Baby and Toddler Primal Feeding Guide
I’ve had several people ask me about feeding babies and toddlers. I wanted to create a guide to help you make the best decisions for your children. This particular area is very challenging because we live in a culture where we put a great deal of trust in western medical Doctors. Western medicine can be great and there is a time and place for it. However, medical Doctors do not get real food nutrition training (well, minimal and probably based on the old high grain and low fat government recommendations). Many pediatricians are not even aware of the effect that real food (or lack thereof) has on a growing child. Proper nutrition is the core for a healthy body. It affects all other areas of our children’s lives and well-being. We want to start our children out with the best foundation possible. We want them to feel good inside and out, and establish the roots for them to have a lifetime of health.
What makes it challenging is that we as parents are undermined from day one. We are undermined by well-meaning family and friends, by hospital staff who are not properly trained to help breastfeeding mamas. We are undermined by the marketing of artificial baby milk and baby foods. Then as they get older we are undermined by pediatricians, schools, well-meaning family, friends, and marketing. We put a great deal of trust in all the wrong places, and we lose trust in ourselves and in our children. We do have the innate ability to feed our children. Our children have the innate ability to feed themselves. Somewhere along the line we were grossly misdirected. We need to start doing our own research, and making decisions that do not involve people who are not directly involved in your child’s life.
Have you heard the term “bio-individuality?” We are all different. That includes babies and children. We develop the ability to start solids at different points. We develop tastes for different things, and those tastes change. My 4 year old often says to me “mama, I don’t like it because I do not have the same taste buds as you!” He is correct, he does not. My point is that this is a guide to help you make the best decisions for your particular child, keeping in mind they are an individual. They will crave what their body needs. Trust in that.
I have a great deal of valuable information and recipes that will be included in my book about feeding babies and toddlers. However, this guide will cover some of the more common questions I hear, and hopefully give you some answers as to how to start. I incorporated some of my reader’s questions, and my answers to them. I hope this helps to answer some of your questions as well. I can’t explore everything I would like to, but I will do my best to cover some of the most common questions. If you have any that I have not answered here, feel free to drop me an e-mail anytime!
A little about breastfeeding:
I am not here to judge your decision to breastfeed or not breastfeed. I feel it is important to educate people on the benefits of breastfeeding. I understand that it doesn’t workout for everyone for a variety of reasons, and this post is not to create conflict, but to discuss some obstacles and how to overcome them.
When a baby is born, his/her stomach is the size of a small marble. It is big enough to hold that tiny bit of colostrum that coats and seals the infant gut, preventing pathogens from entering. Some refer to colostrum as baby’s first immunizations. It is rich in vitamin A giving it a dark yellow color. Many mother’s are led to believe (by misinformed people) that their child needs to be supplemented in the hospital. When a newborn baby is fed more than the size of a marble on that first day, the baby is being overstuffed, and the stomach stretches. Sometimes baby will spit it up as well. Keep in mind that if you are feeding baby early and often, you are giving your body the cues it needs to make enough milk for your baby. Removing baby from you to be cared for by nurses, getting tons of visitors, and supplementing with formula interferes with that bonding process, messes with your confidence, and sends you down a road you do not want to go down.
Breastfeeding is a learned behavior. Back when breasts were not culturally taboo, infants were fed freely everywhere. Children observed family members breastfeeding, and they were taught what to do. We had an innate ability and we had confidence. In this day and age it is important to surround yourself with supportive people, who respect your decision to breastfeed.
If you are having difficulties with breastfeeding or need help with re-lactating, you can find a Lactation Consultant here. My favorite resource for breastfeeding mamas is www.kellymom.com. You can find many answers to all your breastfeeding questions and concerns on this website. Here is a blog post I wrote about the amazing ingredients in human milk. If breastfeeding does not work out for you, the second best option is milk from either a milk bank or community milk sharing. Human milk is species specific, and easiest on the infant’s immature gut. Eats on feets is a great resource for obtaining donated breastmilk from a trusted community. There is a Chapter for most areas. The difference between milk bank milk and donated milk is that milk from a milk bank has been pasteurized, and you will have to pay for the milk. However, some people do not trust milk sharing (donated milk). This is where you have to talk with the milk donator, ask important medical questions, and go with your gut. The milk will not be pasteurized, and it will still have all the live enzymes and probiotics. If you go with milk from the milk bank which has been pasteurized, I recommend supplementing with a good human strain infant probiotic. The last option is artificial baby milk (aka formula). There are options to make your own formula with raw goat’s milk here. Goat’s milk proteins are smaller and more easily digested than cow’s milk proteins (casein). If you do decide to go with a cow’s milk pre-made formula, I highly suggest using a liquid one that has pre-digested proteins (a hypo-allergenic formula). The casein is predigested and poses less of a stress on the infant gut. I would also recommend supplementing this formula with a good human strain infant probiotic. I never recommend soy formula…ever. Soy is not a health food.
