Foodie Firsts: The Basics of Baby Nutrition

As a foodie, I was thrilled when it was time to start feeding my son. But I was also terrified.

Originally published on Kaufmom

Foodie Firsts: Part 2 – This is a welcome #kaufMOMcollab with Little Spoon.

As a foodie, I was thrilled when it was time to start feeding my son. But I was also terrified. I had so many questions – what to start with? what about allergies? what’s the most important nutrient? how do I know if I’m doing it right?

Apparently there’s no rule book and most pediatricians don’t provide a roadmap to dinner.

So I sat down with the Little Spoon Co-Founder and Chief Mom (of 3 boys), Michelle Muller! Michelle works with Little Spoon’s nutrition council of pediatricians, baby nutritionists, & experts. But as a Chief Mom, she lends a first-hand, truly parental experience and perspective to the most pressing questions new parents have about feeding their babies.

I asked her all of my questions – and some of yours! But she also went beyond the QA to share next-level insight into the mysteries of baby food. The two most important lessons I learned in our meeting?

  1. All kids are different. And very unique [all 3 of her babies starting eating a little bit differently]. Some might be finicky when it comes to texture….and some babies will eat anything under the sun. So it’s important for parents to stay flexible. That’s also why Little Spoon manages our customer care team with a whole team made up of moms. Because we’ve been there.
  2. Mother Nature created a reflex for babies to protect themselves. Whenever a new flavor or texture is introduced to a baby, 9/10 babies have a gag reflex. Their brain signals to them: “Ooh that’s new….gotta spit it out!” It’s the natural way that nature protects our young. But sometimes that means introducing a new ingredient 10-15 times before giving up.

But now onto those pressing questions…

Q: Is there a Baby Superfood?

A: A lot of parents want to find that perfect magical fruit, veggie, grain…but I don’t think there’s necessarily one superfood. There are a handful of powerfoods with a nutritional punch to them, but it’s important to include a variety. I’m a fan of saying eat the rainbow. It’s nature’s way of showing nutritional aspects of food. Like carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupes all offer beta carotine.

If you do that [eat the rainbow] you can definitely rest assured that your child is getting a good variety of nutrients.

But if there’s ONE fruit or veggie that I had to say I tend to gravitate towards more than others, that babies tend to accept well? Avocado! It offers so much fantastic healthy fat and it’s digestible. It’s an easy first food that doesn’t need to be steamed or cooked.

I’m equally a big fan of blueberries. They have a ton of antioxidants and flavonoids, which are great for vision & brain development.

Q: What’s the BEST first bite (baby’s first food)?

A: Avocado is also a great first bite. I do feel strongly that a baby’s first bite should be a fruit or a vegetable before a rice cereal.

It’s engrained in our culture to offer a rice cereal or grain first – and it’s a bit of an older mentality – but they’re over-processed. 

And remember that if they don’t like that first bite, DON’T GIVE UP!

Above all, you have to do what’s right for you. A mother’s instinct is huge. In the last 10 years, with the blowup of social media, we’re letting go of mother’s intuition and gut feeling. So it’s important to tap into that. It’s also important to make a plan with your pediatrician. 

Q: How do I Introduce new foods? How can I be safe about it?

A: Just because a food is one of the top first foods…doesn’t mean it won’t be an allergen for your child. If you are introducing a new food, introduce it on a Monday-Friday in the AM. A time when you know the pediatrician is open!

One of the biggest indicators of whether or not baby is going to have an allergy or not is looking at family history. But again, plan ahead with your doctor.

Q: How important is it to start baby on animal proteins (eggs, fish, meat)? When is the best age to introduce them?

A: This is definitely a hot topic. The vegetarian vegan trend is not going anywhere anytime soon. And you hear a lot about the environmental impact of animal products…we at Little Spoon don’t have animal proteins in our baby food, but our motivation lies in wanting to reach more families. We offer tons of veggie-based protein like legumes and we encourage that non-vegetarian families add in fresh animal proteins into the mix if and when they’re ready.

I would recommend holding off until around the 8-10 month mark before introducing heavier animal proteins. This is more of a digestive issue. After 8-10 weeks of plant-based eating, babies’ digestive systems are more primed for a variety of food.

The most important thing to note is that parents should not become a short order chef. They should be making 1 meal for dinner. What does the family eat? If the family is having meat for dinner and the baby is ready, it might be the perfect time to offer that as an addition to their child’s meal.

NOTE: On eggs – they’re considered one of the 8 major allergens. Sometimes a light introduction for eggs is best. Eggs can be integrated in a different way for their new diets, like baked into muffins, or scrambled into rice. 

Q: What’s the most important vitamin and/or nutrient for babies?

A: One nutrient has been replaced by your one mission – eat the rainbow. Get as much in them as possible. I shy away from saying that there is an end all be all, because people hold onto that.

At 6-18 months, children haven’t figured out the word “NO” yet. They’re very impressionable. And it’s easy to expose them to new things during this window. The challenge is when they hit the toddler years and start saying NO. Introduce as much as you possibly can in this magical window when they’re receptive. 9 times out of 10, from 6-18 months of age, you’re going to be golden.

And introduce all of the nutrients in the rainbow – like leafy grains for bone development, healthy fats for brain development, etc.

Q: Do babies ever need supplements?

A: This is a question for your pediatrician. There are various tests that they’ll do along the way to test for iron, healthy omegas, and vitamin D. And there’s a very good chance that they will be recommending some supplements. No matter how hard we try to cover our little one’s bases with food, we can’t always get the nutrients & vitamins our children critically need just through food alone.

We hear about these challenges constantly from our customers, and much of what exists in the market place for supplements has ingredients (like corn syrup) that we don’t want to feed our children.

Naturally, this has become an area of focus for us at Little Spoon. Our aim is to help our parents keep their children healthy, so we’re working on ways to make it easier to solve these nutritional needs for our families.
[Update in July 2019] With this in mind, we’re so excited to finally be able to announce the first of its kind in the supplement category – Boosters, which are clean and concentrated vitamins and probiotics in powder form. I recommend checking them out for your baby!

Q: Do you recommend mixing first foods with breast milk and/or formula for a health benefit? Or is this just a flavor thing for new eaters?

A: When they’re first transitioning to solids, this is a great safety net to utilize to if you think it will make the transition less drastic for them.

When you do introduce a grain, I recommend homemade fine quick oats – which you can grind easily from your own oatmeal. You don’t need to get the over-processed (and expensive) baby-branded oats.


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