Baby’s First Foods – When and What?!

What has proven to be one of the most controversial issues within our Nourishing Our Children community is the recommendation that children be introduced to solids by 6 months, and for some mature babies as early as 4 months.  Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions, talks about the fact that traditional societies all started to introduce solids by 6 months, and she stresses the importance of it.

Once again, no primitive culture does exclusive breastfeeding past six months. … The problem with delaying solids is lack of iron, and probably choline, both needed for baby’s developing brain.  A lot depends on the maturity of the baby, of course, but if baby gets good quality breastmilk or the homemade formula, he or she will be ready by six months, sometimes sooner.  Of course you need to introduce food carefully … and no grains until at least one year, and even better two years.

Of course, if mother is herself well nourished, she is certainly encouraged to continue to breastfeed. Here is the recommended diet for pregnant and nursing mothers.

What is recommended as baby’s first foods?

Egg Yolks

Egg Yolk – 4 months +

Boil an egg for three to four minutes (longer at higher altitudes), peel away the shell, discard the white and mash up yolk with a little unrefined sea salt. (The yolk should be soft and warm, not runny.) Small amounts of grated, raw organic liver (which has been frozen 14 days) may be added to the egg yolk after 6 months. Some mothers report their babies actually prefer the yolk with the liver, as stated in the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell.   Jen Allbritton, a Certified Nutritionist and the author of the article on Nourishing a Growing Baby  writes:

Egg yolks, rich in choline, cholesterol and other brain-nourishing substances, can be added to your baby’s diet as early as four months, (1) as long as baby takes it easily. (If baby reacts poorly to egg yolk at that age, discontinue and try again one month later.) Cholesterol is vital for the insulation of the nerves in the brain and the entire central nervous system. It helps with fat digestion by increasing the formation of bile acids and is necessary for the production of many hormones. Since the brain is so dependent on cholesterol, it is especially vital during this time when brain growth is in hyper-speed. (25)  Choline is another critical nutrient for brain development. The traditional practice of feeding egg yolks early is confirmed by current research. A study published in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the nutritional effects of feeding weaning infants 6-12 months of age regular egg yolks, enriched egg yolks, and an otherwise normal diet. The researchers found that both breastfed and formula-fed infants who consumed the egg yolks had improved iron levels when compared with the infants who did not. In addition, those infants who got the egg yolks enriched with extra fatty acids had 30 percent to 40 percent greater DHA levels than those fed regular egg yolks. No significant effect on blood cholesterol levels was seen. (26)

Thus, the best choice for baby is yolks from pasture-fed hens raised on flax meal, fish meal, or insects since they will contain higher levels of DHA. Why just the yolk? The white is the portion that most often causes allergic reactions, so wait to give egg whites until after your child turns one. (1,11)

Don’t neglect to put a pinch of salt on the egg yolk. While many books warn against giving salt to babies, salt is actually critical for digestion as well as for brain development. Use unrefined salt to supply a variety of trace minerals.

Around four months is a good time to start offering cod liver oil, which is an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (also important for brain develoment) as well as vitamins A and D. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil or 1/2 teaspoon regular dose cod liver oil, doubling the amount at 8 months. (12)  Use an eye dropper at first; later baby can take cod liver oil mixed with a little water or [a little] fresh orange juice.

If baby is very mature and seems hungry, he may be given mashed banana during this period. Ripe banana is a great food for babies because it contains amylase enzymes to digest carbohydrates. (1)

Please see the article Nourishing a Growing Baby for references.

Monica Corrado of Simply Being Well who recently created a real-foods chart on introducing solids to babies  wrote the following on Facebook last week:

I guess I took for granted (don’t ever do that, I know) that people would know that nursing a child is the best nutrition for that child, as long as the mother is well nourished. However, from personal experience, as both a mom who breastfed her 10.25 pound son from birth to almost age 3, and a holistic nutrition counselor, that some children are just plain hungry earlier than others. And breast milk doesn’t do it. For those children, I included the 4-6 month column.

Update December 16, 2011: There are two new related posts I recommend you read that may be of interest to you:  What I Learned From Mothers About Baby’s First Foods that I wrote and  When Should Baby Start With Solids by Heather Dessinger of Mommypotamus.

I also highly recommend the book Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care by Sally Fallon. You can buy this via our Amazon affiliation.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  What were your baby’s first foods and when did you introduce them? 

Please note that we serve as an affiliate for Amazon, in addition to allied organizations and individuals whose products and/or serves we recommend. In some cases, we receive referral bonuses or commissions for our promotional efforts. This enables us to sustain our educational efforts.


