system is located within the gut and that the role of beneficial vs harmful bacteria is becoming one of the most researched fields in medicine. A quality probiotic will help establish healthy bacteria in the GI tract which is not only imperative to the ‘manufacturing’ of nutrients (may ease colic, gas, and constipation), but also becomes an important line of defense for unwanted viral activity.
Vitamin D is literally responsible for hundreds of functions in the body and directly targets our immune system and mood. It is also imperative to the healthy development of bones and teeth for babies and children.
IDEALLY, WHAT PERCENTAGE OF BABY’S NUTRITION SHOULD BE COMING FROM BREASTMILK VS. FOOD? WHAT ABOUT FORMULA VS FOOD?
In the first year of life breastmilk or formula are baby’s primary source of nutrition. It’s so important that mothers keep this in mind since many babies don’t take to solids until later in the first year. The adjustment from breast/bottle onto solids is gradual and also very intuitive, and breastmilk will adapt naturally along the way.
There’s a considerable adjustment for the digestive system once solid foods have been introduced and I observe the best success when babies are allowed to evolve at their own pace. They are incredibly intuitive and their bodies are wise, so it’s best for baby to lead at mealtime.
We operate in a culture that likes to measure food and its nutrients, because scientifically we can, however, I love looking back through history and at cultural reverence for richer inspiration. My best advice for parents is to use professional advice as a wonderful and important framework, but then to tap into their inner primate. We know our babies better than anyone, and adopting a one-size-fits-all approach can not only feel defeating but counterintuitive to the unique needs of each child.
EACH BABY & MOM DUO IS DIFFERENT, SO I’M SURE ANSWERS WILL VARY, BUT HOW CAN WE RECEIVE AN INDIVIDUALLY TAILORED VITALITY PLAN FOR OUR OWN BABY?
Thank you for this question – you are so right! Each of us has unique lineage, physiology, and certainly individual priorities! When I work 1:1 with families my intention is to best understand their preferences for nutrition, as well as any unique health requirements for baby. I provide a fairly distinct framework, to begin with, but each consultation is customized along the way. My job is to bridge the gap between all philosophies, then to bring out the very best health, for every baby.
LASTLY, HOW CAN WE GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU?
The best place to start is on my website! I offer private consultations, group sessions, and also a full eBook series for babies starting solids. Also please join me on Instagram! We have a lot of fun there too.
Thank you so much for having me, Jasmin!