Nourishing Traditional Diet for Babies and Toddlers:
A Personal Testimony by Angie Hepp, RN
Disclaimer by Angie Hepp: Breastfeeding is always the best option for both mother and baby [if mother is herself well nourished according this recommend diet], and should be continued as long as possible unless medically contraindicated. When breastfeeding is not possible, the homemade formulas described in Nourishing Traditions and on the Weston A. Price Foundation website are the most nourishing alternatives available.
When the reality finally sunk in that I was unable to breastfeed my baby for medical reasons, I was heartbroken. Thankfully, however, I was already aware of Nourishing Traditions and the homemade baby formula. Although I never thought I would have a use for it, I had read through the recipe and was familiar with the ingredients and where to purchase them. I began supplementing with the homemade formula when my daughter was 2 weeks old, and little Fiona thrived on it! She has always had such vibrant health that many people have asked me what I feed her. “What’s her ordinary day’s menu like?” they would ask. “Can you write down everything she eats?” While I most likely won’t be able to recall everything she’s eaten, I will do my best to give you an idea of what her diet has been like through her first year and a half.
Fiona’s Menu: 4-6 months
“A wise supplement for all babies—whether breast fed or bottle fed—is an egg yolk per day, beginning at four months. Egg yolk supplies cholesterol needed for mental development as well as important sulphur-containing amino acids. Egg yolks from pasture-fed hens or hens raised on flax meal, fish meal or insects are also rich in the omega-3 long-chain fatty acids found in mother’s milk but which may be lacking in cow’s milk. These fatty acids are essential for the development of the brain. Parents who institute the practice of feeding egg yolk to baby will be rewarded with children who speak and take directions at an early age. The white, which contains difficult-to-digest proteins, should not be given before the age of one year. Small amounts of grated, raw organic liver may be added occasionally to the egg yolk after six months. This imitates the practice of African mothers who chew liver before giving it to their infants as their first food. Liver is rich in iron, the one mineral that tends to be low in mother’s milk possibly because iron competes with zinc for absorption.” – from Feeding Babies by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD
My daughter’s first food was lightly cooked pastured egg yolk from our own hens. I fed her the soft cooked yolk only, no white, with a drizzle of coconut oil and a sprinkle of Celtic sea salt or Real Salt. She was not too receptive at 4 months, so I tried again at 4.5 months. She still gagged a bit and spit most of it out at that point, but by 5 months she was ready and willing to eat. Besides her homemade formula, she ate only the egg yolk, coconut oil, and salt daily for a couple of months. Her daily fermented cod liver oil supplement was included in the formula. I gave her mashed banana a couple of times, but found that it constipated her, so I held off on that.
Regarding grains: Isn’t rice cereal the best “first food”?
“An unfortunate practice in industrial societies is the feeding of cereal grains to infants. Babies produce only small amounts of amylase, needed for the digestion of grains, and are not fully equipped to handle cereals, especially wheat, before the age of one year. (Some experts prohibit all grains before the age of two.) Baby’s small intestine mostly produces one enzyme for carbohydrates—lactase, for the digestion of lactose. (Raw milk also contains lactase.) Many doctors have warned that feeding cereal grains too early can lead to grain allergies later on. Baby’s earliest solid foods should be animal foods as his digestive system, although immature, is better equipped to supply enzymes for digestion of fats and proteins rather than carbohydrates.” – from Feeding Babies by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD
“Babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. In fact, it takes up to 28 months, just around the time when molar teeth are fully developed, for the big-gun carbohydrate enzymes (namely amylase) to fully kick into gear. Foods like cereals, grains and breads are very challenging for little ones to digest. Thus, these foods should be some of the last to be introduced. (One carbohydrate enzyme a baby’s small intestine does produce is lactase, for the digestion of lactose in milk.)” – Sally Fallon. Nourishing Traditions. NewTrends Publishing. 1999
We did not feed Fiona any grains until after she turned one year old. Ever her one year birthday cake was grain-free, sugar-free, and casein-free. Coconut flour was used, among other things, and the icing was colored with beet juice! (And, no, we did not let her eat the entire piece!)
Fiona’s Menu: 6-8 months
The next food I introduced in addition to the egg yolks, coconut oil, and salt, was raw liver. I know, it sounds gross, but actually, liver is a true superfood, one of the healthiest things we can eat. The myth about the liver being “the body’s filter where all the toxins are stored” is just that – a myth. Although the liver does indeed filter toxins from the body, it does not store them. It is not a septic tank full of old garbage. It simply removes the toxins from the blood and neutralizes them so they can then pass harmlessly out of the body by means of a very complicated 2-phase process known as Oxidation-Conjugation. Phase I converts the toxins to less harmful substances and Phase II makes the toxins water-soluble so that they may be safely excreted from the body (1). Didn’t mean to get off on a physiology lesson, but now you know the truth about liver!
