Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feeding Infants a Grain-Free and Nut-Free Diet

Why not feed grains and nuts to infants?
Avoiding grains and nuts for infants can be difficult, and you may wonder why it is necessary to do so.  The article Nourishing a Growing Baby (by certified nutritionist Jen Allbritton) says, 

"Grains, nuts and seeds should be the last food given to babies. This food category has the most potential for causing digestive disturbances or allergies. Babies do not produce the needed enzymes to handle cereals, especially gluten-containing grains like wheat, before the age of one year."

In the article Feeding Babies, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig (both of the Weston A. Price Foundation) wrote,

"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."

Furthermore, in Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride has shown that improper digestion of foods such as grains and nuts can lead to small problems, such as allergies and eczema, as well as big problems like autism, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

It is clear that, while it may be contrary to popular opinion, avoidance of grains and nuts in babies' diets is a worthwhile endeavor.

Don't rush the introduction of solids
There is no need to rush the introduction of solids into baby's diet.  If the mother has a nutritious diet, breastmilk is a wonder food that provides all of the baby's nutritional needs.  For mothers who cannot breastfeed, homemade infant formulas can be used (the Healthy Home Economist has excellent videos on how to make milk-based and meat-based homemade formulas).

I have let both of my children lead the way to the introduction of solids.  Neither of them were really interested in eating food until around the time when their first teeth came in (which was over one year old for my daughter, and around 10 months old for my son). Don't be afraid to let your baby guide you on when to introduce solids. 

Avoid commercial baby food
Commercial baby food is not nourishing.  Much of it is grain-based, and the remaining tends to be filled with undesirable additives or cooked to death in jars!  I have never bought any commercial baby food for my children.  I believe that children should eat the same nutritious foods as their parents (appropriately mashed or chopped when necessary).

Start the day with a nutritional powerhouse!
In our house, we start off the morning every day with a dose of cod liver oil and butter oil!  These nutritional powerhouses provide Vitamins A and D, Vitamin K (previously known as Activator X in Weston A. Price's studies), plus Omega 3's, DHA, and EPA.  Weston A. Price's studies showed that the diets of traditional people contained ten times the amounts of Vitamin A and D present in modern diets, and this higher nutrient-content led to people with robust health and virtually no cavities, heart disease, or cancer. Cod liver oil and butter oil are also a great way to boost the immune system.

Probiotics with each meal 
Infants have an immature gut, and it is helpful to provide them with a little digestive help in the form of probiotic foods (such as yogurt, kefir, or lactofermented foods).  I try to make sure to provide at least a small amount of probiotic with every meal for my infant. 

What about breakfast?
One of the biggest challenges to avoiding nuts and grains is figuring out what to eat for breakfast.  As a society, we are accustomed to eating grains at breakfast in the form of cereal, muffins, waffles, pancakes, and toast.  Luckily, babies don't have such expectations!  This makes it easy to feed them nourishing foods so long as we can give up our own expectations of what breakfast looks like.

Grain-Free and Nut-Free Infant Breakfast Ideas 
Here are some super simple ideas for infant breakfasts. The idea that sounds the strangest is the one my infant son likes the best: banana and bacon yogurt!   
  • Leftover soup made with homemade bone broth (my son even loves it served cold and gelatinous)
  • Any combination of the following, all mixed together: 
    • Mashed avocado
    • Sour cream or whole milk yogurt
    • Shredded full-fat raw cheese
    • Egg yolk (runny or softly cooked)
  • Banana and bacon yogurt (made with whole-milk yogurt, mashed ripe banana, and a bit of bacon drippings)
  • Mashed berries and whole-milk yogurt 
  • Homemade bone broth and egg yolk
  • Scrambled eggs when infant is nearing one year old (egg whites are best avoided until around one year old due to high allergenic potential) 

    Do you have any nourishing, grain- and nut-free breakfast ideas for infants?

    This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!


    Jen said...

    Funny, I just did a post about this myself. My DD is on a very limited diet, but it is full of nourishing foods. I am also doing GAPS to help heal the both of us.

    I love that when you start little ones on nourishing food, they are not picky at all!

    Thanks for a great post!

    Sarah Smith said...

    Jen, I'm excited to see your blog. Just added it to my reading list!

    Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias said...

    Hopped over from Monday Mania and I love this. Most ppl look at me like I'm nuts when I say babies shouldn't have baby cereal (can we say gag! that stuff is horrid).

