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 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.