What is often recommended today for baby’s first foods does not match up with what babies were fed in traditional societies. 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.
It seems to make sense that to easily transition a baby’s diet from liquids to solids, then the baby’s first foods ought to closely mimic the key nutritional ingredients of breast milk: saturated fat, easily digested carbohydrates, and bacteria.
Breast milk is an early exposure to the beneficial bacteria that will inhabit our gut. Babies need beneficial bacteria for digestion and to build their immune systems.
And cultured foods are the perfect medium for those beneficial bacteria, as well as those saturated fats and easily digested carbohydrates.
Here are some cultured foods to consider feeding your baby:
1. MILK KEFIR OR YOGURT
If introduced 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 a baby some needed saturated fat and easily digested carbohydrates through this wonderfully cultured food.
2. SOURED PORRIDGES
Grains can be tough to digest, even for the healthiest adult. But if you can sour grains at home as 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 that little baby tummy.
3. CULTURED VEGETABLE JUICES
A baby isn’t often ready to crunch down on a tasty bite of sauerkraut, but the same probiotics present in the sauerkraut you take are also present 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 that little face pucker up just a bit. Don’t be alarmed: this is common with any new food flavor. The baby 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 children trained to eat and enjoy processed and sweet foods are likely to stick with them out of habit. If other flavors such as sour or bitter are not included regularly in a child's diet, they are sometimes difficult to introduce to a finicky palate.
Cultured foods are tangy, tart, sour, and salty. They can give your child a love for flavors beyond sweet, and a child who has this variety included in the diet from an early age is likely to continue enjoying these nourishing, probiotic-rich foods in later life as well.