Rice cereal (or oat cereal) has been the #1 recommendation for baby’s first food for at least three generations now; first introduced in the 1930s (the start of the convenience food phenomenon) and previously known as “Pablum”, many of our mothers were advised to mix it into a breastmilk bottle for their infant, as young as six-weeks-old.

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Not so many moons later typically offered around 3 or 4-months of age, Pablum was mixed just a little bit thicker then lovingly spoon-fed to babe. Said to “satisfy hungry appetites” and obviously superior to breastmilk, it was considered not only the ideal first food for an infant, but every mother’s insurance policy for a properly nourished, and well developed child.  #slickmarketing

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Even today, with formidable clarity about the importance of whole-foods nutrition vs processed foods, when first-time-bites are on the table (so to speak), Iron-Fortified Grain Cereal is STILL the top recommendation for babies.

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Sigh.

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I respectfully believe that this advice needs to be revisited and is gravely outdated;

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Rice cereal is nutritionally-void, and digests much like sugar does in an impressionable system that can’t fully breakdown such high levels of starch. Nothing about it is superior to breastmilk, nor is it a more nourishing choice than simply real food.  I am firmly going against the grain, on this one.

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In fact, delaying grains for babies until they are at least 8-months old – cereals included – is highly beneficial for their long-term digestive, and sequential overall health. By this age, infants are more capable of the healthful digestion of starch since Salivary Amylase – one of the key enzymes responsible for splitting sugars – comes in at full force right around that time. Incidentally, we’ll also see a mass increase of drool.

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Some schools of thought even recommend waiting until closer to the 12, 14, or 18-month mark to introduce grains, when Pancreatic Amylase plays a more prominent role in digestion.

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It’s confusing. I know.

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When we look across the globe for wisdom however, babies have been fed rice or other grains as a first food in many countries, since the beginning of time. In such cases though, it’s important to note that these were whole grains which were prepared in the traditional way.

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Iron-Fortified Rice Cereal is quite the departure from such culturally-reverent foods + preparation practices.

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So what’s a mom to do? If we take the boxed cereals off the table, then what about iron?

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The Role of Iron

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According to the World Health Organization the recommended daily allowance for babies ages 6 – 12 months, is 11mg. This is 3mg higher than the RDA for adult males which reveals the necessity of including iron-rich foods in baby’s diet.

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Iron is the mineral responsible for the healthy delivery of oxygen to all tissues + the brain. Babies begin to store this mineral in-utero during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy; approximately enough to last them 6-months, especially when delayed cord clamping is acknowledged.

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For such an important nutrient, why isn’t it readily available through breastmilk – nature’s perfect food?

 

E-coli + other pathogenic bacteria depend on iron for food, therefore milk from all mammals is low in iron by design.

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Breastmilk also contains a protein called Lactoferrin which binds to any ‘free-floating’ iron + further restricts potentially damaging bacterial growth simply by depriving them of their essential nutrient.

 

The small amount of iron that breastmilk does contain is safely transported, delivered, and perfectly assimilated by the baby.

 

Just like nature intended.

 

In fact, it’s been said that a baby absorbs approximately 70% of the iron in mother’s milk vs a minuscule 3 – 11% from synthetic sources.

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Nutritionally speaking, if a child requires a certain nutrient at a certain time then fortified foods are only a modern solution.

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Preferred Sources of Iron

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Non-Vegetarian (heme – best absorbed):

 

  1. Organic Liver *
  2. Egg Yolk (not the white)
  3. Lamb / Beef
  4. Chicken
  5. Wild Salmon

 

Vegetarian:

 

  1. Steamed Spinach
  2. Steamed Leafy Greens
  3. Legumes / Lentils
  4. Quinoa
  5. Raisins / Prunes / Figs

 

Vitamin C rich foods increase absorption of all iron:

 

  1. Berries
  2. Broccoli
  3. Leafy Greens
  4. Squash
  5. Sauerkraut

 

* Liver from a quality source is recommended; organic, pasture-raised, and / or grass-fed.

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Let’s move upwards + onwards, and leave the boxed goods behind us!

Let’s use Whole Foods, as First Foods and never look back.

Let’s think Better for Babies and get dirty with clean ingredients once again!

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Holistic Food Introductions eBook Collection

 

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 Baby’s First Puree

Is Baby-Led Weaning, better?

Three Bears Butternut, for Babes.

Bone Broth for Baby.

 

 

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