Ask Your Green Baby – How Much Food Should My Baby Eat

This week, I received a question on Twitter from a mom wondering how much food her baby should be eating when starting solids.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this or at least no answer to quantify how much. When your baby begins solids, he may have just a taste off your finger to a teaspoon or two. It really depends on your baby and his readiness, every baby is different, just like each of us adults is different.

The key is to follow your baby’s lead, instead of how much he has eaten. This is why I believe the most important cue that your baby is ready to start solids is the ability to show you he is done. This may be by turning the head, pushing your hand away or locking his lips. However he signals you, you must follow his signal and stop feeding. Babies have an amazing sense of their hunger and they follow it. We train that sense out of them when we force, coax or manipulate them to eat.

Also keep in mind, as you start solids, your baby’s main source of nourishment is your breast milk or formula. Anything they eat is really just “bonus” nourishment. If you keep this in mind feeding your baby becomes a fun filled, stress free time of your day.

As your baby gets accustomed to eating, he will begin to want more food, increase by following your baby’s lead, and when he cues you he is done, finish the meal.

Putting Gluten to the Test

As many of you know, we are a vegetarian, sugar free, gluten free, dairy free family…and we love it!!!!  As a nutritionist I often recommend holding off on introducing gluten containing grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut) until after your baby is 18 months.

I have several reasons for this recommendation:

  • The first, the enzymes to properly digest gluten are not present in full amounts until sometime between 12 and 18 months. Being the cautious person I am, I like to stick to 18 months and then I am sure the enzyme capacity is high enough to properly digest the gluten and not cause any digestive distress.

 

  • The second, if we were to introduce gluten grains earlier we risk increasing the chances of digestive distress. I have had many moms come to me with little ones suffering with small, hard to pass, compact stools, I have had babes straining way too hard to pass a bowel movement, I have had babes with bloating and gassiness and I have had babes with rashes and eczema  – none of this is fun for mom or baby.  I am not saying gluten is the cause of all of the digestive distress, rashes and eczema, but in my opinion it is one of many factors.  This is often proven by removing it and the other offending foods from the diet which results in a great improvement in symptoms.  

 

  • The third, if we know gluten is difficult to digest for our little ones, why have them waste energy on digestion of something difficult to digest when their little bodies need energy for so much more…growth, development, immune system function, health and well being. Let the digestive process be easy and smooth for maximum absorption of nutrients with little energy expended.

Now we have not always been a gluten free family, and since we do not any have allergies to gluten it was not truly necessary for us to become gluten free. Our first step on the gluten free path was switching from whole grain products to sprouted grain products. The sprouting process increases the digestibility of the grains…basically it makes them easier to digest.  You can imagine our surprise when both my husband and I felt better on sprouted grains – we were better able to digest these grains, had less bloating and just overall felt better. That was 2007.

Jump forward to 2008 and the birth of Reece. It seemed Reece had some digestive issues at the beginning of our breastfeeding relationship, so I made some changes to my diet to see if that would help, and happily it did.  I removed gluten and dairy from my diet and we noticed great improvement in Reece.

Heading into starting solids; real food, from scratch was our plan for Reece; he ate a vegan diet until he was one, when we began to include some egg yolks into his diet. He was grain free until nine months, when we introduced some gluten free grains (quinoa, millet, and amaranth).  We had decided to remain a gluten free family and up until the last six months had not introduced Reece to gluten.

As a nutritionist, I just had to test Reece’s tolerance to gluten, and so over the last six months or so we have done a few tests to see how he reacts.

We started out with some whole grain bread at a little cafe where we were having lunch. They had hummus on the menu but no gluten free bread or crackers (usually I would have had some with me, but on this day we were unexpectedly delayed and should have been home for lunch). So Reece enjoyed a lunch of whole grain bread dipped in hummus. I was okay with this as I knew it was time to see how well he digested it. All seemed fine for the rest of the day and throughout the evening; it was the next morning trouble hit. Reece has, from the start, been a great pooper. He is regular, at least two, and sometimes three bowel movements per day, they are soft, easy to pass and don’t smell too bad at all (forgive me, this is the nutritionist in me coming out, your little’s one bowel movements tell you so much about their health and well being and I can’t help but examine his poops). The morning after our gluten test Reece had his very first pebble like, hard packed, hard to pass bowel movement. The poor little guy was not happy and neither was I.