    Sarah Smith said...

    Thanks Megan. I can't imagine feeding nasty cereal to my kids; I'd much rather prime those taste buds for real food! Your blog looks like good reading!

    jo said...

    Thanks for an interesting post. We try to eat as close to a Paleo diet as we can.

    Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist said...

    This is a great post, Sarah. Excellent suggestions for keeping baby on the right track nutritionally once solids are introduced - thanks so much for sharing with all of us at Monday Mania this week!

    Sarah Smith said...

    Thanks Sarah and Jo. Glad to see you on my site!

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks for the great suggestions! I'm always looking for new breakfast ideas for my youngest (turning one soon!). For other meals, we eat mostly grain-free anyway. But the rest of us usually eat soaked oatmeal for breakfast, so I have to be more creative for him.

    His breakfasts have typically been egg yolk with some kefir and CLO mixed in. Lately I've been making him an omelet (using the whole egg) and some veggies. Another random breakfast idea is pate. On a whim, I offered him some with breakfast this morning, and he wolfed it down.


    Sarah Smith said...

    Brittany, thanks for the suggestions. I've been meaning to make pate for awhile, and this is just the right excuse!

    hellaD said...

    Great post, I am definitely retweeting this article. PS and by the way, I have started a Grain-Free Tuesdays bloghop and would love if you would link up this article!

    Darija said...

    this was very helpful info for me to tuck in the back of my mind. hope to be expecting sooon.

    Anonymous said...

    Just found your blog - very nice, Sarah!

    I'm currently researching alternatives to infant formula for my 5 month old. I was unable to breastfeed and I know there has to be something better for her! I've watched the Healthy Home Economist videos and will hopefully go that route. I'm apprehensive but continue to research so I feel more confident. I'm SOO ready to make the switch and feel better about what she is eating! Anyway...thank you again for your's great!

    Sarah Smith said...

    I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. And good for you that you are planning to switch from commercial infant formula to something homemade!

    luckylass319 said...

    Hi Sarah,

    First let me compliment you on your interesting and informative blog. I love it! I had a question about the butter oil you mentioned. Both my daughters are extremely lactose intolerant. Does butter oil contain lactose or is it like ghee? I would love to combine it with our CLO dose, but I can't seem to find the answer to my question anywhere. Thanks!

    Sarah Smith said...

    Hi luckylass - I checked the Green Pasture site, and butter oil is lactose free (and casein free as well).

    Dawn said...

    I use bison braunschweiger for my son. It only has spices and is grain-free. Most are not. I get it from a local farmer, but here is the web site. You should double check the ingredients with them before ordering, just in case. I see they don't list them on the site, though they are on the package.

    Sarah Smith said...

    Thanks for the link, Dawn. Braunschweiger is a wonderful food for babies!

    Nicole said...

    I have a breakfast idea. How about mashed up roasted root vegetables or squash. This could be mixed with egg yolk, or bone broth, or for a sweeter side raw whole-milk yoghurt.

    Even adding some a home-made liver pate to anything would be a good idea and on the right path with Sally Fallon's advice.

    Question - Is butter oil just another name for ghee or it is something else? I would like to make it instead of buy it. Thanks for the help.

    Sarah Smith said...

    Great ideas, Nicolina and Mike.

    Butter oil is different from ghee in that it is a raw product. But some of the good stuff in butter is heat stable (like vitamin K2), so consuming ghee is a good first step (if you don't want to pay the high price for the butter oil).

    The butter oil from Green Pasture is made from milk from cows that have the best grass and soil (which makes their milk more nutrient dense). We choose to buy butter oil/cod liver oil combo for our daughter who is small-for-age and doesn't have the best immune system. The rest of us just make sure to eat LOTS of butter from grassfed animals (and we take fermented cod liver oil every day too).

    You might find this link useful:

    Anonymous said...

    Really looking into healthy alternatives for my 9 month old DS. Before researching, he had a grain-filled diet (Oatmeal & Rice cereals, etc). Now, we steer clear of grains. I have not yet introduced kefir, though I just got some and now want to know: How do I introduce it - by itself or mixed with something (He doesn't eat pureed foods, only pieces, chunks he can feed himself)? How much, etc... ANY help/info would be greatly appreciated! TIA

    Sarah Smith said...

