Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First Foods: How & What & When to Introduce

Nature's Perfect Food

Breast-feeding is excellent for many reasons. Not only is breast milk full of easy to digest nutrition, nursing will help develop your baby's jaw and facial structure, which is a huge issue with our low toned/small mouthed babies. The feel-good and bonding hormones released in breast milk is helpful to counteract symptoms of autism as well, which is more likely to occur in males and in children with T21 (experts say there is from a 10% to 33% higher incidence of autism in those with Down syndrome). Jett breastfed until almost 3 years old. Please see this post for support on Breastfeeding a Baby with Down Syndrome. If you are unable to breastfeed, please see Healthy Alternative to Conventional Infant Formula.

When should you start introducing solid foods?

Breast milk has everything a baby needs until six months of age when iron and Vitamin D become more necessary. Therefore, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods (and plenty of sunshine or drops for Vitamin D) up to two years of age or beyond. But, babies who had the benefit of delayed cord clamping right after birth (when the cord is cut only after it stops pulsing) will normally have much better iron stores, so it's usually fine to breast feed exclusively for those babies until ten months or one year.

However, since our babies usually have sensory issues, especially in the mouth and tongue area, it is important to introduce tastes and sensations in the mouth for therapeutic reasons at around six months, at the very least, if not to actually feed them solid foods. See this presentation about introducing steamed veggies for speech development at an early age: Feeding Options and Oral Motor Methods: Paving the Way for Optimal Speech by Jill Rabin.

According to the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron, it is important to feed typical babies solid foods by seven months to make sure that they develop eating and chewing skills. And no later than eight to nine months because otherwise they might "reject textured food later." I started Jett at six months and am happy I did. You'll have to follow your baby's cues. He'll let you know when he's interested. He'll watch intently as you eat or reach for your food when he's ready to try.

You can't follow the rule about waiting until your baby can sit himself up because most of our kids sit on their own much later than six months. Before Jett sat up on his own, my husband held him on his lap or when I was alone, I used a bumbo seat for feeding only. (You don't want to have them sit up too much until they are ready to support themselves. See Milestones: Sitting. I just had to do that for logistical reasons.)
The mesh-feeding bag is a great way for our kids to experiment with eating safely and to experience new textures. You can put anything in it--that's safe to eat--and he can chew it without fear of choking. Strawberries, tomatoes, apple slices, pepper strips, etc. Jett loved it! Make sure the bag you use is organic or is otherwise non toxic. (The link I provided is to an organic source so your baby won't be chewing on toxic material!)

What foods should I feed first?

Remember to add only one food at a time for four to seven days to see how he adjusts to it.

The first food I'd introduce is coconut oil. When cool, it starts with a firm texture so our babies can feel it in their mouth and then it quickly melts in the mouth so it's easy to swallow. It is also easy to clean from clothing and quickly soaks into the skin. You will be amazed by the huge benefits of coconut oil. See some below and much more on this post Coconut Oil Info and Recipes.

Next, is egg yolk. According to West A Price:
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. 
Then, I'd go for the bone broth -- chicken first, since it's the most gentle on the stomach. See posts First Foods: GAPS Introducing Solids and First Foods: Yogurt & Bone Broth for the amazing benefits of bone broth and easy recipes on how to make it yourself. I didn't start Jett on the broth until 12 months and it was only then that he really was able to get the nutrients he needed to grow better. (Cognition was good, but growth was poor.) He wouldn't always take his multivitamin and I'm not sure that he really was able to metabolize it very well. But the bone broth is easy for him to digest and full of nutrients.
Then, I'd introduce the avocado since it's high in good fats and nutrient dense--perfect for our "failure to thrive" babies. Our baby's body needs these fats for the healthy development of his brain and central nervous system.
Avocados also contain the following important nutrients:
  • folate
  • fiber
  • vitamin E
  • iron
  • copper (fine in its natural form, copper is good)
  • beta-carotene
  • vitamin K
  • B vitamins
When you first introduce it, mix with a little breast milk, bone broth or water. (Make sure your water is chlorine & fluoride free and not from a plastic source. I used non-sparkling/still mineral water in a glass bottle until we got a reverse osmosis filtration system.) Since avocados are high in copper, I would consider supplementing with zinc. Zinc is really good for our kids and they are usually low in it.