Now I couldn’t go on just one test, I wanted to make sure gluten was the culprit. So a few months after that first try, we tried again. And guess what, the same thing happened.  Now I am not saying gluten is definitely the problem, but since it is the one common thread in both exposures, I feel confident in making that conclusion. And I am not saying he is allergic or even sensitive to gluten, just that he seems to have some difficulty digesting it.

I still wasn’t finished with my testing though, I wanted to try him out on some sprouted grains. We did this at home; since we had been eating this before Reece was born we just picked up a loaf at the grocery store and served it up. And guess what, no issues.  So although his little body had some issues with digesting the gluten unsprouted grains, it seems once they were sprouted and their digestibility enhanced Reece was able to tolerate them.  We have since added some sprouted grains back into our diet and so far all is good.

So I guess we can now be considered a vegetarian, sugar free, dairy free, sprouted grain family.

Are you a gluten free family? Why? Do you have specific health issues with gluten or do you just feel better when you have removed it from your diet?

Let’s Talk Baby Poo

Many people don’t like to talk about poo; it can be an embarrassing subject. It is important to realize though, your baby’s poo gives you a little peek into what is going on inside his body.

Let’s first start by discussing colour; there are many colours which are considered normal when we are talking about baby poo.

Green-black. During the first few days after birth, your baby’s bowel movements are greenish-black and tarry. This type of baby poo is known as meconium. It is a mixture of a build up of skin cells, mucus, amniotic fluid and water.

Green-brown. The meconium is now replaced with green-brown bowel movements, as your baby begins digesting breast milk or formula about three days after birth.

Yellow. By about five days after birth, breastfed babies usually have seedy, loose bowel movements that are mustard yellow in colour.

Light brown. Formula-fed babies usually have light brown, pasty bowel movements. The colour may sometimes take on a yellow, tan or green shade.

Dark brown. Once your baby starts eating solid food, around six months, they will usually have dark brown bowel movements. You may also find chunks of undigested food in your baby’s bowel movements.

Other colours. Babies eating solid food may occasionally have bowel movements in seemingly odd colors. Baby poo may look red after eating beets or may contain streaks of dark blue after eating blueberries.

Now let’s move on to frequency. A lot has been written about how often a baby should have a bowel movement…and I will say this, every baby is different, and just like sleep patterns or food likes/dislikes, no two babies will be the same. Now in saying that, our bodies are designed to work in a pattern of food goes in, food should come out scenario. With that in mind it would make sense that as one meal goes in a previous one should come out. In a perfect world maybe, but we know we don’t live in a perfect world, so what can you expect.

Breastfed babies should have between 6 to 10 bowel movements per day for the first couple of weeks, and then it should drop down to about 2 to 5 per day. You may also notice your breastfed baby skipping a day or two, as long as your baby is healthy and gaining weight, this is perfectly normal. Breast milk is very absorbable and your baby utilizes every bit of it leaving little to be removed from the body.

If you are formula feeding your baby, bowel movements can vary greatly in the beginning, but your baby should be producing a minimum of one bowel movement daily. Formula requires your baby’s digestion system to work a little harder, and since it is not as absorbable as breast milk, it will leave your baby with waste to be removed from the body.

And now the biggest concern of many parents…constipation. Constipation is not the absence of bowel movements; it is hard packed stools which require some straining to pass. Basically what happens is the poo sits in the intestines waiting to be passed. As it sits there water is reabsorbed back into the body; the longer it sits the more water is reabsorbed and the harder the poo gets, making it difficult and sometimes painful for your baby to pass. Although infants under 6 months can be constipated, most of the moms I work with are dealing with constipation which begins when their baby begins eating solid foods.

The first culprit tends to be rice cereal. With your baby’s inability to properly digested grains due to a lack of enzymes and the iron fortification of rice cereal which is known to cause constipation, I highly recommend avoidance of rice cereal as baby’s first food. As solid food introduction begins it is important to ensure purees are thin in consistency, especially the fibrous vegetables. Fibre is excellent for ensuring bowel health but too much fibre and not enough water is the perfect storm for constipation to occur. Remember your baby is new to digesting foods; his digestive system still has a lot to learn. I have heard of some parents lately beginning food introduction with meat. It is important to keep in mind meat has no fibre and can be difficult for your baby to digest. If you have chosen meat as a first food, serve it up with some fibre rich fruit and vegetables and ensure adequate hydration.