When do I start solids?
The burning question. Your mother or mother-in-law thinks your baby is hungry and bugs you about starting him or her on cereal. Your pediatrician says “at (6 week…4 months, 6 months), you should start rice cereal” Your baby is reaching for food at the table. You are excited to take pics of that first meal! So when do you start? Here is what I was taught from my training as a general guideline. You start solids sometime around the middle of the first year. I know that sounds very general, but every baby is different. There are however, telltale signs that baby is ready to start playing with food. Remember there is nothing more nutritious, high in calories and nutrient dense than breastmilk or quality formula.
Signs that indicate readiness:
*baby can sit up on his own
*baby no longer has the tongue thrust and gag reflex. When you put something in her mouth, does she try to push it out with her tongue? If yes, she is not ready for solid foods.
*baby is still hungry after breastfeeding for a period longer than a week (normal growth spurt period)
*baby can pinch with her finger and thumb (pincer grasp)
*BIGGEST SIGN: baby is picking up pieces of food and putting it in his mouth by himself
Signs that do not necessarily indicate readiness to consume solids:
*more frequent nursing-this may simply be a growth spurt (which are temporary and last a week or so), baby nurses more frequently during growth spurts to help increase your milk supply to their demand
*size of the baby-big or small babies do not necessarily need extra food. Humans come in all different shapes and sizes. Their size does not indicate their body is ready for solid foods.
*not going straight to sleep after nursing. We always assume baby is hungry, but sometimes their sleep cycles are different from what we would like. Sometimes they are just awake during the night.
*reaching for your food on your plate or watching you eat -She is most likely just curious about what is on your plate, and want to mimic what she sees you doing. Giving her a utensil to hold or play with may suffice.
What is baby led weaning?
In my personal opinion, baby led weaning means giving your baby control over what they will eat and how much. Obviously you supply the food choices. However, the past generation spoon fed babies, shoveling in every last bite in the baby food jar or bowl of rice cereal. It is very invasive to have a spoon shoved in your face repeatedly. Babies are not good or bad eaters. They are not “good” if they eat all of the baby food forced into their mouth. We need to let go of the “good baby” and “good eater” notions from past generations. Let go of the idea that how your baby is eating tells how good of a parent you are. These instilled misconceptions only hinder your ability to trust in yourself, and trust in your baby. Provide soft little pieces of food for them to pick up. Offer purees on a spoon that is near your baby’s mouth, and allow them to open their mouth and reach for it. Do not invade baby’s mouth with a spoon over and over.
How much do I give my baby?
The general guideline to follow is from 0-6 months 100% breastmilk or formula. 6-12 months 75% breastmilk or formula. Start introducing solid foods sometime around 6 months. At this time, food is mainly for exploration-they want to play with it…feel it…taste it. Most of their nutrition and calories should come from breastmilk or quality formula that first year. So just give small amounts and let baby have fun with it, no stress. My son literally lived on breastmilk for like 2 years. It was what he wanted. Sure I offered what we were having at every meal, but he was not ready to wean. Keep in mind that bio-individuality. Every child is different and will be ready at a different time. Also remember, your pediatrician will most likely push rice cereal early on. Pediatricians are not trained on breastfeeding or nutrition. Let me repeat this. Pediatricians are not trained on breastfeeding. They also don’t have all the answers. They just don’t. Have some trust in yourself, and stop placing your trust elsewhere! I cannot stress this enough.
According to “Counseling The Nursing Mother, A Lactation Consultant’s Guide” by Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher, The profession of pediatricians emerged when formula emerged. Mother’s needed a prescribed amount of formula to give their baby. The pediatric profession is still very much influenced by the infant formula and baby food industry. Many of the training pediatricians receive are funded by formula companies. I’m sure there are many great pediatricians out there. However, only you know your child. Don’t place your child’s health in someone else’s hands. No one knows your child like you do.
