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Pssssst! What is the greatest secret in parenting?
This: We’re all winging it.
We are tossing out ideas and hoping they stick. It’s a undercover game of trial and error.
If I give her this toy, will she stop crying?
Does he need a diaper change? or a bottle?
Or, how about this one:
If I “accidentally” bump my husband in the leg at 2am,
will he do the feeding?
That’s okay most of the time, but when you’re dealing with your baby’s food, trial and error is more like “cross your fingers and hope” that your baby is getting the nutrients he needs.
But really, when it comes to your baby’s healthy growth, do you really want to guess?
No. It’s MUCH better to know.
Breastmilk and formula will supply the majority of your baby’s nutrition in the first year, that’s true, but you shouldn’t just hang your hat on that and call it a day.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night and realizing that all I’d fed my baby for the past two days was carrots and breastmilk. (It’s a miracle she didn’t look like an Oompa Loompa.)
Good healthy eating habits start early. This means you should try to introduce some of the following recommended flavors and nutrients into your baby’s diet starting at 6 months.
Why 6 months? Because that’s when the American Association of Pediatricians recommends starting your baby on solid foods.
You shouldn’t have to guess your children are getting the good nutrition they need.
So let’s tackle how you can move closer to the “I know my child is getting the right nutrients.”
Drinking From a Fire Hose
There’s a lot to learn as you embark on every mother’s quest to cram healthy foods into little mouths.
It can feel like you’re trying to drink from a fire hose. If you’re wanting to become the Health Master for your children, you need more than a blog post.
What you need is a guidebook. You need Dr. Tanya Altmann’s book, What to Feed Your Baby. It shrinks that fire hose down to a trickle you can stick a slice of lemon in and sip at your leisure.
The four nutrients in this blog post were extracted from what Dr. Altman calls “The 11 Essential Foods to Guarantee Veggie-Loving, No-Fuss, Healthy-Eating Kids.” (Which she then shows how to implement for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.)
This article you are reading now is just a tasty appetizer. If you want to encourage long term healthy family habits, though, you’ll want to make sure you feast on the main dish.
The Fantastic Four Nutrients
Nutrient #1: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is considered an essential fatty acid because it’s essential in helping cells grow and develop in healthy ways.
Here’s the catch though: they aren’t something your body makes. You can only get them through the foods you eat.
The best source of omega-3 is low-mercury fish, which your baby can have (pureed) as early as 6 months. If your family tends to shy away from the “fishy” smell of fish, Dr. Tanya has a great tip to de-fishify the smell and taste of fish on page 18.
Nutrient #2: Probiotics
We’ve hyped the wonder-value of probiotics before, so it was confirming to see Dr. Tanya also on the Happy Gut Bandwagon.
Probiotics have been shown to help everything from constipation to acid-reflux. They are found naturally in breastmilk, but Dr. Tanya recommends adding yogurt or kefir to your baby’s diet as an extra booster. Just make sure the label says “contains live and active cultures”.
The “Grocery Guide” section on page 21 walks you through how to evaluate the sugar content in popular yogurts. Very helpful!
Nutrient #3: Fiber
Fiber is the roughage that helps your baby keep things a movin’ down the intestinal tract. As a parent, fiber is your best friend, because there are few things worse as a parent as watching your little one struggling to poop. Awful.
Dr. Tanya recommends making sure whole grains are a regular part of your baby’s diet. If you see the first ingredient on that loaf of bread is “enriched flour,” put it back on the shelf. It’s not whole-grain and it won’t be useful in creating long-term healthy eating habits!
She also recommends skipping the rice cereal that our mothers gave us as infants and replacing it with other whole grain baby cereals like oatmeal or quinoa.
Did you know rice soaks up arsenic from the soil and water? Dr. Tanya has some great insight on that subject in Chapter 4 that were very enlightening to me. #themoreyouknow
Nutrient #4: Iron
Starting at around 6 months, your baby will need a little extra iron in their bodies. The iron is necessary to make more red blood cells, so those cells can deliver oxygen to all the areas in your baby’s body that are growing so fast!
Where is your baby going to get the extra iron he needs? Through properly prepared poultry, fish, iron-fortified cereals, spinach, and beans.
That said, if your baby is prone to constipation, iron can be a binder. Don’t skip it though! Simply add mix some of the probiotic kefir into his morning oatmeal to keep that healthy gut party going.
Good Eating Habits Aren’t Magic
No one accidentally drifts into healthy eating habits. (At least no one I know…)
We “drift” into the McDonald’s drive-in. Our kids “drift” towards the candy aisle.
If you’re wanting to do something different with your kids, if you’d like them to enjoy the occasional unprovoked carrot snack or apple bite, you’ll have to be deliberate about getting those foods in front of them.
That means knowing which foods to keep stocked in the kitchen and how to prepare them in yummy ways. What To Feed Your Baby covers those topics in easy-to-implement ways.
It also shares some excellent Sample Feeding Schedules, which are always helpful when trying to balance solid foods with breastfeeding or formula feeding.
My favorite parts of the book, though, were the “Dr. Tanya’s Tips” sections, where she tackles the questions I’ve always wanted to ask. Things like…
- Regular or Organic Milk? (page 204)
- Reduced-Sugar or No-Sugar Added? (page 181)
- Terrible Toddler Foods (page 116)
- The Scoop on Food Dyes (page 208)
- Top 10 Ways to Help Your Child Achieve a Healthy Weight (page 221)
- Treating Underweight or Inadequate Weight Gain (page 231)
It’s amazing how just a few small adjustments have helped me be more aware of the nutrition my kids are getting and feel better about my Mom Job Status. (Polls say I may even be re-elected this year! #Mom2016)
What to Feed Your Baby isn’t a Stop your Life Train to Follow kind of book.
It’s written in more of a Small Steps Take Long Journeys kind of way. Easily absorbed, easily implemented.
If you are concerned about your family’s healthy eating habits, or just want to reinforce that you’re on the right path, pick up a copy and read it over the weekend.
Then let the things you’ve learned start trickling through to the decisions and choices you make next week.
I’m being more deliberate these days about my family’s nutrition. It’s time for me to stop guessing, and know that my girls are getting the omega-3’s, fiber, iron, and probiotic goodness their bodies need.
Anyone else feeling some sweet conviction to become more aware of what’s in the fridge? Care to join me?
This post was sponsored by the book What To Feed Your Baby by Tanya Altmann. Yes, I was given a preview copy so I can read through it and decide whether or not it would be helpful to our readers. (Spoiler: It is.) Pick up this book. It’s a great resource for the health-conscious mama!