When it comes to taking charge of our children’s health, there are nutrients and herbs that are especially suited to our children’s needs and the achievement of glowing health. Indeed, there are safe, natural and effective alternatives for dealing with the needs and health concerns specific to our children.
The healthy development of your child’s defense system starts with the foods you eat. While you are pregnant, the nutrients in the foods you eat nourish your developing fetus. The strength of your unborn baby’s future defensive forces depends to a great extent of the quality of those nutrients. Your own immune system, if kept healthy with essential nutrients, protects your unborn infant from most infections that may threaten you. It actually goes on protecting her for her first three months of life. A mother who breastfeeds her newborn gives her the best start possible in life. As long as the nursing mother has proper nutrition, the mother’s milk is always nutritionally perfect for the newborn and keeps pace with the infant’s changing requirements.
Mother’s milk begins as colostrum, a yellowish fluid that confers important immunity factors and has a high protein content, both necessary to start the baby off right. It also cleanses the baby’s intestinal tract. Mother’s milk gradually changes into a thin white liquid with the perfect combination of water, fat, proteins, sugar, vitamins and minerals. It is biologically designed to foster brain function growth and development. Breastfed babies have fewer colds, as well as fewer problems with colic, ear infections, diaper rash, and skin conditions.
Breastfeeding can actually delay the onset of food allergies as well as other allergic symptoms. The new infant’s intestinal tract is porous and can not screen out large molecules that cause allergies. This is why infants under a year old are particularly susceptible to food allergies and why you should delay giving the infant solids or formula for as long as possible. Infants under a year should not have wheat, cow’s milk, fish or egg whites. It takes six to twelve months for an infant’s intestinal tract to develop the ability to screen out allergenic molecules.
A breast feeding mother needs to keep herself well nourished, particularly in terms of Essential Fatty Acids, if you have a family history of allergies. Research has shown that giving formula too early to allergy prone infants who are being breast fed, can increase the risk of intestinal inflammation.
The immune-stimulating effect of mother’s milk makes the young infant more likely to have a strong immune response to any foreign protein that enters the intestines. It is important to be sure that you are getting plenty of EFA’s especially the omega-3′s. It is also advisable to start giving your baby flaxseed, walnut or cod-liver oil at six months. All mothers would be wise to do this whether or not your baby is susceptible to allergies. This is especially so when using formula, as most formulas are inadequate in GLA and EFA’s.
At some time around six or seven months, your baby is ready to start her first solid food, cereal, fruit and vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to introduce new foods to her one at a time. These should be fed by spoon. You will want to start your baby off on iron-fortified rice, oat, or barley cereal. (No wheat until she is a year old, as it is more likely to produce an allergic reaction.) The iron is important because the storage of iron that the baby received from the placenta starts to be depleted at about four months of age.
Once the baby is taking cereal well, vegetables can be introduced. It is recommended that one new food be started every three to five days so that any allergic reaction can be identified and attributed to that food. Start with pureed green beans, and peas, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes. Wait until your baby is nine month old to introduce spinach, beets, turnips, carrots, or collard greens, Although these are excellent sources of important nutrients, especially vitamin A, these vegetables my be too rich in nitrates for her before that. Nitrate can change red blood cells so that they are less able to carry oxygen.
Next add fruit. I recommend applesauce, peaches, apricots, pears, nectarines and plums. Imported fruit is twice as likely as domestic fruit to contain pesticide residues. Buy ripened fruits, they’re tastiest and most nutritious and are the easiest to mash or puree. Start with cooked fruit. The easiest way is to bake is. Wash the fruit, to preserve its nutrients, bake it in its skin in a covered dish with just a little water. Once your child can handle cooked fruit, try uncooked mashed frit. The chewier texture will help her learn to chew. Give her some small pieces to hold, chew and suck on.
Once she has mastered fruits, your baby is ready for chewier vegetables such as zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus tips, kale and tomatoes. (Although they are soft and easily pureed, she wasn’t ready for tomatoes earlier because of their acidity and strong tastes.) Add spinach, beets, turnips, carrots, and collard greens. Serve each one every four or five days until she becomes familiar with them. If any of these cause gassiness or bloating, wait about a month before trying them again.
Somewhere between eight and ten months your baby will be getting most of her nutrition from solid foods. She is ready for high protein foods like meat, poultry, beans, egg yolks (save the whites as well as fish until after 12 months, as they can be allergenic), tofu or bean curd. These foods are rich in vitamins and minerals and your baby needs them. Beans work best when combined with grains to produce an alternative complete protein. Hummus, seed and nut butters are also rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals as well as EFA’s, they are easy to make and your infant will enjoy them. If you like you can puree meat and poultry from your own table for her.
Once started, your baby can have a meal of meat and alternative, vegetables and fruit for both lunch and supper. This meal pattern works well because when the baby is started on table foods, the same meal pattern can be continued into the toddler stage. It is recommended that a baby continue iron-fortified formula or breast milk until the baby is at least nine to twelve months of age. When the baby is taking three meals per day, the breast feeds or bottle are given after meals so that the appetite is not depressed for solid foods.
At one year of age, your baby can eat almost anything. She has a few teeth, so she can chew more and her digestive system can handle whole eggs, yogurt, fish, and wheat. She will want to feed herself and you should encourage her to do so as much as possible. You will still have to cut up her food, but she can pick up the pieces with her hand and put them in her mouth. She may miss occasionally, but she will learn. By this time, she should be eating at the table with the rest of the family. While enjoying meal times there is one danger; foods that can slip down her windpipe. She is not really ready yet for whole nuts, raw carrots or popcorn, small chunks she bites off can create trouble. These won’t be safe for her to eat until she is about eighteen months old.