What are the best foods to start my baby on?
You want the most bang for your buck when it comes to feeding babies. Think nutrient-dense real foods. If you are eating these kinds of foods while breastfeeding, your baby is already exposed to the taste of them. Breastmilk taste changes based on what you are eating. I’m going to list the top 10 best foods I think are great for introducing to baby when baby is ready to start solid foods. Again, the first year is mostly experimenting and tasting different foods. Most calories and nutrients can be obtained from breastmilk or quality formula.
1. avocados-depending on baby’s ability to chew and swallow, you can puree, mash, or give soft chunks. Avocados are nutrient dense and loaded with good fats. Infants need a high fat diet for their developing brain, eyes, and neurological system. You can also make guacamole for baby!
2. egg yolk from pasture raised eggs-pediatricians might warn you about starting eggs early because of possible allergies. The egg white does contain many different proteins that pose a risk to an immature gut. However, the yolk is actually gentle on the gut and loaded with healthy saturated fat and nutrients for growing babies.
3. liver from grass-fed or pasture raised animals- you would want to give tiny pieces or puree depending on baby’s ability to chew and swallow. Liver from pasture raised animals is extremely rich sources of B vitamins, vitamin A, and iron. The iron in liver is bioavailable-meaning it will be digested and assimilated by baby’s body, unlike the iron fortified cereals and baby foods. Fish and liver can be made into pate’s for baby!
4. sweet potato- Loaded with vitamin A and good carbohydrates, palatable taste. Nice for mixing with a stronger meats like liver and fish.
5. grass-fed beef- niacin, iron, choline, high in good omega 3 fats, nutrient rich. You can make a baby bolognese sauce with ground grass-fed beef, veggies such as carrots, spices, and marinara sauce (preferably homemade or a brand with no sugar in it).
6. bone broth or bone marrow- Teething babies love to suck/chew on bones! As long as the bone does not have pieces sticking out that they can choke on, it can help them teeth and they can suck nutrients from it. I remember my younger son loved chewing on a chicken leg. Make sure the bone is from a grass-fed or pastured animal. You can scoop out the nutrient dense marrow from roasted marrow bones and serve it mixed with a little avocado or sweet potato. You can also mix some bone broth with a little meat, avocado, or sweet potato.
7. salmon (wild caught sustainable only)- Excellent source of good fatty acids for brain development, also rich in vitamin D.
8. sticks of cooked vegetables- like zucchini that they can hold and chomp on- again, make sure the tongue thrust reflex is gone (usually after 6 months). Steam until tender and give them the little sticks to hold. **You never want to leave a baby unattended while feeding themselves, and use common sense. You will be able to tell if they can handle it or not, based on the readiness signs listed above
9. mashed roasted squash or pumpkin- again, high in vitamin A-great for mixing with grass-fed beef or liver
10. seasoning and spices- Get that baby use to different flavors! Play around with cinnamon, cumin, garlic, ginger, curry, dill, oregano, sage, thyme, basil, mint, lemongrass, pepper. You want them to enjoy flavorful food just as you do. Don’t assume baby food must be bland. Babies of different ethnicities can enjoy the flavor of ethnic foods just as adults do. My children love spicy foods and garlic, and have since they were infants.
Bonus! add fat and lots of it. Babies brains need fat, especially healthy, stable saturated fats. Fat insulates the brain, helps develop good eyesight, and satiates baby. Raw full fat grass-fed milk (after 1 year), full fat yogurt or kefir (after 1 year), a spoonful of ghee (the milk proteins have been removed, so it is just the fat-high in CLA, and fat soluable vitamins, great for a growing brain), and coconut oil. You can also cook baby’s veggies and meats in pastured lard and tallow. Do not give your baby, toddler, or child anything labeled low-fat or fat free.
Why would I not want to give my baby rice cereal?
The myth of rice cereal is so irritating to me. Rice cereal is digested by the body and broken down as sugar. The iron in it is not all bio-available, therefore baby might not be assimilating all the iron. The form of iron is very constipating. It is a stripped, processed food that contributes to the epidemic we now have of people not handling or processing the large amounts of grains and sugar we consume. There is not much in it in the way of nutrients. There is a longstanding misconception that baby will sleep better with rice cereal. Sure it fills their tummy, but it is filling them with a nutrient-void food like product. It is not real food. Breastmilk is far superior as are the other nutrient dense foods listed above. Don’t buy into the rice cereal nonsense. It’s just not necessary…at all.