Florida avocados (the bigger, greener, smoother ones) are better for baby than the Haas avocados from Mexico. But all avocados are full of nutrition and even help metabolize the nutrients better when paired with any food, which is super important for kids with DS. I serve a little avocado to Jett at every meal (and with his supplements) for this reason. Below is more info about avocados.
Banana is a great early food as well because it mashes easily and is full of serotonin-supporting substances like dopamine. Make sure the banana is very ripe --as in the skin is all brown-- in order to prevent constipation. I would wait until they were ripe and then freeze them. So I always had bananas whenever I needed them. (Don't feed foods and liquids cold though because it can cause stomach cramps.) But, if you child shows any signs of "leaky gut syndrome" you don't want to give bananas because it makes the membrane more permeable.
Then I'd go for butternut squash, especially if it's winter when it's inexpensive. Butternut squash contains:
  • high antioxidant content, which has anti-inflammatory effects -- super important for our children's inflammation issues
  • ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice.
  • significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health
  • vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems
  • folate content adds to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida
  • Carotenoids, which is shown to protect against heart disease.
  • very high levels of beta-carotene, which your body automatically converts to vitamin A, identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration, as well as a supporter of healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns.
  • a 1-cup serving is nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C
To make, you can just place it on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about an hour, or until you can pierce it with a sharp knife. Or remove the skin using a vegetable peeler and cut the flesh into chunks for steaming or sauteing. Once cooked, mash it or puree it. It's sweet and tasty. See below for more "Cheap, Easy Tips for Preparing Baby Food."
Homemade coconut milk keifer or yogurt would be a really good next food. There are two recipes on this post: Coconut Recipes as well as the amazing benefits of coconut oil, but I haven't made the yogurt yet myself. Avoid store bought coconut milk yogurt that has carrageenan in it. I believe that the Greek style So Delicious coconut milk yogurt doesn't have carrageenan in it.

Pears are nice at six to eight months. Simply mash ripe pears with a fork to serve. See for nutritional value.

Try baked chicken or turkey at six to eight months. Offering meats around the time that baby’s iron stores may be depleting will help ensure a steady stream of heme-iron. Meats are rich in this form of iron that is most easily absorbed and used by our bodies. 

Stewed beef would be nice next. Put in a crock pot with some good broth and peas would make a nice meal.

You can try wild caught salmon at eight to ten months. It is a cold water fish and it actually has lower levels of mercury than you'd think. Make sure it's completely deboned. Essential Fatty Acids, EFA’s, found in fish and fish oil products help fight off both physical and mental diseases. Some studies show that fish oil (or other foods that contain Omega 3’s) may even help alleviate ADHD or eczema. 

Sprouted nut butters/seed butters may be okay to try if you, the parents, aren't allergic. Make sure you serve them thin and not thick as to avoid a choking hazard.  If reflux or leaky gut is suspected, avoid until the issue has been addressed.

At 12 months, I introduced sprouted quinoa, cooked in broth, and Jett loved it. Quinoa has the full range of amino acids that our kids need to grow. You can certainly try it earlier, but careful, some babies with DS don't digest amino acids very well. If this is a problem, you may want to look into TriEnza enzymes to help. For quinoa porridge, just cook quinoa in coconut water (or plain water), and then mix with coconut milk and fruit. Is nice with cinnamon and banana.
If reflux or leaky gut is suspected, avoid until the issue has been addressed.

Check out this website for more great info:

Counter to Ruth Yaron, who recommends introducing brown rice cereal and root vegetables, it's not advisable for our kids (or any kids) until a year.  

Say no to Root Vegetables
Avoid Whole Grains for 9-12 months

I would not give any grain until 1 year old. It is very hard to digest and often causes lots of problems, both digestive and allergy-wise. Babies do not have the digestive enzymes needed to digest grains until at least 9 months (may be 12, I forget). At 20 months, I've been able to avoid gluten (except for the food that he steals from my plate!) for Jett. 

Use sparingly
These are foods with smaller amounts of goitrogens--foods that adversely affect thyroid function. They should be fine here and there and once your child is being treated for thyroid issues. If these foods are steamed, they can have them from time to time. Cooking reduces the goitrogenic substances by up to a third. One way to offset the effects is to eat foods high in iodine along with them.
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Millet (cooking doesn't lessen the goitrogens though)
  • Peaches
  • Peanuts (vaccinated children often have an allergy to this because they use peanut oil in vaccines)
  • Pears
  • Pine Nuts (hard to digest as well)
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet Potatoes
Foods to avoid altogether
Avoid Iron and Fluoride

You'll have to ignore Ruth's info on iron and fluoride as well. Fluoride is not good for our kids and iron; you'll have to check his level individually. Traditionally, it's not good for our kids to be supplemented with iron. See Anemia & Iron and Why Fluoride is NOT good for our kids for full explanations.

Avoid Gluten (wheat) and Casein (dairy)

See Why go Gluten Free for your child with Down syndrome?

Casein and Gluten Free 

Avoid Raw Goitrogens 

These are foods that adversely affect thyroid function since our kids are notorious for having thyroid issues. Once your child is being treated for thyroid issues, and if these foods are steamed, they can have them from time to time. Cooking reduces the goitrogenic substances by up to a third. One way to offset the effects is to eat foods high in iodine along with them.
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli (broccoli sprouts are okay)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale (sprouts are okay)
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard and Mustard greens (sprouts are okay)
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Soy (anything--not even cooked)
  • Turnips
 Avoid Soy
  1. Soybeans contain large quantities of natural toxins or “antinutrients”. First among them are potent enzyme inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion.
  2. These inhibitors are not deactivated during cooking & processing.  Test animals fed these inhibitors developed enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer.
  3. Soybeans also contain haemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together.
  4. 99% of soy is genetically modified and it among the highest contamination by pesticides of any of our foods.
  5. Soybeans are high in phytic acid, a substance that blocks the uptake of the essential minerals calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc, in the intestinal tract.
  6. Soy products contain high levels of aluminum, leached from the aluminum tanks in which they are acid washed and processed at high temperatures.
  7. Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during the spray-drying of soy.
  8. Soy Protein Isolates, which are shown to enlarge the pancreas and thyroid and increase fatty acid deposits in the liver.
  9. Soy contains toxic isoflavones.
  10. Soy foods have a high concentration of goitrogens which block production of thyroid hormones.

