That karate chop I busted out on poor Uncle Charlie when he made an attempt to give my first baby a bite of dirt cake at 7 months old? May have been overkill, it turns out.
When that little-baby-who-is-now-an-alarmingly-old-kid was born over a decade ago, the recommendation from our pediatrician on introducing first foods included warnings to avoid the top common allergens until at least a year: strawberries, tomatoes, shellfish, nuts, cow’s milk (although we did yogurt and cheese, so ???), egg whites, and maybe wheat and soy and corn although – surprisingly – I don’t think so! Peanuts were not advised until two years.
The thought at the time, or at least how I understood it, was that, to reduce the risk of developing an allergy, the baby’s system shouldn’t be exposed to the potential allergen. The idea was that a body needed to experience a food in order to be allergic to it.
I followed those rules with extreme dedication.
I remember once reading the side of a Jiffy cornbread mix box, trying to figure out if it was safe to feed it to the baby, who was probably 10-11 months at the time. I didn’t see anything objectionable (you all see the irony here, right?) and we shared some with him. I freaked out later when I realized that – hello! – in the process of making the bread I added an egg.
A whole egg!
The world was about to come crashing down because I had poisoned our son!
In reality we just learned: Well, I guess he’s not allergic to whole eggs. That’s good.
But that’s really how I felt, that if baby got even a touch of a contraband food, that not only was I a bad mom but also that he would be injured irreparably for life.
RELATED: Breastfed Baby Allergies
Then I Knew Better
By the time baby number three came along six years later, I thought I had it all figured out. I really saw the error of my ways with 1 & 2, feeding them rice cereal at such an early age. I read about how the gut isn’t equipped to digest grains until 12-18 months and determined that this baby would not have grains until at least a year and no gluten for sure until 18 months. We didn’t want to risk allergies or leaky gut problems!!
I tsk-tsked in my head every time I saw an under-one-year-old noshing on crackers at church. It started feeling like grains were the enemy in a big way.
And we set off on the same path when number four was born in the fall of 2014, without doing any new research on how to feed babies. I mean, I knew what I was doing already!
But now everything is flipped on its head – newer research is constantly coming out, and the progression has been a complete one-eighty from ten years ago. As each subsequent Kimball kid was born, our ped told us that things were changing and that it wasn’t as important to hold off on potential allergens until a year if the family has no history of allergies. I still felt like grains and gluten were a no-no…but I was wrong.
To top it off, Gabe seems to be allergic to eggs, and when that reaction (severe vomiting) started happening with his very first solid food, egg yolk, I have to admit my reaction was to feed him practically nothing. We were so concerned about a potential reaction that we didn’t introduce much at ALL! Wrong again…
I sat down for a very eye-opening and humbling chat this month with Catherine Clinton, ND, founder of WellFuture and the creator of WellBelly probiotic (the one that Gabe takes now).
This post is sponsored by WellFuture – thanks for a great sponsor who is committed to educating all of us, especially little old me!
Why You Should Let Your Baby Lick Your Spoon
The newer research – dozens of studies converging – is showing that eating food is a lot like the germ theory.
The germ theory? In recent years we have realized that sterilizing our world with bleach and antibacterial everything wasn’t the best idea. As we discussed in January with Jena from Clean’s the New Black, our immune system needs to learn about germs by exposure to them in order to become strong and developed.
That’s why kids getting dirty is a good thing.
The gut is the same way. It needs to learn about foods by exposure, which is why Catherine jokes about starting a “Lick the Spoon” campaign to encourage parents to let their babies get a little taste of a lot of foods from their own plates.
But that’s not just a recommendation to “start solids” during that time. It’s a recommendation to expose your baby to as many different foods as possible during that window!!
Grains. Gluten. Eggs. Strawberries. Tomatoes. Chili powder. Avocado. Chicken. Oranges. Kale.
List all the foods you eat (except honey) and that’s the list your baby should taste once they’re old enough to have signs of readiness for eating (tongue thrust reflex, interest in food, etc.) but before they turn 7 months old.
I bet our Gabe only had about 5 foods introduced during that window!
(Did I mention how I hate being wrong? Ugh!)
First Foods Can Actually Prevent Allergies
What really blows me away, because it’s so different from anything I’ve done, is that it really only needs to be a taste.
We want the baby’s gut to have an exposure to food, not necessarily an inundation with the food.
The foundation is in the microbiome – and the latest research indicates that we need to be exposed to both germs and food from an early age to train the DNA of our gut bacteria, to teach them what to do with the food later. One study from Japan demonstrated that eating seaweed literally teaches their guts to be able to digest that seaweed. There is a marine bacteria on the seaweed that traded DNA with the gut flora, and without needing to wait for generations for the humans to adapt, the microbiome evolved in a much shorter span of time (less than a human lifetime). This bacteria is not part of the microbiome in other, non-seaweed-eating countries.