    You could try the kefir by itself first. If he doesn't like it, then you could try it with a bit of mashed banana in it. Can he drink from a sippy cup or bottle? You could try it that way, or even just spoon a bit into his mouth (or maybe even just a little on your fingertip). Definitely make sure you start slowly, as kefir has some pretty strong probiotics in it. Start with maybe just a small spoonful a day at first, and then work up to a bit more.

    One other idea is you could let him dip the chunky finger foods in it.

    I hope this helps!

    Anonymous said...

    You should check the current official reccomendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It is NO LONGER a reccomendation to withhold potential allergens from infants. It is quite the opposite. Given the previous reccomendation, and the ENORMOUS influx of allergies, maybe it was wrong...

    Robin said...

    We are grain free, but my osteo suggested dairy free too as my 14 month old has excema and recurring ear infections. I'd love to drink raw milk again, and even make kefir, but we rely on sauerkraut and other fermented veggies for our probiotics. He loves bone broth and I have introduced soaked buckwheat, though I am not sure that's a good idea since reading your blog. What are your thoughts?

    Sarah Smith said...

    I would wait on the soaked buckwheat a few more months. Did you notice any improvement when you stopped the raw dairy? It seems like many, many people so not know of the benefits of RAW dairy versus pasteurized. Pasteurized dairy is associated with increased allergies, but raw dairy is actually associated with LESS allergies.

    My youngest (now 2 and 1/2) had eczema on his upper thighs for the first couple years. I tried everything I could think of to get the eczema to go away (food restrictions, homemade salves, new laundry detergents, etc), but the eczema just kept hanging around until I got him treatment by a homeopath. He is such a carnivore. Since he started eating solids around 11 months, he has gravitated towards meat, eggs, raw kefir, buttered broccoli, fermented pickles, and ice cream. More recently, he has also really been enjoying cheese and applesauce. He seems to naturally want to avoid most raw fruits (except bananas), raw veggies, grains, and breads/cookies/cakes of any kind (both grain-free and sourdough). It is interesting to me that he seems to instinctively know what foods are easiest to digest.

    Unknown said...

    I agree with this point that we should avoid commercial baby foods and should gave them homemade diets that are healthier as well as great nourishing diets

    Anonymous said...

    Greetings Sarah! I am extremely grateful to have crossed paths with your deeply inspiring and wise blog! I, too, have been on a GAPS journey to heal my leaky gut the past 6 months and have also been feedng my almost one year old daughter the GAPS way. I found it incredibly interesting to read that your son had eczema for a few years despite his nourishing traditional food diet. We are also trying to rid my daughet of her small amount of eczema located in the creases behind her knees through diet, organic herbal salves, probiotics, probiotic beverages and fungal defense to try and wipe out any yeast she may have. My GAPS practitioner has been guiding us on our journey to healing humbly, however I still find myself have some guilt despite the compassion and forgiveness I practice every day. Would you please be so kind and share with me what the homeopathic trestments/remedies were which aided your son's body to rid itself of the inflammation which manifested itself as eczema? I would be most grateful to read your reply and possible recommendations so that I may share them with my GAPS practitioner who also mixes homeopathy into her practice! Sending blessings for an abundantly healthy new year!

    Shelly =)

    Sarah Smith said...

    Hi Shelly,
    Classical homeopathy (which is what we are using) is very individualized. That means that while there are many different remedies that may improve eczema, only one remedy will fit each patient correctly, which they call the simillimum (and thus only one remedy that is the right one for my son specifically).

    So, to find my son's correct remedy, lots of other factors had to also be taken into account and then our classical homeopath was able to choose the correct remedy by matching my son's overall case to a remedy. So for my son, we ended up using Calc carb, but only after seeing that overall my son matches many calc carb characteristics such as fear of the dark, tiring easily with exertion such as walking, being rather sensitive to criticism, having sleeping problems, being stubborn, and being sensitive to violence even in story books. Classical homeopathy matches a remedy to a person's overall persona/ailments/defining characteristics, and not to one specific symptom.

    It sounds like your practitioner is not using classical homeopathy, but is rather just incorporating the use of homeopathic remedies into her practice. There are plenty of people who use homeopathic remedies in ways that don't fit the classical homeopathy model, and they may still get some good results. They typically also use lower potencies than some that classical homeopaths will use. But, in my opinion, using remedies in this way is not as effective as the classical approach.

