Infant Nutrition 0-24mo
Early nutrition sets the stage for strong future health and wellbeing. Breastfeeding, the proper introduction of solid foods, and macronutrient proportions are all important factors in determining the health of your child, both now and for the long-term. Early nutrition for the mother is essential as everything you take in goes to your baby. As adults, we can tune into our own body awareness and intuition in order to make dietary choices that meet our unique needs, but infants and toddlers are completely dependent on their parents to make the proper choices for them. By establishing an understanding of the different developmental stages of a baby’s life, you can focus on supporting each transition and optimizing your child’s nutritional intake to support strong and healthy growth and development. This is also the perfect time to start building your baby’s palate and gut flora. Building a healthy microbiome in infancy as an incredible impact on the child’s long-term physical & mental health.
The following is a guide that includes nutrient recommendations from the day your child is born until they’re 2 years old. Breastfeeding is the basis of this and provides babies with perfect amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals, along with the additional benefits of passing on antibodies and other immune factors, and promoting mother-baby bonding. If you are unable to breastfeed, seek out donor banks and integrate the healthiest formula possible - look for ones that are free of soy & other additives.
0 - 6 MONTHS
Lifelong health and wellbeing are greatly affected by adequate nutrition during infancy. Infants should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first 6 months of life to encourage optimal growth, development, and overall health.
Tips for breastfeeding Mothers
Herbs to Support Breast Milk Production:
Alfalfa, marshmallow root, blessed thistle, milky oats, oatmeal, dandelion root & leaves, nettle, red raspberry leaf.
These herbs are all examples of galactagogues, meaning that their main property is to increase breast milk supply. Take these herbs in teas, infusions or tinctures in doses of ½ to 1 oz of dried herbs per liter of water, or 10-30 drops of a tincture 2-4 times per day. Most of these herbs can also be used to lift melancholy and mild depression, and also improve the nutrient quality of your milk.
Having trouble producing milk? Some effective lactation herbs include:
Fenugreek- A common component in many herbal lactation teas, Fenugreek is one of the most common and effective herbs to increase milk production. It is a galactagogue that supports prolactin secretion.
Capsule form is best. 3 capsules, 3 x per day until the milk starts flowing.
Blessed Thistle- Helps to elevate mild forms of postpartum depression, which is linked to difficulties breastfeeding. This herb is best combined with Fenugreek.
Capsule form is best. 3 capsules, 3 x per day until the milk starts flowing.
Lactation-increasing herbal teas are also available for purchase.
Herbs to Avoid While Breastfeeding:
Alder buckthorn, Amica, autumn crocus (internally), barberry, bloodroot, black cohosh, borage, broom, butternut, calamus, cascara sagrada, coltsfoot, comfrey, cotton root, cowslip, damiana, ephedra, feverfew, ipecac, juniper berries, lily of the valley, lobella, male fern, Mandrake, mistletoe, nutmeg, osha, periwinkle, Peruvian bark, pleurisy root, poke root, rhubarb, rue, sage, sarsaparilla, senna, stillingia, tansy, thuja, and wormwood.
Foods to Support Breast Milk Production:
Apricots, oats, sesame, almonds, asparagus, salmon, carrots, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, healthy fats, all leafy greens, and grains.
EFAs: Choose a prenatal fish oil that is higher in DHA than EPA.
Probiotics: It’s generally recommended to start with a low dose of 3 billion CFU, although this is very dependent on the individual. Too high a dose can cause constipation. Start low and increase gradually to about 10 billion CFU.
Vitamin D3: Take at least 1,000 IU per day (or up to 5,000 IU per day if you have a deficiency, which most people in the northern hemisphere do -check your levels with a simple blood test), combined with vitamin K2 for increased effectiveness.
Other Tips to Support Breastfeeding Mothers:
Make sure you are taking in an additional 500 calories per day over your pre-pregnancy diet
Drink plenty of pure filtered water - aim to drink 2-3L of water daily
Rest well, as a lack of sleep produces milk shortages
Stimulate the nipples by allowing the baby to suck often
6 - 9 MONTHS
Adequate and safe complementary foods should now be introduced while simultaneously continuing to breastfeed (recommended up until 2 to 5 years of age). When beginning to introduce foods, do this at a non-critical time of day for your milk production (e.g. dinnertime) so that you keep up your breastmilk production.
Age Appropriate Foods
50% - 100% of the time = breast milk
Begin adding new foods in the form of pureed fruits and vegetables. Introduce one at a time, note your baby’s reaction, and then increase gradually to 3 times per day. Pureed, strained, and mashed forms of the fruits and vegetables are best to begin with, allowing for more texture as the baby adapts. Try a variety of bitter foods and healthy fats to help build your baby's palate and gut flora. It’s also helpful to avoid too many sweet fruits at first as the baby will gravitate towards sweeter options.
Tip: Add a little breast milk to steamed, pureed fruits or vegetables for palatability and ease of digestion.
Starting Solid Foods
Buy organic as much as possible - any amount is better than none at all. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists to give some guidelines for making decisions on baby food.