Like raw milk includes the enzyme lactase which helps both calves and humans digest the lactose in cow’s milk, it seems that other foods also come with their own “helper systems” for digestion that are particular to that food. (But this applies to both cooked and raw food, so it’s not all about the enzymes! In fact, Dr. Catherine said that dead bacteria seem to be able to teach our bodies plenty about the world too, and she expects that we’ll be having a wave of “eat your dead bacteria” messages coming out over the next few decades. It has the potential to be the “next big thing” in health recommendations.)
For now, supplementing with probiotics at all ages, but especially WellBelly, formulated for tiny tummies, is another piece of the puzzle. Mainly because our world is so damaged by what we humans have done, we need this additional layer of protection and gut-building power.
Just remember it’s not about how much you eat, but rather the variety and the window of the child’s age.
Dr. Catherine stressed over and over that breast milk is the best nourishment from birth through one year of age, and any food introduced before the child’s first birthday is really more of an exploration, not intended sustenance. In fact, breast milk is a key player in this entire equation – it’s thought that the enzymes in breast milk actually help teach the child’s gut how to react to all the various foods it is encountering in the early days.
I’d say it’s kind of like training wheels on a bike. You’ve got a safety net to catch you because your balance isn’t so great, but you can learn important bike-riding skills like pedaling, steering, getting on and off, etc. Mom’s milk does some of the work of digestion so the baby’s system can watch and learn.
So we inoculate our babies with foods.
We give them a bite of this here, a bite of that there. A lick of our spoons as we eat curried meats and veggies in a coconut cream sauce or dip our carrots into homemade hummus.
It’s not about giving them a bowl of chili and letting them have at it, but rather giving their system a wide range of experience with food, while they’re still getting the help from breast milk, so that later, their guts can say to their native bacteria, “Ok guys, we’ve seen this one before, remember when Mom helped us take care of this one? It’s friend, not foe, and we know what to do.”
The way I was introducing food – hardly at all – is more like what people experience when they’re raised in a strict environment, lots of rules, perhaps a straight-laced Catholic school, and then they leave home at the tender age of 18 and go to a secular college. Their systems have had no experience with the world at large, so they can tend to react by overindulging, hanging out with the wrong people, partying all the time and flunking out of school after many a Saturday hangover.
That’s the food allergies. The body hasn’t been taught how to handle precarious situations, like eating, in a safe environment, so it goes nuts and reacts in the wrong way.
But Can Babies Digest Grains?
I feel like it’s been a pretty widely accepted mantra the past few years, that babies’ guts simply don’t have the necessary enzymes to digest grains until they are 12-24 months (depending on your source).
In adults, the enzyme amylase is the main player in grain digestion, and it’s produced by the pancreas. In babies, it is true that that particular organ isn’t functioning at full power yet and isn’t producing amylase in sufficient amounts to digest grains.
There are actually THREE other places that infants have amylase, plenty sufficient to digest grains:
- Mother’s breast milk is very high in it.
- Baby’s saliva produces a lot of amylase, reaching 2/3 the level of an adult’s by 3 months.
- The lining of the immature gut itself actually releases amylase as well, all in sufficient amounts to make grains not a problem for infants over 4 months. (In fact baby’s gut reaches an adult level of amylase by one month of age.)
If you want to learn more about this, Dr. Catherine wrote a post on the research behind babies digesting grains, and it’s a nice quick read.
The Research Says…
My interview with Dr. Catherine was nearly an hour, and we talked about a lot. She also sent over plenty of studies that you can read for yourself to really get to the bottom of the latest understanding of food introduction. (See end of post for references.)
I did my best to summarize the main points of our conversation, and this is what I came up with:
- Introducing food to a newborn before 3 months still isn’t a good thing for the gut development and potential allergies. So no rice cereal in the bottles to help a one-month-old sleep!
- The “sweet spot” for introducing foods as a sort of “inoculation” to teach the gut how to digest those foods seems to be 4-7 months, in association with breastfeeding. (Dr. Catherine leans toward 5 months to start, to give the baby’s gut more of a buffer from the “before 3 months” time during which food is still a negative.)
- Many foods should be introduced during that time – not massive servings or even as a regular part of the baby’s diet, but an initial oral introduction. Think of letting baby “lick the spoon.”
- Should parents make a checklist of things babies have been introduced to? Maybe. OR just roll with it and keep in your head. Be more chill!
- The old advice to wait 3 days between each new food is still important for families who already have a history of IgE food allergies (for example, did you read Mary’s story this week about her kids’ allergies? Chilling!) But for those with pretty clean allergy histories, it’s likely not necessary. Just let them nibble, within reason.
