I’m about to bust a myth about first foods for baby that tends to hit a nerve with both new and seasoned mothers – after 6 months, breast milk is not enough.
Yes, breast milk is critical for good digestion. It does things like support brain development and protect against respiratory infection. Breast milk is undeniably important. But after 6 months, your baby needs more. And this is where first foods come in.
According to the World Health Organization,
the target age for complementary feeding is generally taken to be 6 – 24 months of age, even though breastfeeding may continue beyond 2 years.” It turns out that at around 6 months, a healthy breastfed baby’s iron levels drop so low that outside sources of iron are necessary. And levels of zinc in breast milk also fall at around this time.
Let’s be clear – no matter how many supplements you take, your breast milk will not meet your baby’s requirement for iron or zinc.
But your baby’s first foods will.
Specific foods like chicken meat, liver pate, and wild-caught salmon are soft enough for a 6 month-old baby to squish between the roof of his mouth and his tongue. And they’re high enough in both iron and zinc.
I call iron and zinc “meaty minerals” because the most absorbable form of iron and the best source of zinc come from meat. A 6 – 8 month old breastfed baby needs 4 times as much zinc and 9 times as much iron as an adult male.
As your baby grows, the need for minerals and protein gradually declines. But at 6 months, your baby should be receiving the most nutrient-dense foods in the home. Instead, first foods for baby are often given the least nutrient-dense: pureed root vegetables and fruit, mixed with water or breast milk.
First Foods For Baby: Nutrients To Watch Out For
The most common nutrient deficiencies you will see in breastfed babies are iron and zinc.
There’s also the danger of vitamin D deficiency if mama doesn’t get enough vitamin D though foods or a supplement. Tho, if you supplement with roughly 6000 IU a day, your baby will get all the vitamin D he needs.
And because your baby has a rapidly developing brain, it’s critical to offer first foods that are high in long-chain omega-3s, usually in the form of fatty fish. Why fatty fish? The human body does a poor job of converting short-chain omega-3s (found in plants, nuts, and seeds) into its long-chain cousins – most notably DHA.
If you’re wondering where to find all these wonderful nutrients, here are some more ideas to get you started.
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Offer liver, beef, sardines, oysters, spinach, or high-quality spirulina. Likewise, foods high in vitamin C will boost iron absorption. This includes sauerkraut, papaya, and kiwi fruit.
Offer oysters, crab, beef, chicken, or yogurt.
Offer wild-caught salmon, fish roe, or egg yolk. The probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri (the same one that addresses colic) has been found to increase levels of vitamin D.
Offer wild-caught salmon and later, sardines. You can find smaller amounts of long-chain omega-3s in red meat and egg yolk.