Some parents find they have no bowel issues when their baby starts solids, but constipation hits in the toddler years. There are many foods which can trigger constipation in a toddler including dairy, wheat and gluten. Gluten is a protein found in some grains including wheat, kamut, spelt, rye and barley. Constipation can also be triggered by an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods – again the common culprits are those listed above. So what can you do? Become a detective…remove these possible triggers from your toddler’s diet for one month and then add them back in one at a time looking for signs to show up. Keep in mind, just like solid food introduction; it can take up to 72 hours for a reaction to show up.

So your little one is constipated, here are a few things you can do to help ease the situation.

• Increase water intake

• Give flaxseed oil as a stool softener – start with 1tsp and slowly increase as needed to 2tbsp per day

• Probiotics – continue giving daily probiotics, if you have been giving, if not, start. Probiotics are “good” bugs for our digestive tract and help to normalize digestive function as well as stimulate peristalsis (the movement of the large intestine to move waste through the colon).

• Give dried fruits – apricots, prunes and raisins all have a laxative effect. Prune juice also works well.

• Castor oil – rub a twoonie size amount over abdomen and lower back before bed, this can help to clear the blockage

Keep in mind finding the root cause, why your little one is constipated, is important, as treating the symptom will not solve the constipation long term, only offer relief for short periods of time.

Has your little one been constipated? What, if anything, did you do to help your little one out?

Infant Digestion

Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, rashes, eczema – many parents believe these symptoms to be “normal” complaints your baby experiences as you begin the journey of food introduction. Well I am here to tell you it is not normal, it is actually far from normal. Your baby’s digestive system at birth is permeable; basically it has little holes throughout the small intestine. While this may sound bad, it is actually a very good thing – it allows for maximum absorption of nutrients from your breast milk or formula for your baby’s optimum nourishment; isn’t Mother Nature amazing. This permeability also explains why many babies may experience mild food sensitivities (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, rashes, eczema) as food particles are able to pass through these tiny holes into the blood system. The immune system recognizes these particles as invaders and sets out an immune response – which may show up as digestive complaints, rashes or eczema. As the digestive system matures and develops your baby may outgrow these sensitivities. If your baby’s digestive system is allowed to mature and develop and if it is not stressed by the early introduction of food your baby will be at less risk for the above “normal” complaints.

Typical food introduction beings with rice cereal, I have written about my thoughts on rice cereal here. One issue with rice cereal and really any grain is enzyme production. Enzymes are catalysts required for us to properly breakdown food. The breakdown of grains actually begins in the mouth; saliva produces enzymes to begin the breakdown of grains. In your baby the enzymes required for this breakdown are not present until 5 to 6 months of age. The breakdown and digestion of grains continues in the small intestine where more enzymes are released. The enzymes in the small intestine do not begin to appear until around 9 months of age and do not reach their full potential until 18 months of age. The lack of enzyme production and the inability to properly digest grains can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients and lead to low weight gain and poor health.

Allow your baby’s digestive system to develop and mature, it is essential for avoiding allergies, sensitivities and digestive difficulties and to ensure optimum nourishment and immune health.

Here is a peek at the suggested food introduction schedule I recommend:

Six to Nine Months
Banana
Apples (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Pear (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Blueberries (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Apricots (choose sulphite free dried fruits)
Prunes (choose sulphite free dried fruits)
Figs (choose sulphite free dried fruits)
Raisins (choose sulphite free dried fruits)
Carrots
Yams
Sweet potato
Butternut squash
Parsnips
Green peas
Broccoli
Avocado
Cauliflower
Turnip
Green beans
Beets

Nine to Twelve Months
Peach (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Cherries (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Pineapple
Papaya
Nectarine (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Mango
Kiwi
Plum
Melon
Swiss chard
Other squash
Kale
Collards
Spinach (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Turnip
Asparagus
Eggplant
Turnip
Pepper (organic best, pesticide residues are extremely high)
Onion
Garlic
Blackstrap molasses – great in pureed foods to increase iron content (choose organic and sulphite free)

Legumes
Lima beans
Kidney beans
Peas
Lentils
Split peas
Chickpeas

Gluten Free Grains
Quinoa
Amaranth
Buckwheat
Millet
Oatmeal (choose oatmeal ground in facility that is free of wheat or grind your own oats)
Teff

Herbs and Spices

Tempted to begin food introduction early? Wait, be patient, continue breastfeeding or formula feeding and let your baby’s digestive system fully develop.

What were your experiences with food introduction?

 

© Your Green Baby 2010