- Germs and dirt play a role in our gut microbiome and how we react to food too! Sanitizing the world has led to many gut problems – so avoiding bleach and antibacterial sprays is part of helping introduce baby to the world and build their healthy guts.
- About grains and digestive enzymes: the pancreatic enzyme amylase isn’t secreted in children until 18 months, but there are other places babies get that same enzyme to digest grains! So they are equipped to digest grains just fine.
- The adult microbiome actually seems to be set into place NOT during the birth process, not when food is introduced, but when the child is weaned from breast milk.
- Therefore the most important aspect seems to be introducing foods while mother’s breast milk is still present to help baby with the necessary enzymes and bacteria to do the job.
- And finally…stress, naturally, is horrid for gut flora. So try not to stress out about the whole eating thing!
During the “sweet spot” window of 5-7 months, baby still has the protection of breast milk but also the permeability of the gut lining that seems to provide the ability for inoculation, to create a tolerance to individual foods. This is all related to TH3 “tolerance” responses…which is a little above my head, but it basically says that the exact reason we didn’t want to introduce food – the leaky gut – is the reason why we need to introduce it all, but just a little bit.
What Can I do Moving Forward?
I felt a little sheepish and a lot like that day I fed my oldest the cornbread with egg when I realized I’ve already missed the boat on best practice here.
So now what?
Did I doom Gabe to more allergies?
I couldn’t think that way; I just had to do the best I could once outside the window of 5-7 months. The research is clear that introducing foods, particularly a few studies done on wheat, is best when the child is still breastfeeding. So before I’d planned, at about 17 months, we let him have a bite of homemade tortilla, and I made it a point to nurse him right after the meal.
At the very least consider his gut inoculated.
Thank goodness he wasn’t weaned yet back when I first did this interview, so I feel like even though I missed the true sweet spot, I was still within the malleable period of breastfeeding.
I’m also glad we use WellBelly with its targeted probiotics for infants and children, since Gabe was eating food at 6 months. The additional gut flora building there can only help.
And perhaps there’s a silver lining here for all moms of crawling babies – you can stress out less about all the gigantic “crumbs” that fall to the floor during dinner, since it would actually be good if little ones got under there and inoculated themselves on some foods! Ha!
NATURAL BABY CARE COURSE
I’m so happy to introduce you to Genevieve from Mama Natural. I loved her video series for years before I met her and I’m proud now that our families have become dear friends. She’s such a sweet, genuine woman!
Not only do I love her weekly pregnancy updates, but she is now offering a Natural Baby Care Course. I wish I had this with mine!
Imagine having access to a team of expert health professionals in your home, whenever you need them, as you raise your newborn.
- A holistic pediatrician to give you tips on what to feed your baby.
- A board certified lactation consultant to help you master breastfeeding.
- And a firefighter / CPR instructor to make you aware and prepared.
This is a masterclass in everyday baby care. You’ll be supported for ALL the challenges that come up with baby in this program.
- It’s easy to access. Watch the classes on your own schedule. No traveling across town after a long day at work.
- It’s comfortable. Learn in the privacy of your own home—no sterile classrooms filled with rows of uncomfortable chairs. Simply curl up in your favorite spot and soak it all in.
- It’s fast, but comprehensive. Other baby care courses speed through the most important topics to cover it all. We don’t do that. Instead, we unpack all of the issues that come up postpartum, but we do so in small chunks so you can squeeze the education into your busy life.
- It’s affordable. Our course is priced lower than in-person classes and less than most online alternatives as well.
More of a book person? You must check out Genevieve’s week-by-week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth. It’s the natural answer to “What to Expect” and soooo comprehensive and beautiful!!
Attention, Skimmers! It’s Not About 3 Squares of Baby Cereal!!
I know we all read quickly these days, and I hate to make people think that they have the green light to feed their 5-month-olds rice cereal 3 times a day.
It’s NOT about nourishment. It’s literally about a TASTE.
You could make a checklist. But mamas have a LOT on their plates and a lot to juggle, and honestly? That just gets complicated. Or you could just let baby have a taste of everything you’re eating at the table after 5 months. Do the “lick the spoon” thing and think of it all as truly an introduction, not actual feeding.
It only takes one taste.
It’s not time to start baby on 3 meals a day of rice cereal and snacks of puffs.
If you don’t have a bunch of allergies to be afraid of, you can worry a lot less about the whole “introduce only one food at a time” thing.
Just chill out. Let baby participate in family life, including food.
Let them lick your spoon.
Here’s Dr. Catherine’s summary of the whole issue:
The research also points to the importance breast feeding plays in preventing allergies. Food introduction in tandem with breast feeding is clearly correlated with a decreased risk of celiac disease (one study showed a 52% decrease in celiac if wheat is introduced with breast milk) and allergic diseases. I think that waiting for the latter part of the range, around 5-7 months, is a great time to start introducing solids to baby. By introducing solids, I mean a true introduction, not using solids for nourishment. Nourishment at this age and until at least 12 months should come primarily from breast milk. So this food introduction would look like a taste of whatever the family is eating, rather than a serving of food.