Cheap, Easy Tips for Preparing Baby Food  

One tool that's really helpful in making your own baby food is the Beaba Babycook steamer that also purees the food. Check out this website for their products: It saves me soooo much time from doing it with all the pots and steamers & strainers & a food processor... The silicone freezing containers are great -- BPA free and perfect for freezing small portions.
In Super Baby Food, she does use the microwave, which kills the nutrients in all foods. Never use a microwave for baby food. You can heat up any food by putting a shallow dish of water in the microwave until it's hot and then set the baby dishes in the water & stir until warm.

Here's a good link for homemade baby food recipes.

**Why Avocado?

Avocado contains health-promoting monounsaturated fats.
Your baby's body needs these fats for the healthy development of his brain and central nervous system. One of these fats, oleic acid, is believed to help lower cholesterol.

Avocado is an excellent source of potassium, containing around 60% more of this valuable mineral than bananas!
Potassium plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure and, in later life, can help prevent heart disease, strokes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Lutein is a carotenoid (a nutrient in the pigment that gives certain fruits and vegetables their color). A natural anti-oxidant, lutein is responsible for promoting healthy skin and eyes.

Avocados also contain the following important nutrients
  • folate
  • fiber
  • vitamin E
  • iron
  • copper
  • beta-carotene
  • vitamin K
  • B vitamins

Avocado Baby Food - Hidden Benefits
Not only is avocado baby food highly nutritious in its own right, avocado actually helps your baby's body more efficiently absorb the nutrients from OTHER fruits and veggies he eats them with!
Back in 2005, an interesting article about avocado was published in the Journal of Nutrition. It revealed that tests had shown how adding avocado to salad and salsa
"...significantly enhances carotenoid absorption"
and that
"...adding avocado fruit to carotenoid-containing meals as a lipid source can facilitate carotenoid absorption while offering additional nutritional benefits"

Lipids - organic compounds that are necessary for healthy cell growth.
Carotenoids are soluble in fat. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, so it is believed that eating carotenoid-rich foods along with them makes the carotenoids more 'bioavailable' (which means that the body is able to absorb them more easily).

In addition to the wide range of nutritive benefits we mentioned earlier, avocados are highly digestible, rarely responsible for any type of allergic reaction and do not cause constipation.

Due to their high calorie content, avocados are an excellent food for babies with feeding difficulties (infant reflux, for example). Babies such as these will benefit from a generous amount of calories in a small quantity of food.
*Why coconut oil?

Coconut oil is important for our kids. Not only does it help support the thyroid but it also helps prevent Alzheimer's disease.

This link explains coconut oil and Alzheimer's:

This link explains about hypothyroidism and coconut oil (and much more):

Here's an except:

Coconut oil acts as a catalyst to the metabolic activities of the body. It not only regulates, but the proper dosage will bring to moderation all the functions necessary to burn energy and consume calories. Coconut oil consumption creates a hormonal balance and raises the stamina and energy and also brings about mood stability.If coupled with a healthy diet and reduced intake of toxins (such as wheat flour, potatoes, refined sugar and other foods that rate high on the glycemic index) then the results will be immediate and physically noticeable. Not only do the symptoms of hypothyroidism disappear but also the body will feel fit and rejuvenated in comparison to the state of lethargy that is generally caused by a low hormonal level.

(Coconut oil is not a CURE for hypothyroidism, but it works really well to support the thyroid.)

I give Jett a tablespoon a day (mixed in with almost anything he eats). He loves it. It's easy to feed him (okay, I let him feed this to himself) because it just soaks into his skin and easily washes out of everything.

Once your little one is older, you may want to look into cooking with other parts of the coconut. I have tons of gluten free recipes I have posted using coconut flour, etc. (Lots of times our kids can't tolerate gluten.) 



Linda said...

i am just now reading sections of your blog. i really wish i came across all these info before my child was born. i'm 8 mos. late.but i guess better late than never. you mentioned yogurt, i thought milk can't be introduced yet until 12 mos. old? also where and what brand do you buy your coconut oil?

Carly said...

My 6 month old with Down Syndrome has been transitioning the past couple weeks and stool is very very soft still? Therapist recommended adding rice cereal to pureed food? But I thought it was not good for them?

Andi Durkin said...

Yes, as stated above, avoid rice. You can thicken liquids in a healthy way with chia seeds, flax seed meal or grassfed beef gelatin. Soak the chia seeds or flaxseed meal first for about 5 minutes in cold or warm liquid.