Anyway, after freezing the organic, grass-fed liver for 14 days, I grated it (still frozen) and added about a teaspoon to her mashed egg yolk. She never noticed it was in there and ate it up like a champ! Since then I have added it to yogurt, applesauce, pureed vegetables, pretty much anything. At this time I also added to her diet:
- Pureed chicken, beef, and fish
- Bone broths (which she drank from a sippy cup with a pinch of sea salt)
- Small amounts of full-fat, organic, unsweetened yogurt (sometimes with cod liver oil mixed in)
- Lacto-fermented sweet potato and taro root (lacto-fermented to enhance digestion)
- Mashed vegetables (cooked with generous amounts of butter, olive oil, or coconut oil)
- Mashed fruits (fruits such as apples and peaches are high in pectin which is difficult to digest, so I steamed them first, then added butter or oil)
- Very small amounts of raw veggies or fruits at this time, as they can be hard to digest.
- Still avoiding citrus and tomato at this time, as they are common allergens.
- Avocado was one of her favorite foods, and still is, although I have to limit it, as it tends to constipate her.
Fiona’s Menu: 8-12 months
All of the above foods, except with more lumps and less smooth consistency. I introduced some finger foods such as lightly cooked egg, avocado, occasionally banana, soft cooked fruits and veggies. I made a custard from egg yolks and raw cream, which she loved. One of her favorites was raw cheese – small pieces were her absolute favorite finger food. “CHEE!!” she would squeal excitedly, as soon as she saw me pull it from the frig. Quartered grapes were another stand-by travel snack. So far she has never tasted a Cheerio, Goldfish cracker, animal cracker, fruit snack, or juice box. At this time, cod liver oil can be increased to ½ tsp high-vitamin, or 1 tsp regular, per day.
Photo above: Yep, those are chicken bones. They make great teethers!
Fiona’s Menu: 12-18 months
As an aside, at 15 months, Fiona had an approximately 200-word vocabulary. Wonder if diet has anything to do with that? *wink wink*
After Fiona turned one, I cautiously began to introduce some grains; only easily-digested grains such as rice and millet, and only after a long soaking in acidulated water in order to reduce phytic acid (read the whys and hows of soaking grains here.) I never offered them more than once a week at the most and always with plenty of good fats. They are still not a staple of her diet. They are probably more of a condiment!
At this point, or really as soon as your baby can chew, you can begin to offer lacto-fermented veggies and fruits. An easy beginners recipe is sauerkraut. Lacto-fermented condiments provide loads of beneficial bacteria to colonize the gut and aid digestion, help ease constipation, and ward off illness. Fiona eats sauerkraut or another lacto-fermented condiment nearly every day. I just pile a ¼ cup or so on her tray and she grabs handfuls of it and stuffs it in her mouth. She loves it!
At this time, cooked egg white can be added, since the more mature digestive system should be able to better digest the protein. I also added:
- Leafy greens, cooked with butter or oil. Collards, chard, kale, and spinach contain oxalic acid which is a goitrogen and is neutralized by cooking. They should not be given to babies under 1 year.
- Citrus and tomato (watch for allergic symptoms)
- Nut butters made with soaked and dehydrated nuts
- Smoothies are one of her favorite treats. They’re a great way to pack in a lot of nutrients. Her smoothie typically contains: 2 raw egg yolks, raw goat milk, acerola powder, frozen organic fruit, avocado, cucumber, occasionally a bit of parsley, romaine lettuce, and a ½ tablespoon or so of coconut oil.
A typical day’s menu: (15 months)
- Breakfast: Bottle of raw goat milk with ½ tsp high vitamin fermented cod liver oil and ½ tsp virgin coconut oil. Poached egg with ghee or coconut oil and sea salt. Leftover cooked veggies from last night’s dinner or a gluten-free mini-muffin made with chia or flax meal. Sauerkraut. Filtered water with a splash of kombucha.
- Lunch: Raw goat cheese; cut up grapes, pears, or other fruit; sweet potato with grated raw liver. Filtered water with a dash of sea salt.
- Late afternoon snack: She usually asks for another bottle of “mee-mee” (milk). Raw goat milk, but this time I do not add the oils, and I dilute the milk with a bit of warm filtered water.
- Dinner: Whatever Mommy and Daddy are eating. Since we eat gluten-free, we don’t need to worry about her consuming gluten. If we are having a dish that contains grains such as rice or pasta, she only gets a few bites of the grain, and eats mostly the meats and veggies. Typically beef, chicken, fish, or legumes, and roasted or raw veggies. She also eats whatever sauce happens to be on the menu, no matter how flavorful or spicy. She eats Japanese kimchi and Thai coconut curry with just as much relish as plain old applesauce.
She eats no desserts. Period. No juice or refined or processed foods. That’s about it! I hope this has been helpful. There is a wealth of information at www.westonaprice.com, so definitely check out that resource. Much of what I implemented here I gleaned from the Weston A. Price Foundation, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, and from this article by Jen Allbritton, Certified Nutritionist.
–– Angie Hepp
Notes from Sandrine
Thank you so much for this detailed testimonial, Angie! It is inspirational to me to read how our recommendations are implemented. I would love to have others share their experiencing of nourishing their babies and toddlers in the comments!