Filed under Babies, First Steps

34 responses to “Baby’s First Foods – When and What?!

  1. Makes sense. I’m trying to reconcile the information of Nourishing Traditions with the information of the book, Baby Led Weaning. While I don’t agree with all of the nutritional recommendations BLW has to offer, I am interested in what the author has to say about babies feeding themselves vs. spoon feeding, and how spoon feeding impacts the baby’s ability to safely develop self feeding skills. I’m also torn on the notion of letting baby lead the way in terms of how much food she actually eats in those first months of starting solids, BLW style. I do tend to believe that breastmilk, when the mother’s diet is adequate combined with watching your own baby for solids readiness, can be a good source of nutrition for a baby, without having to necessarily speed the process of solids transition to reap the benefits of solids a couple months early. But I can’t get info like this article out of my head, because, well, it makes sense. At the same time I can’t quite wrap my mind around how my 5 1/2 month old would be able to feed themselves egg yolk and cod liver oil just yet. (for what it’s worth, I’d be open to starting her solids now, but my gut is telling me she’s not ready yet) I suppose a little finger/spoon feeding of some cod liver oil and egg yolks aren’t going to ‘derail’ baby led weaning…

    • Krista, I think you raise an excellent point that I’ve considered myself re: reconciling baby lead weaning and the recommendations made by Jill in the article published on the Weston A. Price Foundation site. I concur with your supposition … I think that a little finger/spoon feeding of some cod liver oil and egg yolks will not derail baby lead weaning! I will forward your remarks to Jill!

      • Trust your gut! Trust your gut! Trust your gut!

        I think it’s important to hold in the front of our minds that all of the things we read about feeding our babies are “recommendations”, not mandates. First and foremost, we observe our own babies and trust our own intuition and then apply the knowledge we have about whole foods nutrition. Each baby is ready to eat at different times. There are different developmental signs that we can look for to see if our baby is ready to eat: sitting up, teeth appearing, grasping for food or utensils, interest in food, and the disappearance of the tongue thrust reflex (when you put food in your baby’s mouth, she doesn’t push it out with her tongue). Also, if you give a child food and it just sits on her tongue and she has a confounded look on her face, not ready. (That was my favorite mistake! My kid did that for months as I thought she “should” be eating! She didn’t start eating on a regular basis until she was one. Very challenging for me!) These are also just recommendations. Rather than looking at a timeline, I suggest looking at developmental readiness.

        In terms of self feeding or spoon feeding, I also think we can watch our baby. My daughter never wanted to be fed and as soon as she could grasp and bring her spoon or hand ot her face, she has been feeding herself. My friend has a baby boy with a voracious appetite and he gets frustrated because he isn’t coordinated enough to get the food into his mouth with the speed he desires, so she spoon feeds him until he is ready to stop eating. Every kid is different. From what you know of your child’s personality, what do you think is best in terms of feeding her?

        What a beautiful world we will create if we pay attention to what is happening for our child and respond in accordance! A world full of children who feel heard, understood and trust others! support them!

        • I wholeheartedly agree with you, Monica. I often wonder about the list of “shoulds” we teach, and personally like to use the word, “recommend”, which I do routinely! I think some children are quite ready at 4 months, as Monica Corrado reported … and clearly, some are not at 6 months – Vesta being a case in point. Yet, I think it is important to be aware of the signs to look for from about 4 months onward. Meanwhile, we can all focus on what mother’s are eating or not eating to ensure … or aspire to nutrient dense breast milk — I envision that the recommended diet may also illicit controversy!

  2. We gave Naomi soft boiled egg yolks starting at 4 months. I didn’t give them to her everyday, as she spit most of the egg out, but we continued to try when she was interested.

    At six months I began to give her liver, coconut butter, cod liver oil/butter oil mix, coconut oil, banana and avocado.

    She really enjoyed this baby food I made for her – Which is made with soft egg yolks, coconut butter, cod liver oil, butter and coconut water.

    I wasn’t sure about the coconut butter for a long time. She really enjoyed it, and I was easily able to carry it with me when we went out. It was a great, on the go food that I could have for her at any time. I later found out that Dr. Thomas Cowan recommended coconut butter for babies. “Another food worth mentioning is coconut butter, which should be started in the first month that the child is eating food. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of Lauric acid, one of the predominant fats in human breast milk. This valuable fat helps protect the child against fungal and viral infections, thereby giving them a chance to build up their natural immunities.”