Once baby turns one and you are no longer breastfeeding, what do you give them instead of cows milk?
Another long-standing myth in our culture is that you need to drink milk past infancy-namely conventional cows milk. Here is a blog post I wrote about conventional cows milk. I don’t think it is necessary to include in a child’s diet. In my opinion, raw goat or grass-fed cow’s milk can be a good nutrient dense alternative for toddlers. The casein is partially digested by the live enzymes, and therefore is easier on the gut. Raw dairy is completely different from processed grain-fed cow’s milk. However, some still have difficulties with the proteins even in raw milk. I don’t think it is necessary. I discuss that in the blog post as well. Did you know that from 1 to 2 years of age human milk becomes less copious and is more thick and nutrient dense? Every feeding your milk changes to accommodate your growing toddler. However, if your child has weaned, pasteurized cow’s milk is not an appropriate replacement. Stick with raw dairy or nutrient dense foods (listed above).
Should I wean my baby to cow’s milk at 1 year?
What do we believe magically happens at the first birthday that means the child has to suddenly wean? Child-led weaning happens on it’s own. Your child will not go off to college breastfeeding, I promise you that. Sure there is a stigma associated with breastfeeding past one. However, up until about 50 years ago, it was completely normal for toddlers to still breastfeed for 3 years and beyond. It is sad we have this cultural expectation, because the nutrients and benefits for your child go up as the baby becomes a toddler. Here is an informative piece on breastfeeding past infancy. If you are no longer breastfeeding at 1 year, I recommend researching raw goat or cow’s milk, kefir or yogurt or increase the nutrient dense foods you are offering. Also include a good infant human strain probiotic supplement to help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Pasteurized cows milk is not necessary in my educated opinion.
If my child is sick with a stomach bug, what should I feed them besides the typical “brat” diet (bananas, rice, apples, and toast)?
If you are breastfeeding and your infant has the stomach bug, breastmilk can help re-colonize the infant gut with beneficial bacteria, and the closeness soothes baby. However, limit to a small amount as they will most likely vomit it up again. If your child has the stomach bug and is fully weaned from breastfeeding, I do not recommend the “brat” diet, or sports drinks. I recommend slowly sipping bone broth and introducing a good probiotic once the stomach has settled enough to hold down the bone broth. Then once child is feeling better, add soup with fully cooked veggies or well-cooked tender meat, as well as a good probiotic until the stomach is recolonized with good bacteria and can handle other foods.
Which veggies can be given raw, how often do they need veggies?
Don’t over-think it…offer a variety of healthy meats and veggies plus occasional fruits. Stick with real food, not food that comes in a package. I do recommend cooking veggies until tender, especially when just starting solids. See how they handle it. Remember the first year is just for experimenting with different flavors. Always breastfeed or formula feed first during the first year of life. If they are not satiated after that, then offer small pieces of food to experiment with. There is no magic number to the amount of veggies. Just offer small pieces of what you are eating with each meal.
Does introducing meat too early put a strain on their kidneys?
I don’t believe the small amounts of meats they are eating as babies will put any sort of strain on the kidney. They are not devouring an entire beef liver on a daily basis. Their tummy is the size of their little fist. Your baby is utilizing his different senses. He is tasting small amounts of food, and learning about eating. I do not recommend meats that are not from grass-fed or pastured animals. This piece from Mark’s Daily Apple discusses the protein and kidney myth. This piece also puts to rest some of these protein/kidney myths.
What are some healthy finger foods for toddlers?
You have to plan ahead when you go places and plan to pack real food snacks with an icepack. It’s not as easy as a boxed or packaged snack, but you will adjust! Some ideas I have are: sliced up hard boiled eggs, steamed veggie sticks (until tender), oven roasted sweet potato fries or jicama fries, small cut up pieces of chicken or other tender slow cooked meats, avocado slices with pink salt, applegate farms deli meats rolled up, roasted cauliflower, kale chips, sea snax (roasted seaweed), and berries. Here is a post I did a while back with some “kiddo” snack ideas. As they get older and can chew more, we get grass-fed beef sticks as well.