- Interview with Dr. Catherine Cilnton on March 4, 2016.
- Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J. & Shannon, F. T. Early Solid Feeding and Recurrent Childhood Eczema: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics 86, 541–546 (1990).
- Norris, J. M. et al. Risk of celiac disease autoimmunity and timing of gluten introduction in the diet of infants at increased risk of disease. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 293, 2343–2351 (2005).
- Norris, J. M. et al. Timing of initial cereal exposure in infancy and risk of islet autoimmunity. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 290, 1713–1720 (2003).
- Wilson, A. C. et al. Relation of infant diet to childhood health: seven year follow up of cohort of children in Dundee infant feeding study. BMJ 316, 21–25 (1998).
- Cohen, R. J., Brown, K. H., Dewey, K. G., Canahuati, J. & Landa Rivera, L. Effects of age of introduction of complementary foods on infant breast milk intake, total energy intake, and growth: a randomised intervention study in Honduras. The Lancet 344, 288–293 (1994).
- Poole, J. A. et al. Timing of Initial Exposure to Cereal Grains and the Risk of Wheat Allergy. Pediatrics 117, 2175–2182 (2006).
- Wells, J. C. et al. Randomized controlled trial of 4 compared with 6 mo of exclusive breastfeeding in Iceland: differences in breast-milk intake by stable-isotope probe. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 96, 73–79 (2012).
- Akobeng AK, Ramanan AV, Buchan I, Heller RF. Effect of breast feeding on risk of coeliac disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Arch Dis Child. 2006;91(1):39–43
43 thoughts on “Don’t Hold Back: Feed the Baby Earlier, Current Research Says”
Great stuff. As we learn more about the microbiome, we learn we share bacteria with every family member including the pets and I grew up kissing the pets on the lips. I had a friend whose little girl at about 2, I think would eat raw garlic from a whole piece, she chewed and would work on it for hours.
I was never lactose intolerant but I think it’s because in the 60’s the milk was still raw and had cream on top. And delivered to the front step. It was a very different thing. Now I have goats and they are a joy and I love their milk. But if they aren’t on their vitamins their milk is indeed yucky. Nutrition is a huge factor.
There is a pharmacy ex saleswoman, who discovered that it was the ingredients in the vaccines, peanut oil, eggs, etc, that were used in the process of creating the vaccines that tended to make children allergic to these normal foods. Because we aren’t putting them through the alimentary canal, we are bypassing that and forcing them in to the tissues dretly. This is turning out to be a bad thing.
Loved this post! I laughed out loud at the first paragraph. This really makes so much sense to me; babies start grabbing for food at that age so it’s natural to give them a little taste of what you’re eating. My baby is 9 months now and I was pretty careful not to give her grains or dairy until just recently. I wish I would have known!
I hear you, we just can’t give ourselves guilt trips – lots of years of parenting left for that wee one, and you’re doing awesome!! 🙂 Katie
I’m curious if you have any advice for those of us who did avoid all the high allergen foods and now have very picky eaters. We were in the process of moving and I took hold of the idea of waiting to introduce grains, eggs, nuts, corn, etc. until 12 months with my middle daughter. She was breast fed until she was 15 months, but I didn’t expose her to many foods until after 12 months and she tended to gag at new tastes and textures. She is still very picky. My youngest is now 15 months. I was much more relaxed with her and allowed her to taste a lot of things (I think I went with my intuition the most with her). Anyways, thoughts on ways to redeem what might have been lost in exposure for my now 4.5 year old. She doesn’t have allergies, but, like I said, is extremely picky. Thanks!
I have found that even the best toddler eaters go “picky” from 2-5 years old. The whole time. So your 4.5 yo is totally normal, at least according to my data set of n=4 kids! 😉
Just keep offering all foods to both kids, and maybe little sis will be a good example too. I’ll be doing a couple webinars on raising adventurous eaters in October, so be sure to watch for signup opportunities for those!
Thanks so much, Katie! I’ll look forward to that series!
Hi Megan! Not sure if you saw the event but I’m doing one tonight and the same one Saturday – hope you can make one of the times!
So sorry to hear that Gabe has an egg allergy! So frustrating after all the careful food planning. My second child also vomits with egg, so I’m commiserating with you! Egg yolk was her first food at 6 months and after sever vomiting, I gave her hardly anything but breastmilk and some broth for about a month after that! My first child and I love eggs for breakfast and it’s such a pain to have to prepare two different breakfasts. Not to mention trying to bake with coconut flour and the million eggs it requires. How have you made this work with the rest of your family? Do you think he’ll grow out of it? I tried giving her egg yolk at 6 months, 7 months, 9 months, which resulted in vomiting each time, and at 12 months tried whole egg, which resulted in bad diarrhea. We just did a blood test at 16 months and it was negative. I’m wondering what age to try again. I always thought of breastmilk as the inoculation to various foods, but I’ll have to change my religious devotion to WAPF “Super Nutrition for Babies” and incorporate “lick the spoon” if I ever have baby #3!