*If possible, buy local, seasonal, and organic, avoiding antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs.
Making baby food is fast, easy, and cost-effective. You can choose exactly what’s included in your baby’s diet and customize their meals with unique food combinations in order to create new tastes and textures to suit them as they grow.
Tip: Remember that a baby can take anywhere from 8-12 times trying a new food before adapting to a new flavor, so be patient and try not to give up after the first few tries.
Foods to Introduce:
Butternut squash, green beans, pears, raisins, parsnips, turnips, blueberries, carrots, green peas, cauliflower, broccoli, avocados, bananas, prunes, apricots, sweet potatoes, beets, apples, peaches, and figs.
Small amounts of grains can be mixed with breast milk or pureed produce. Add in: oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth.
How To Prepare for Introduction
Feed solid foods at a time when milk supply is low
Offer one new food at a time
Skip introducing something new if your baby is cranky or sick
Leave plenty of time for feeding, as it can be a long process
Don’t be discouraged by rejection - try and try again
Signs to Watch For When Introducing New Foods
Bowel movements: Don’t be alarmed, they will change! Mucus and diarrhea can be a sign of GI irritation - try to pinpoint and eliminate/reduce the offending food.
Gas, bloating, and constipation: These are signs that the food may be causing a reaction.
Eczema, rashes, and irritability: More signs of an allergic response.
Preparing First Foods
Peel, core, and chop fruits or vegetables into small cubes so they’ll cook more quickly. Next, fill a saucepan with enough water to steam the fruits or vegetables without evaporating. Denser vegetables will take longer. Bring the water to boiling and then put the fruits or vegetables into a steamer basket and place this on top of the water. Steam on medium heat until the fruit or vegetable is tender - a knife should be able to slide through easily and the food should be able to be mashed without resistance. Empty the steamer’s contents into a bowl and mash by hand, blender, or food processor before adding any water. Then add water by very small amounts until the consistency you desire is achieved. Puree until it’s the texture of smooth, thick soup. As your baby gets older, reduce the amount of water and leave a few lumps in the food.
Specific recommendations: Avocados, bananas, and papaya can be mashed with a fork and served raw.
You can also make bone or herbal broths and add a bit to foods as you are blending them for added nutrients.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are convenient and offer a great way to have out-of-season foods all year. If you grow or buy organic fruits and vegetables, vacuum seal them before freezing to eliminate freezer burn.
9 - 12 MONTHS
Baby’s gums can now “chew,” so cut foods to a size that he or she can handle. By this point in a baby’s life, the production of amylase - a digestive enzyme - has increased significantly, making the breakdown and digestion of solid foods much easier.
Foods to Include:
Peaches, nectarines, spinach, sweet peppers, cherries, mango, Swiss chard, turnips, onions, pineapple, parsnips, zucchini, beets, broccoli, kale, asparagus, garlic, papaya, plums, berries, grapes, collard greens, molasses, split peas, green peas, quinoa, teff, lima beans, chickpeas, amaranth, millet, rice, lentils, kidney beans, buckwheat, oatmeal, and herbs & spices.
Introducing Chunkier Meals
At this point, the texture of foods doesn’t have to be as smooth as it was for a new infant. Gauge the texture to your baby’s liking. Begin with finger foods.
While some choose to lean towards a predominantly vegetarian diet others try to add in more animal products at this time. Adding in eggs is an easy way to start or using bone broth as the base for baby foods. You can also try adding in more foods like beef, chicken, turkey, egg yolks (not whites), some seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), quinoa, amaranth, figs, raisins (soaked and pureed), peaches, peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas, and fish.
Start introducing spices. Cinnamon, turmeric, dill, parsley, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, cilantro, oregano, paprika, and saffron are all safe and nutritious.
Foods to Avoid Until 12 Months:
Egg whites, honey (due to potential botulism), strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, citrus fruits, shellfish, and nuts.
12 - 18 MONTHS
At this point in a baby’s life, their digestive system has matured enough to start introducing more animal products (if desired).
Foods to Include:
Goat’s milk, yogurt, egg yolks, chicken, tahini, lamb, and fish.
25% - 50% breastfeeding is still beneficial
Aim for: Fruits & vegetables 1-2x per day each, steamed vegetables - once per day, and high-quality protein sources (organic meats, soaked and sprouted legumes, nuts, and seeds).
12 - 24 MONTHS
Foods to Include:
Almond butter, cashew butter, oranges, cornish hens, eggs, beef, liver, turkey, and walnuts.
Introducing Grains - Some choose to wait until 12 months to introduce grains, others add in small amounts here and there vs. making full meals out of just grains.
Begin with non-gluten grains to start: rice, quinoa, millet, and amaranth are perfect options.
By introducing the proper foods at varying stages throughout a baby’s early development, you can prime and develop their digestive system for optimal functioning later in life. They’ll advance into their later childhood and eventually adulthood with a well-developed palate, proper nutrient levels. This overall helps to set them up for a life of health and wellness