Since having Ottava, one question I get a lot is what in the world do I feed her? And because I’m eating a grain free diet, do I do the same for her? In the simplest way to say it, yes, we are raising a grain free baby. I call it Paleo(ish) because we aren’t doing any cow dairy for her, because she reacts to it. Even if she was able to eat it, I would still limit it and choose carefully on the quality.
Feeding our baby grain free was something I had been planning on doing for the last 6 years. I learned about grains and babies and decided this was the route we were taking. I want to promote a healthy gut in our kiddo in the best ways I know how. Eating grain free isn’t necessarily hard, but it does take more time, thought and effort to prepare meals. It is doable, especially if you have a reason why.
Why do I feed our baby grain free?
It’s my best understanding with the research and science that babies should be grain free for the first 1-5 years of their life. Now I know that’s a really wide range, but that’s what I’ve read. And sometimes ancient grains are in the diet from 2-5. Here’s my take after sifting through all of research. My best recommendation is for their first two years of life I believe kiddos should be grain free. Possibly with the exception of quinoa, which isn’t technically a grain.
Infants and toddlers guts aren’t ready to process and digest grains appropriately until 2 years old. Their tight junctions in their gut are still open (which means things go in and out) until 2 years old because they are meant to be able to readily bring nutrients into their gut from breastmilk until the age of two. You can think of it like mom and baby kind of share an immune system, if that makes sense. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, I believe it’s important to stay grain free for baby. Grains are one of the biggest gut irritants of any foods we eat. We were never meant to eat the high quantities of grains we have available to us today.
Before you think I’m too crazy, I’ll tell you from a mom who’s doing a grain free diet for baby (and learning from other mom’s who do the same), it is doable. You can do what you set your mind to. You may not be able to buy the puff snacks or grab a piece of bread for a snack, but there are a lot of great foods for travel that aren’t too messy.
For the first year of a child’s life, the majority of their calories and food should come from breastmilk or formula. Real food doesn’t take that place. Babies will eat more food and decrease their milk intake as they get older, but should remain the same for the first year of life.
If you don’t feed your baby grains, what can they eat?
This is a really common question. I get it, when you decided to feed your baby grain free you eliminate bread, noodles, oatmeal, cereal, crackers and a lot of baked goods. Although I think there are aspects to feeding Ottava grains free that are so easy, quick foods and snack are definitely harder.
Here is an example of the balance I try and create for each of her meals. I’m going to describe it in servings. Now servings aren’t a set amount of food because that will vary with your baby’s age and appetite. It’s just a way to visualize the balance.
- 1 serving of protein
- 2-3 servings of vegetables (any kind of vegetable, including starchy veggies)
- 1-2 servings of fat
This is a typical meal for Ottava. She definitely gets more food and other things than this, but those are more for snacks or additional foods when she’s still hungry after a meal. Here’s some of the additions I make to her base food:
- Fruit: freeze dried or fresh. We pretty much only do berries and pears in our house. If we branch out she will get some banana, orange or grapefruit. I try and keep fruit (other than berries) to snacks on the go, in pouches, or when we are out of the house. I don’t want her to have a real sweet tooth or love things too sweet. Right now, I still want her to enjoy the uniquely flavored foods. We like these freeze dried strawberries.
- Peanut butter: She’s obsessed with nut butters. And they have some protein and good fats. I will add them to some of her food or else give her some on a spoon to keep her busy until her meal is ready. Sometimes she will even ask for it at the end of her meal. I think she thinks that’s dessert and I’m ok with it!
- Baby Food Pouches: I swore I wasn’t going to be the mom who served pouches. Guess what, they are great when you need one! I don’t love the pouches for a couple of reasons. #1, I believe babies need to touch their food and really understand food has textures. We rarely do a pouch at home because of this reason, you don’t want to unintentionally create a picky eater. We spoon fed Ottava out of the pouch for the first year of her life, now I’ll let her suck the food out of the pouch. The baby food pouches aren’t as nutrient dense as foods at home because of the process of making them. It’s not to say you can’t use them, it’s just to say you shouldn’t use them, they are incredibly convenient. The last thing I’ll say on pouches is that you want to make sure to check the sugar content. No, they don’t add sugar to pouches. But some of them are made with very high sugar content fruits and vegetables. I only buy pouches with 8g of sugar or less. Some of them have up to 14g of sugar and I think that’s too much for a baby at one time. I really like the pouches with 4-5g of sugar and buy those the most. I like the ones that are clear so I can see if there is any mold in it, and I always taste first to make sure it’s good to go. So far, so good. We started using pouches at around 9 months old.
- Teething Biscuits: These are a major favorite in our household. Ottava has at least one per day. They taught her to bite food and learn how to eat chunks better. The recipe can be found at my friend Kate’s website Real Food RN. I make a double batch and freeze them. We started these around 11 months, but you could a little earlier too.
- Creamies or Freeze Dried Fruit: Oh how I wish companies made freeze dried veggies. But, they don’t. We will do freeze dried fruits or creamies (find them here) when we are out and about or for a quick snack. They are easy, melt in her mouth, and don’t make too much of a mess!
- Goat and Sheep Cheese Products: She loves goat cheese and sheep yogurt (not goat yogurt though). It’s a great snack and addition to her meal. Everything is better with a bit of cheese, right? If she wasn’t so allergic to cow’s dairy, I would give her some grass-fed dairy products, ideally raw. Each kid is so different, so listen to your kiddos. Ear infections are a sign of a dairy sensitivity. Ottava is still breastfeeding so she doesn’t need any additional milk in her diet.
- Seaweed Snacks: These are easy, fun to eat, and have some good nutrients. Make sure to find ones with good fats/oils in it. Don’t get fooled and buy ones with canola oil. (Find them Here)
- Lentil Noodles: Guess what? You can actually give your kiddo noodles, we find lentil noodles at Trader Joe’s or Online. Make sure to read the ingredients to make sure they don’t have any rice or corn in them. Recently a brand I used often started adding rice to some of their lentil noodles.
There you have it. Now, I’ve only fed one kiddo and am still learning so much. I want you to know I’m no expert on this. I am very passionate about feeding your baby great foods though and want to share what works for us and what I’m learning in this whole raising a Paleo(ish) baby process.
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