We are pretty sure that Gabe has FPIES, which is purely an intestinal allergy. A skin test wouldn’t pick up the egg issue, which means the only way to find out if he’s grown out of it is to…give him some. Eek! We do hope he will (or already has) but we haven’t tested it for 18 mos. Oops. I just never wake up and think, “I have pretty much nothing to do today, it’s a great day to throw up for 4 hours…” BUT now that the kids are back in school, I’m going to dedicate one of my days off work to egg testing. Wish me luck!
For now, whenever we have eggs or egg pancakes in the morning, which is OFTEN, Gabe has either yogurt, leftover oatmeal (which he will eat cold, praise be to God) or buckwheat egg-free pancakes that we have frozen. When the frozen bag runs out, we have a double batch that week for everyone and freeze all the extras for Gabe. Same when I bake with coconut flour – I try to have a GF flour egg-free muffin frozen for him. He also just doesn’t get as many desserts, since we always have to say “no cake, no cookies” if we’re out of the house! But I am so hopeful that he will have grown out of it!
First of all i wanted to say thank you for this article. I will start having my 7 month old son tasting more things from our meals 🙂
However i wanted to ask, since its been a few years, did your son outgrow his egg allergy? My son has vomited intensely 2 hours or so after giving him some egg yolk so i was curious. No one in our family has an egg allergy.
He did outgrow it! He had FPIES, which is severe vomiting and/or diarrhea 2 hours after eating the trigger food. Many kids outgrow it by age 3. Sounds like your son might fit those symptoms. I hope you can find some more answers and it isn’t more serious.
thank you so much for your reply. I will keep this mind… i will try to give it to him again but in a few months…fingers crossed!
I am much like you, avoiding certain foods like the plague, and introducing others in an orderly, well-calculated way. And now my world is turned upside down!!! I have heard of this information before, but didn’t know it’s merit. Thank you for this article! I’ve got 6 kids, and with my first 5, I followed what is considered now “old” advice. Now with my 6th, who is literally 2 weeks away from turing 7 months, I don’t know how to proceed. He has not had any solids yet.
What do I do now? My 4th kid has a few severe, life threatening food allergies to nuts/peanuts and all dairy, and food sensitivities to some other foods: eggs, wheat, tomatoes.
But ironically my 5th has no food allergies, though she’s 3 years old and has never had peanuts, due to my fear of her being severely allergic like my 4th.
Doctors I see locally do NOT know of this information, and cannot provide me with any guidance. It is kind of upsetting, actually, because I want to do what’s best, giving my 6th his best chance at avoiding food allergies, but they hold true to the “old” ways, not knowing there is new science out there.
In 2 weeks time, should I introduce a taste of all foods to my almost 7 month old baby? Would that be too much, too quick? And there are foods that we just don’t even have in our home because of my 4th kid’s allergies.
I’d LOVE some advice, and what I’d really like is to talk to Dr. Catherine personally. Is there a way I can? Actually I called her company, well belly waaaaaay back when my baby was just a month old (march), as he was colicky, and literally all he did was cry, sleep, or nurse. All. Day & night. Long. Through chiropractic and eliminating eggs and dairy from my diet, he has calmed and now at 7 months old he does not cry like that. My question to her was regarding the banana & apple in the probiotic, and if giving that to such a small infant daily, would that increase his risk of becoming allergic to those foods? My call was never returned, and I began to wonder the validity of her company, and the quality of the probiotic. I never gave it to him. I have the well belly probiotic, and just last week gave him half a scoop.
I would greatly appreciate any advice. I’d really like to talk to someone who is knowledgable about all of this, as this is new to me and it’s scary to try something different considering one of my other kids has some severe life threatening food allergies. Thank you so much!
First, let me say food allergies and our children’s health can be nerve-wracking topics in families like yours so I understand your very valid fears and frustration. I’m wondering what your doctor’s response would be if you sent this blog for the doctor to review before an appointment to discuss food introduction in your sixth child. Here’s an article I wrote that also might help about this very thing in January when the American Association of Pediatrics reversed their old guidelines from 2000 and endorsed the new guidelines calling for early introduction.
Not knowing your family history or being closer for a one on one visit prevents me from giving any more meaningful advice but it seems that the science is pretty clear with both the National Health Institute and the AAP endorsing the new guidelines. I would try to set an appointment asap and send some information prior to the appointment so you can get the informed medical advice you deserve. Hope this helps!