How do you deal with the stigma of not giving pasteurized grain-fed cow’s milk to your children? What other options are there?
Be strong. Stick to your guns. Again, here is my article on cows milk. I don’t believe a child needs to drink their nutrition. The most important drink for a child is filtered water. If the child has no issues with milk proteins, raw grass-fed dairy can be explored. No other species of animals continue to drink milk from another species after weaning. It is purely cultural (and some pushing from the dairy board and the influence they have on the government). If you feel you must give some milk yet your child cannot handle the proteins in raw milk, almond milk and coconut milk are options, but filtered water is the best form of hydration.
Is it safe to breastfeed while eating paleo/primal?
Absolutely. Paleo is a nutritious lifestyle. It is how our early ancestors ate for thousands upon thousands of years. As with any breastfeeding mama, you want to make sure you are consuming enough food for both you and your baby. Remember, your baby gets the nutrients you consume first…it all goes to the milk. Whatever is left goes to you. So baby will not be the one who suffers. You want to take care of yourself though so you have energy and feel good. Breastfeeding burns a lot of energy. Eat to hunger and drink water to thirst. Include starchy veggies as a good source of carbohydrates.
What are some good fats to give my child if he won’t eat avocados, nuts or nut butters?
If your child can handle dairy proteins raw cheeses are an option, as is goat cheese. My kids love broccoli slightly steamed and sauteed with duck fat and pink salt. Also roasted cauliflower with coconut oil is a favorite of my kids. If your child is allergic to almond butter, sunbutter is a good option. Grain free baked snacks with coconut oil are an option too. However…do keep trying avocados! It took almost a year of offering everyday with many refusals, but my 4 year old loves them now. Cook with stable saturated fats as well.
I hope this guide was helpful to you! Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me any other questions you have!
My name is Kathryn. I am a mama of 2 boys ages 7 and 4. I am a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor (CLEC) through the University of San Diego. I have an Undergraduate Degree in Health, and an M.Ed. in Rehabilitation Counselor. I am currently studying to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through The Nutritional Therapy Association.
1. Baby-led Weaning; Helping your baby to love good foods, Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, Copyright 2008
2. Counseling the Nursing Mother, A Lactation Consultant’s Guide, Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher, Copyright 2022 by Jones and Bartlett Learning, LLC
* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!! Express my thoughts and sums up a lot of the knowledge I’ve gained through my research as well. Thank you for putting this all together so comprehensively. I’ll be sharing on several of the sites I write for 🙂
Thanks for the work you do Kathryn. It is great to see people such as your self getting this type of helpful information out to people who could greatly benefit from it but are bombarded with incorrect information and marketing. Keep it up!
Thanks Dave 🙂
I don’t see teething mentioned. What would you recommend for teething as far as using foods like apple slices or raw carrot or frozen fruit in mesh bags? Also I heard chamomile tea helps the gums and can b used by dipping a washcloth in it and freezing. My baby isn’t eating food yet and I’m trying to wait as long as its not neccesary. ( shes 4 months +) Your article is well written and very informative. Thank you
Shayna, yes…I really liked those mesh bags!
Thanks for writing such a fantastic, well researched article. Bookmarked!
My little boy is going to be 7 months on 3/25/15. He can sit up on his own and generally will open his mouth to take in food. I wouldn’t say he pushes it back out, but it does end up coming back out, if that makes sense. We tried avocado first, which he sort of liked, then we tried sweet potato and it appears to have given him a really bad rash on his face that won’t go away. He did gag when we tried peas though.
So since he is not showing any of the other signs you suggest, should we continue to wait until he meets some of these other milestones? He seems content on breastmilk and doesn’t really have any interest in picking up pieces from his tray and putting them in his mouth.
I would definitely hold off! It really is no rush. The first year is primarily exploration and tasting. He will be ready in his own time!
Wonderful to read this. I have just started BLW with my 6 month old and he absolutely loves it, but maybe a bit too enthusiastic about stuffing his mouth with food already, giving Mummy a heart attack (I’m so scared he may choke)! It’s great to hear you making a point that there is no rush, I have already been putting pressure on myself to introduce as many different things as I can. I’m going to pull back a bit, and start slower so I can relax. Beside, I love breastfeeding, want to draw it out for as long as I can!
My 2 years old love cereal, I only let her eat cheerios, sugar free, what do you think about this kind of cereal?