Cultured Foods for Babies
As is often the case, what is recommended as baby’s first foods in our modern time does not match up with what was historically proven to work. It is not every day, after all, that you hear a doctor recommend milk kefir, soured grain porridge, or miso as one of the earliest foods for your baby’s diet.
What is most often recommended is:
Now the list doesn’t look too horrible from a distance, but take a closer look and examine what babies need most and you might wonder why any of those are even on the list of the top three.
If we are to easily transition our baby’s body from liquids to solids then baby’s first foods ought to closely nutritiously mimic those key ingredients of breast milk - saturated fat, easily digested carbohydrates, and bacteria.
Breast milk is our second exposure to the beneficial bacteria that will inhabit our gut. The first is the bacteria present in the birth canal upon our entrance into the world.
Babies need beneficial bacteria. This is how they populate their gut and build their immune systems. This is how their bodies build up their defenses and learn to cope with foods that are just a bit harder on the system.
And cultured foods are the perfect medium, not only for bacteria, but also for those saturated fats and easily digested carbohydrates we mentioned earlier.
Here is a list of cultured foods to consider feeding your baby:
Milk Kefir or Yogurt. Many people freak out at the mention of giving a baby animal milk products. But babies are often fed fresh goat or even cow’s milk when their mothers are unable to breastfeed. If done carefully, cultured milk, especially kefir and yogurt, can be an easy-to-digest first food for baby. You can dip your finger in plain whole milk kefir and let baby lick and nibble it. You are also giving them some needed saturated fat and easily digested carbohydrates through this wonderfully cultured food.
Soured Porridges. Grains can be a bear to digest, even for the healthiest adult. So giving a child artificially fortified grain cereal from a box as their first food makes absolutely no sense. If you can sour grains at home like in this porridge and then allow the grains to cook for quite a while you will have a grain dish that is already pre-digested by the bacteria and easy to digest and break down in those little baby tummies.
Cultured Vegetable Juices. Obviously a baby isn’t going to be able to down on a crunchy bite of sauerkraut, but that same lactobacillus present in the bites of sauerkraut you take are also present, and in higher numbers, in the juice covering your thinly sliced fermented cabbage. Try simply dipping your finger (or a baby spoon) into cultured pickle or other fermented vegetable juice. Give your baby a taste and watch their face pucker up just a bit. Don’t be alarmed, this is common with any new food flavor. They will, most likely, be happy to have seconds.
A Side Benefit of Feeding Babies Cultured Foods
Many parents struggle with getting their children to eat what we think of as “healthy foods” like vegetables, simple meats, plain yogurt, and so on. One of the reasons for this is that we train our children’s pallets as babies, toddlers, and young ones - and we are training them in the wrong direction.
When we give our children a lot of sweet or starchy food as a child they tend to have a preference for only that. And when we do not include other flavors such as sour or bitter they are rarely able to appreciate them.
Cultured foods have the opposite effect in that they are tangy, tart, sour, and salty. They give your child a love for flavors beyond sweet and that can affect their health and wellbeing at the dinner table for the rest of their lives.
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