-Dr. Catherine Clinton ND
I also want to answer your question about the apple and banana powder in WellBelly probiotics increasing the likelihood of allergies to apples and bananas.
Every probiotic comes with a carrier of some kind- most commonly an isolated sugar from corn or whey or beets in the form of maltodextrin or dextrose. We chose organic apple and banana powder as our carrier for several reasons. I wanted to avoid the daily exposure to a simple sugar and all the solvents and chemicals that are used to extract probiotic carriers, all of which have adverse health effects. I liked the prebiotic content they provided to help maintain healthy flora without the processing that isolated prebiotics have. I also liked the pectin content these foods provide because the pectin can help bind environmental toxins in the gastrointestinal tract and our littles ones need as much help as they can get in this department. Now probiotic carriers are a very minimal amount of the entire probiotic blend so the amount of prebiotics and pectin in each serving is miniscule but we believe every bit counts when it comes to our children.
There really is no research out there about the impact of such small amounts of food with all the research looking at larger, macro amounts. Although research isn’t there yet, we had a choice to make and this is why we chose organic apple and banana powder in WellBelly probiotics over the other carrier options. Thanks for the question Jill!
– Dr. Catherine Clinton ND
Thank you SO much for responding to all my questions so thoroughly!!! I really appreciate it, and I really understand probiotics better now, too. Thank you!
Hi Jill! I’m so glad Dr. Catherine was able to respond here, and so well – in our world sometimes we need to take information TO our doctors instead of the other way around, since there’s no way they can keep up on everything either, you know? May you have peace in your heart with whatever you decide! 🙂 Katie
I’m fascinated by this research! It kind of supports how I’ve handled feeding our babies all along. I’ve always introduced solids before 6 months in very small amounts. And I tend to be pretty laid-back and just give them little bites of what we’re eating, or chew up a little bit of food myself, and stick it in their mouth to taste it. Part of me has felt guilty for that approach when I read the current literature on feeding babies, because I wondered if I have created a problem? And well-meaning family members have expressed concern about my Approach 🙂 But when I look at my kids, all three of them are so extremely healthy with no food allergies, that I can’t think that I’ve done anything majorly wrong 🙂
My youngest is 4 & a half months, and starting a couple of weeks ago, she was so very interested in our food, that I started giving her a tiny taste of what we were eating. She has tried all manner of things in little bits, like the size of a pea! She’s tried hummus, pesto, bits of different kinds of vegetables and fruits , egg yolk, coconut milk, and I don’t remember what…. she sticks veggies from our garden in her mouth, like green beans or basil leaves, and taste them and lick them! And she loves all the different flavors! I think not only is this window of time a perfect opportunity to introduce the body to allergens, but it may actually be a good window of time to prepare babies for different textures and flavors! Why give babies bland and smoothly textured, runny food? I wonder if it actually creates issues with sensory eating disorders and pickiness later on? That is, of course, just a theory of mine.
I always picture a mother back in ancient times. Certainly she was breastfeeding, probably breastfeeding over the age of 2. But I am sure that she didn’t have a special chart of foods that she wasn’t going to introduce her baby to until over one or two years of age 🙂 she probably just started chewing up and giving her baby tastes e of whatever she was eating, from an early stage in infancy. And I’m sure she let the baby crawl around and lick dirt and do whatever else it is that babies like to do!
Sorry this is so long! I was just excited to see that research was supporting something that I’ve done all along!
Do you know if this applies to raw honey as well? We eat a lot of honey here
you made my day with this article, Katie! Thanks for not being afraid to publicly ‘eat crow’. This information confirms the heavy instincts I’ve had with child #5…she’s 9 months old and I let her have (homemade) garlic pizza today!!! None of my other kids had wheat before a year! I did like you–egg yolks and meat were my other children’s first foods. Yet I was feeling like more freedom would be better, and now you’ve confirmed it. I don’t leave comments on blogs very often (hello–5 kids! no time!) but I had to say a heart felt thank you for continuing to be a trusted source of unbiased, well-researched info for mamas like myself. God bless you!
Hmm…interesting. Honestly, I think everyone is so different-there’s no one size fits all approach. Which makes it difficult when considering allergies! But I guess I’ve never heard of the concept of just tasting things from an early age. Kind of makes sense to let them taste things, but I really don’t remember my babies wanting food that early.
I offered my firstborn foods around 8 months, but she ate very little until 10 months. My second did not want food at all until 12 months! (He was premature, so that had something to do with it.) Neither of them were interested in food before 7 months, as advised in this article. Guess we missed the magic window!
They are 6 and 8 now, and have no food allergies. So introducing foods “late” is certainly not the sole cause of allergies. Please don’t blame yourself! I have a relative who was started on solid foods by 2 months and he has no food allergies. (He was also born 14 lbs, which is not typical!)