    I, too, used homeopathic remedies in that way when I first started learning about homeopathy. For instance, I used multi-remedy cold and cough formulas for my daughter, and the multi-remedy teething tablets for both of my kids. We did have some limited success with these (such as relief at the time the symptoms were occurring), but it was not until we switched to the classical method with a trained homeopath that we saw lasting results (such as not getting sick in the first place). Rather than just palliating the symptoms each time an illness arises, classical homeopathy will actually trigger the body to cure the tendency to even get sick in the first place. (This is done through constitutional treatment, which is different from acute treatment for short-duration ailments such as colds.)

    In classical homeopathy, they only use one remedy at at time, never more than one as in those multi-remedy formulas. So for my son's eczema, we did not see any lasting improvement until we found the one single remedy that fit for him.

    I hope this is helpful, and I know it may be a lot to wrap your head around. The more I learn about more classical homeopathy and see it work, the more amazed I am at the possibilities for the health of my family. If you want to do some reading on your own, I'd recommend The Science of Homeopathy by George Vithoulkas. Reading this will not be enough for you to be able to do consitutional homeopathic treatment on your own, but it will help you understand how/why homeopathy works as it does. Let me know if you have any more questions!

    Anonymous said...

    Hello Sarah,

    Thank you for your very detailed and insightfful reply! All that you wrote makes perfect sense and the individual's constitution must be taken into account with homeopathy, as you clearly stated. Luckily, my cousin in London is trained in classical homeopathy and is arriving in a few weeks for a short visit. I will,speak with her regarding this subject prior to her arrival, in hopes she may be able to bring over several remedies based on my daughter's persona and characteristics. In the meantime I will continue with our GAPS diet, which we both enjoy very much, and continue to keep the fruits (sugar) grains (sugar) and nuts out of our diets until further healing has occured. Also, no raw dairy for her, besides grassfed butter until the eczema clears......wish I could begin feeding her homemade goat yogurt and kefir, but don't want to chance it for now. Good things come to those who heal patiently and humbly! =) shelly

    Anonymous said...

    Hi There, I was wondering what age you would recommend giving children activated nuts and seeds? My daughter is one tomorrow and I dont intend on starting her on any kind of grains until about 2 but I am not sure about nuts. I gave them to my son from about 1 year but I have since read conflicting information and am not sure what to do.


    Sarah Smith said...

    Hi Melissa,
    I waited until close to two years old to introduce nuts with my son. He had eczema, and I didn't want to make it worse. You may be able to introduce them earlier, but watch closely for reactions (such as rashes or even redness around the anus).

    Kendall said...

    This was so interesting to read, and I hope will help out my little guy, who is 20 months. We started him on avocado, squash, carrots, etc, for solids around 6 months - he really wanted food - rather than grains, but around 1 year started adding in whole grains like millet, quinoa, rice, oatmeal, then some gluten grains. For quite a while now (and I'm betting since he started grains), he has had what I believe is a combo of eczema on his cheeks and Keratosis Pilaris on his cheeks, as well as all over his arms and legs (tiny bumps). I've had the gut feeling that both were food-related (and we are healthy, whole food eaters!), but the pediatrician and even naturopath told us not likely. I added in more healthy fat foods, cod liver oil, avocado, also hemp and chia. (Any thoughts on hemp/chia?)

    Recently he had a stomach bug (poor guy!) and could only keep down liquids for 2 days. His skin significantly cleared up. I couldn't believe it. Then, of course, the first food I gave him was from the darn BRAT diet - toast. And that's all he wanted for a couple days. And his skin looks awful again. I have tried omitting gluten for him, but never grains all together. Maybe this is the answer. We will give it a try!

    Rosannamaria said...

    Would love to hear your thoughts on substitutions for dairy?? I am allergic and worried LO is as well. So afraid to introduce and dairy as he has been solely breastfed and is almost 11 months. I started him out on solids around 9 months and did the egg yolk and grated grassfed liver , he wasn't thrilled about it :) I am now doing steamed veggies and fruits no grains and making bone broth and still trying to get him to eat egg yolk. Do you think I should try dairy or use substitute?? Thanks for the informative article!!

    Sarah Smith said...

    I can't recommend either way; you'll have to decide on whether or not to try dairy with him.

    I can say that, if you decide to do so, ghee would probably be a good first step; if that is tolerated well, butter would be a next step; followed by raw cream; followed by cheese; followed by raw milk.

    Have you seen this article I wrote about raw milk and lactose intolerance?