  3. Pingback: When to Feed Baby: Why Start Solids at 4 to 6 Months | CHEESESLAVE

  4. This is clearly the topic of the day! One of our supporters, Ann Marie Michaels of Cheeseslave has written a related post:

  5. Katie Louderback

    I love this post and am so glad you wrote this Sandrine. I teach classes about first foods for babies and so I am constantly thinking about and discussing the ways that Baby Led Weening principals can be combined with more WAPF principals for first foods. I love the ideas of baby having more control over what they eat and getting to hold onto large pieces of food, etc. but I think that there are some nourishing foods that are needed for a developing baby brain that really can’t be eaten in this manner. I like the hybrid approach of doing some of both and I know many parents that have found that way to feel right for them.

    I also love what Monica said about the idea of recommendations for each baby and not a mandate as we know each baby is unique and does things on their own time frame. I love the mantra “Trust your gut!” is such a beautiful way to parent – not just in the area of feeding but in all aspects!

  6. My babies were nursed until they self weaned. Longest nurser was 2 years. We didn’t start solids until they were ready, sometimes 4 mo, sometimes 9 months depending on the baby. My babies first food was avacado. They are all very healthy ! The eldest is 27, youngest is 5.

  7. I wanted to add that I made all of my babies foods!

  8. Because babies don’t actually even have the enzymes to digest other foods properly before their teeth begin to come in, our babies have stayed on breast milk only until about 8-9 months. Then they are given a little raw cream mixed into lightly cooked egg yolk, and/or banana or other mashed fruit. The next thing I will give them is some mashed fresh vegetables with butter and/or cream & a little salt. We proceed to (grass-fed,pastured) meats, already chewed by Mama and deposited directly into their wee little mouths. Last comes any type of grain, usually around 16-18 months, as the enzyme to digest grain is not typically produced until the very last.

  9. I am very curious to know why you don’t include grains? We make whole grain bread from fresh milled flour and ground flax and oats and baby LOVES a small piece with dinner (11 months old). Please share.

    And he LOVES eggs with salt and a dash of pepper, bananas, mangoes, and more. But that bread is a true favorite!

    • Hi Lisa, as the post explains in re: to grains (it is a long one you may have missed this) …

      “2. Babies can’t digest it.
      In order to digest grains, your body needs to make use of an enzyme called amylase. Amylase is the enzyme responsible for splitting starches. And, guess what? Babies don’t make amylase in large enough quantities to digest grains until after they are a year old at the earliest. Sometimes it can take up to two years. You see, newborns don’t produce amylase at all. Salivary amylase makes a small appearance at about 6 months old, but pancreatic amylase (what you need to actually digest grains) is not produced until molar teeth are fully developed! First molars usually don’t show up until 13-19 months old, on average.”

      “3. Feeding your baby grains displaces other, more important nutrients.
      If you feed your baby cereal or other grains, you’re doing more than simply sticking them with an indigestible food. You’re feeding them an indigestible food in place of something more nutrient-dense. You’re feeding them something their body can’t really use and starving them of the nutrients they need to grow a healthy brain, nervous system, and bone structure.”

      “Grains – it is best to wait 1-2 years to feed babies grains, as they do not have the enzymes to digest them.”

    • My post above explains the grains in the last sentence. I have found this to be very important, and helpful to avoid the grains!

  10. Esther

    Why aren’t doctors telling us new moms that babies can’t digest grains until 1-2 years? I have never been one to 100% trust MDs, so I’m not THAT surprised, but this one seems simple enough. Instead they tell you to start with ALL grains first, then move to fruits/veggies.

    Also, a question in regard to food allergies. When I was pregnant with my (now) 8 month old, I took an ELISA food allergy/sensitivity panel test and eggs were the one thing I was allergic to. I have avoided them, for the most part, for the last 12-14 months, so I may not be as allergic now (and I haven’t tried/found true free range eggs). But I’m wondering if egg yolk is the best thing to try with my daughter, given my circumstances?

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  12. I gave my 6 months old baby egg yolk and she was throwing up for hours and lying on the floor helpless and pale…..turns out she is allergic to eggs and dairy :( turns out, I have sensitivity to them too…and glutein…. so I don’t think I’ll be giving her eggs. I tried liver …she hated it, she was spitting it out as soon as it touched her tongue.