What about babies who are allergic to what mom eats (through breastmilk)? Obviously, food allergies come into play, at least for some babies, before 5-7 months. I am certainly not discrediting this information, but I do wonder how many children were studied.
All good points, Lyss! You know how to ask the right questions. We’re such complex beings that it’s never just one thing… 🙂 katie
Thank you for this post – it is very interesting, and as with you, contrary to what I previously thought. BUT my son began horrendous food allergies at 3 months – not from intro of real food, but through breastmilk. Dairy, even beef, eggs, chicken meat, wheat, buckwheat, nuts, legumes, celery, cocoa, and anything citrus/acidic/naturally red in color – all of these things caused severe skin and intestinal reactions. If I even so much as grate cheese in the morning, wash my hands 20+times during the day, at his evening bath he will break out in hives where my hands touch his skin because he’s that sensitive to milk protein! He is almost 4 now and still allergic to everything but the citrus/red fruits and veg. I ate a vary varied diet, cooking everything myself from fresh, mostly organic ingredients, during pregnancy and prior to his allergic reactions. (I have seasonal allergies, but no food allergies, and my sister has eczema, so there is some hereditary disposition, but still his case is SO extreme!)
How does his case relate to the latest research?
We would like to have another child, but I don’t know if I can go through all I did with my son again. Are there any suggestions to try pre-natally that might reduce risk of allergies?
Wow Amy, that’s incredible! 🙁 What a drastic reaction…phew. I can understand being nervous. I’ll see if Catherine can come over and comment because I definitely don’t know a darn thing about this! You might also want to connect with our contributing writer Mary over at Just Take a Bite – her last post right here may connect with your experience. God bless this very big decision!!! Katie
Oh Amy, what an experience! I’m glad to hear that most of his food reactions have stopped. It sounds like his immune is doing a great job with oral tolerance- the notion that the more introductions to a food, the more tolerant the person becomes to said food. Great job navigating through such a tough situation.
As far as more children go, the research is pretty clear that eating a varied diet rich in probiotics and fish oil or omega 3 fatty acids for mom’s diet while pregnant can help decrease the risk of allergies in the child. This would also be a good thing to discuss with your OB/GYN.
Wishing you and yours the best in health!
-Dr. Catherine Clinton ND
I’d really like to know about formula-fed babies as well. It is SO hard to find advice from a natural perspective that includes recommendations for formula-fed babies. Since we will be adopting and don’t have the option to breast feed (I know there are “ways” to do that, but it just isn’t an option in my situation). I’m a bit at a loss.
Great question, Megan! It is hard to find advice for formula fed babies, I had to do some digging through the research. But, yes, early introduction of solids in the 5-7 month window is still advisable to formula fed babies. While they will not receive the extra help/protection from breast milk, the oral immune tolerance window from 5-7 months of age is still available for formula fed babies. They will still reap the benefits of the immune system education that takes place at that age when foods are introduced. Hope that answers your question!
– Dr. Catherine Clinton ND
Thank you so much for your reply! Since I have no control over what happens to our children before they are placed with us, I want to do everything I can for them once they’re home. Thank you for your help in that! 🙂
I LOVE this post because it just makes so much SENSE. Around 5-6 months, most babies naturally becomes super grabby and want nothing more than to stick their fingers in everyone’s food and taste it. They DON’T want to be spoon fed rice cereal or green beans or bananas. They just want to grab stuff and mouth stuff and lick stuff and taste stuff.
So it just makes so much sense to let babies do what they naturally do.
My oldest is 14 and back then it was all 1 food at a time, start rice cereal at 4 months, wait 3 days, wait until after 1 for cow’s milk and after 2 for peanuts. And I did that Guess what….she has allergies. Of course she also had 2 rounds of antibiotics as an infant, so I think that also played a role in her allergies.
With my other kids, I was much more relaxed and my second was eating more variety at a younger age. With my 3rd and 4th, we did baby-led weaning so they were pretty much tasting anything we were eating that wasn’t too chokeable at a young age. They tasted just about everything but had large quantities of practically nothing until they were past one.
It just seemed to make so much sense to do it that way.
None of my younger 3 had allergies, although none of them had antibioics as babies either, so I think that also makes a difference.
I totally thought the same thing! When all my kids (so far) hit about 5 months, it’s almost impossible NOT to let them get bites of big people foods. They’re always grabbing stuff from my plate and nibbling things off the floor (edible and not). So that part made a lot of sense.
I always hesitate to go for the “latest research shows” though because it changes so often. It was what led my mom to feed me fat-free/low fat stuff most of my childhood. 🙂 I remember the peanut recommendations changing between my oldest two, who were only 15 months apart! Overall I try be cautious, go with my gut, and learn what mamas were feeding their babies hundreds of years ago. All that said, this was very interesting and freeing…and made more sense than a lot of “eating protocols” for babies!
