Digestion is one of the biggest challenges in your baby’s first year, because his digestive system is inherently weak and still developing, according to Bob Flaws, a well-renowned practitioner of East Asian medicine. Even if you offer the most nutritious food, if the food itself cannot be digested, then those nutrients offer no real value. Here are a few points to consider as you introduce new foods to your baby.
Guiding Principles for Your Baby’s Digestion
- Start with simple, whole, plant-based foods, like whole grains, beans, and vegetables.
- Animal foods, such as fish and red meats, are more difficult to digest than plant-based foods; they are recommended after your child’s first year.
- Soaking grains and beans before cooking predigests them.
- Cooking food thoroughly makes less work for your baby’s digestive system.
- Pureeing or mashing foods helps with assimilation, because your baby cannot chew. Start with a soupy texture, and as your baby grows, you can adjust the thickness of the puree to fit his needs.
- Serve food warm or at your baby’s body temperature, so that his body does not have to expend energy to heat up his food as it digests. Chilled, frozen, iced, or cold foods add stress to his digestive system.
- Serve one food at a time in the beginning to check for a reaction. After you have checked each food individually, you can combine different grains or add a complement of beans or vegetables.
- Combining fruits with grains, vegetables, or proteins can cause gas in your baby’s stomach, which may be painful and disruptive to his digestive system. Serve fruit at least 30 minutes after eating other foods.
- Raw fruit and juices can chill and weaken his digestive system and lead to respiratory illnesses. Bob Flaws recommends cooking fruit for babies to help predigest it, and offering moderate amounts of raw fruits for your baby’s first year until his digestive system is stronger.
- Fermented foods and probiotic boosters promote healthy digestion and help build good bacteria in your baby’s stomach.