    • Wm

      Did she break out in hives? I just followed this and have my 7month old daughter her first solids. She visibly loved the egg yolk (made as suggested) and carrots. She had some throw up, then she started sneezing and coughing, hives on her face and arms and later tonight a little wheezing. I read that she could have a rare allergic reaction to the protein in yolk and also read about the carrots having an allergic reaction to pollens! She is my third and I’ve never heard of carrot allergies. I am kicking myself that I didn’t do ONE food at a time.

      • She had hives when I gave her blueberries (thank god she grew out of it by now) but when she had egg yolk she projectile vomited and was very lethargic. My friend’s daughter broke out in hives when she had egg yolks. I would not give it to little ones so early, for sure!

  13. Mema

    I have two completely opposite experiences. With my son we struggled with breastfeeding but I think in part what really did us in, was starting solids TOO EARLY! We started solids at 4 months and that was really the beginning of the end, among other issues. So we fought hard but in the end we barely made it to 10 months and from 8-10 months was really more of a struggle than he was getting much nourishment. He struggled to grow and keep on weight, at almost 6 he is still very skinny and struggles to keep on weight and I’m realizing now is also due to the gut damage he has that we are working to heal. But I know that if I had NOT added solids in, we most likely could have gotten further along in breastfeeding or at the least would have given him a better chance at getting at least more breastmilk rather than LESS which is what happens once you start introducing anything other than breastmilk at that early and age. Instead of adding TO your milk it takes place of that milk they normally would have gotten and then as well your supply further diminishes.

    My daughter I knew I wanted to trust nature and trust her body and the COMPLETENESS of nature and my breastmilk. With my daughter, I fed on demand and coslept with her to be sure of her getting all the milk she needed as well as keeping my supply. She happily nursed EXCLUSIVELY for her first entire year and THRIVED and is still mostly nursing at 2.5 and she is many many times healthier and more robust than her brother will ever be. She is extremely strong, has very thick bones and lots of energy. She was wearing 6-12 month clothes at 3 months where as my son was wearing 6-12 months beyond a year old, he was eating lots of “great” things that I made at home like egg yolks and fresh pureed veggies, sweet potatoes, broccoli, sweet peas you name it, he still has eating issues.

    I believe God made a perfect food for our babies for their first yearS, yes YEARS not just “months” and that there is no given “formula” for when babies “need” anything other than breastmilk. I think we just to follow our babies cues most certainly (but also not “mistake” their cues for something else and assume they need “food” rather than they are just exploring) but from my experience and research and following mothers who exclusively nurse their babies for as long as possible, I see MUCH healthier and robust babies and babies who nurse longer into toddler-hood than babies fed by or before 6 months. But again this is my experience. I’d like to see more evidence and information regarding this statement “Once again, no primitive culture does exclusive breastfeeding past six months.”

    I also feel that while yes I mostly do agree that primitive and traditional cultures have a lot of wisdom/knowledge to offer us. I also think that also doesn’t mean they are “always” correct, such as with many ritualistic things they do like circumcising their daughters or sons for instance. There is a lot to be said about what we have learned in modern times (even when many times it causes us to make poor choices like formula feeding, or yes circumcision etc…) but in the case of learning what is actually IN breastmilk and seeing how my daughter THRIVED SOLELY on my breast-milk I couldn’t even begin to imagine REPLACING any of that amazing, powerful food with anything else, nothing could compare and I don’t believe god made us deficient, our milk changes MANY times over the course of our nursing relationship. but regardless I would rather supplement my own diet than hers, until she was ready and able to take on feeding herself by other means.

    Also please read here for MANY reasons to delay solids, especially to prevent food allergies due to the open gut wall which i not ready to receive solid foods and will cause hard to repair or irreparable damage to the growing child.

    The following organizations recommend that all babies be exclusively breastfed (no cereal, juice or any other foods) for the first 6 months of life (not the first 4-6 months)…
    If you’re worried that your baby will need vitamins because your diet is not ideal
    Studies have shown that when a mother is deficient in a certain nutrient, improving the mother’s nutrition and/or supplementing her diet (multivitamins, etc.) may be as effective or more effective than giving her baby vitamin supplements.

    Also see, Extended breastfeeding benefits

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  17. Pingback: Baby Led Weaning/Toddler Foods We Love | Life at the Pig

  18. heather

    what is your opinion of pseudo-grains like buckwheat and quinoa given to a baby 9 mos and older?

  19. Pingback: {mama musings} elinor’s eats | swanky & dapper

  20. I know this is an old post, but I have been reading some of the comments, and parents are giving their children coconut oil, and coconut water in the same meal? Coconut is a laxative and should be used in moderation with babies. Definitely not consumed on a daily basis.

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