Fascinating perspective about listening to what the baby is already doing, Amelia, thanks!! 🙂 Katie
Overthink it one way, then overthink it the other. Things worked out well when people didn’t have the time to read endless advice from “experts” nicheing out an invented career.
The government & dieticians conspired to demonise fat from the 1970s. How did that work out for public health? Look at the sugar infused crap that stacks the supermarket shelves now.
It has always paid to be cynical when the world adopts a new, politically correct way to think. Thank goodness for those branded heretics and deniers for having the temerity of using common sense and independent thought when confronting a short term “truth”.
So true. Feeding baby was impossible till relatively recent history. They had to have some teeth and enzymes present. Common sense should tell ppl, chill on food other than breastmilk–unlimited but pretty much the sole source of nutrients till late babyhood. The gut microbes are in and on those breasts also. As they are in all the kisses from the whole family. And all the dirt that baby should be eating as he explores around…
Coomon sense is the filter thru which I view all research, now that Im an old momma and g-ma.
Well, this is great news! I was pretty casual with both my kids (born 2004 and 2014) once they had successfully tried about 3 kinds of foods a couple days apart–then I started just feeding them stuff, for the most part, only avoiding unhealthy things that I wouldn’t eat (much of) myself. For the first one, I did try to avoid foods to which family members are allergic until 12 months because of the advice at the time…but I was successful only with cow’s milk; the babysitter forgot about not feeding him watermelon (and he was fine) and he suddenly lunged for the slice of tomato garnishing a restaurant plate and swallowed half of it before I could stop him (and he was fine)! For my second child, my only caution was introducing yogurt before any other form of cow’s milk, and I don’t know that even that matters.
I find it strange that so many people think they have to feed babies plain, bland food. I’ve never seen any medical advice against spices (just “don’t overdo salt”) so it seems to me if baby likes it, it’s not too spicy! We appreciate that our kids eat almost all of the foods we do and don’t expect a separate meal or seasonings added at the table.
I totally agree about spicy food. My kids were eating Redhot, mustard, vinegar by age 3 if not 2. They can eat hotter food than alot of men, societal myths to the contrary.
You said to let babies taste everything except honey. I’ve looked into that a bit and haven’t seen any good reason not to let babies have honey, especially raw honey from the purest source you can get. The widespread use of miticides in modern beehives would be my only concern. Our 5 kids have only ever eaten whatever the family is eating like has happened throughout history, once they are interested more than breast milk at a few months of age we grind a bit in the baby food grinder of mash it with a fork and start with maybe a half a teaspoon per meal and increase it as their appetite increases. In 10 years we bought some baby food only once when we had to leave our first child with his grandma for a few days 🙂
The honey thing is about botulism I believe, and although I’ve never researched it, it’s such a widely held recommendation (and no one really needs sweetener) that I haven’t questioned it. Did you research that point? Thanks, Katie
I love the role that breast milk plays in “teaching” the body! How would feeding timelines change, if at all, for a formula-fed baby rather than a breastfed baby?
I know, SO cool isn’t it Kate? I’ve asked Catherine to pop in with an answer on that one as I am not sure (but am very curious now!). Thanks, Katie
I’ll wait for the research to catch up with the fact that breastfed babies dont need other food till at LEAST 6 mos and thats only introing the food, not getting much on a daily basis. Maybe just give a bit of yolk instead of a whole yolk but if theres no amylase in the saliva till 12 to 18 mos, why think the baby should be eating grains?
Also primitive cultures the world over give tastes of mommys food but they have certain foods, not for babies rite away.
I know, it’s always changing Helene – but remember that this recommendation IS for only tastes of food, not big meals or even big bites…if that helps at all! 🙂 Katie
What about formula fed babies? Is it still safe for them to be introduced to so many foods if they don’t have that extra help and protection from breast milk?
This is a great question, Sarah, and I’m not sure if the research has shown anything conclusive, but I will ask Catherine to come over and see what she says. I do know that on our interview, she did emphasize the breast milk protection, and she said something to the effect that she wishes we could see more milk banks and funding/promotion of those for babies who aren’t nursing with their moms for whatever reason. So that’s one option most people don’t think about, although I don’t know all the red tape/costs for milk bank breast milk. Thanks for asking – such an important issue to address!! 🙂 Katie
Great question, Sarah! Yes, early introduction of solids in the 5-7 month window is still advisable to formula fed babies. While they will not receive the extra help/protection from breast milk, the oral immune tolerance window from 5-7 months of age is still available for formula fed babies. They will still reap the benefits of the immune system education that takes place at that age when foods are introduced. Hope that answers your question!
– Dr. Catherine Clinton ND