Transitioning your baby to food is an important step in raising a healthy child. Not only is it critical for ensuring that your baby undergoes proper physical and mental development, but is also important in establishing healthy eating habits for the rest of their life.
First, I think the key with adding in foods is to make sure that your baby enjoys whole foods. Limiting processed foods, including many baby foods, is essential in this process. My bias is obviously a nutrient dense, animal based diet, but regardless of diet preference, whole foods is key.
The transition of Hank to normal food was quite a bit easier than I thought it would be as he essentially eats the exact same as I do. This approach is called baby led weaning and there are many great resources out there on how to do this properly. It started out with mostly sucking on the foods and spitting them out, but this is just fine as this means his primary source of nutrients is breast milk, which is optimal for a growing baby.
The first foods that Hank was given were meat from beef or lamb, liver, heart, bone broth, eggs, yogurt, fruit, and white rice. As you can see, the predominant foods on this list are animal foods and that is intentional. They are by far the most nutrient dense options for babies, are very easy on their digestion, and are least likely to trigger an immune response. Babies have limited enzyme production and it takes up to 28 months for all of this to ramp up properly, which can make it difficult for them to break down lots of complex carbohydrates.1 They do have the ability to break down protein and fat as these are the predominant nutrients in the mother’s milk, hence animal foods being the perfect option. Hunter-gatherers often feed liver as one of the preferred first foods and I can attest that if you give it to babies at a young age, they love it.
Cereal and grain based foods are the worst thing that you can introduce at this point. First, they are processed and the last thing you want is your baby hooked on processed food from a young age. Second, they have been associated with low nutrient status in infants as they are nutrient devoid and have phytates and other plant defense chemicals that reduce absorption of key nutrients.2 They are full of lectins and can stimulate the immune system inappropriately, especially with their underdeveloped gut.
The three big foods that I think are essential are egg yolks, liver, and muscle meat. If they get these three things then you will be off and running in the right direction.
Egg yolks in particular are rich in choline, cholesterol, healthy fats, and B-vitamins. They really are “nature’s multivitamin.” They house all the nutrients to grow a healthy baby and in the exact forms that you want. There is some concern that the white of the egg is the more allergenic component and could cause issues, but its also a great source of protein and we decided to give Hank the whole egg.
Meat will provide a great source of many b-vitamins as well as heme iron. Multiple studies have shown that good iron status is important for the baby’s brain development and subsequent intelligence. Heme iron is the most bioavailable form for humans and thus meat is an essential component of a baby’s diet. Don’t fear the animal fat as well! It has many of the fat soluble vitamins needed for immune system, skeletal, and many other aspects of development.
Liver is the most nutrient dense food on the face of the planet. Liver is an amazing source of b-vitamins, choline, minerals (like selenium, zinc, iron, etc.), vitamin A, and many more nutrients. It really is a power house. Anyone who thinks kale is a super food should take a look at the nutritional profile of liver compared to kale! This will give your baby the nutrients it needs to form all the cells and chemical messengers his body needs to grow and thrive.
As for plant foods, we have mostly stuck with sweet fruit, as it is easy to digest . Remember, fruit is the part of the plant that wants to be eaten and thus is best tolerated by our digestive tracts. Avocados, melons, mangoes, and strawberries have been Hank’s favorites so far. As far as vegetables go, he hasn’t had many. I am sure that we will probably expose him to some eventually, likely starting with fermented ones, but as of now we are happy with his diet.
  2. Are weaning foods causing impaired iron and zinc status in 1-year-old Swedish infants? A cohort study.