For decades, parents have instinctively reached for formulas, jars of baby food, and snacks made by the companies we’ve come to know and trust. The smiling babies on the packages have lulled us into a false sense of security in the formulas and foods that we feed our babies on a daily basis.
In a country where we throw away literal tons of food on a daily basis, we have children who are malnourished. Not because of a lack of food, but because of poor nutrition. We are raising a generation of children who are suffering from malnutrition in the midst of plenty.
Childhood obesity has doubled in the past twenty years, and young children are suffering from obesity linked diseases at an rate that was unheard of in the past.
Parents and healthcare professionals now question the safety and wisdom of what was once standard protocol in infant nutrition as research reveals the dangers lurking in baby’s formula and food.
Toxins, chemicals, and questionable processing processes have everyone asking, “What’s really in baby’s food?”
7 What Did We Do Before Baby Food ?
Before 1880, baby food and formula didn’t exist. Babies were exclusively breastfed until nine to twelve months old, and then they were introduced to soft foods.
Fruits and vegetables weren’t a regular part of baby’s diet until after the age of two, when most babies were fully weaned. It wasn’t until the 1900’s when vitamins were discovered in fruits and vegetables that this changed. Until then babies were fed gruel, egg yolk, bone broth, or finely minced meats.
In the 1920’s a man by the name of Harold Clapp introduced the world to jarred baby food that was mass produced in large quantities after finding that his baby recovered quickly from an illness by eating vegetable soup.
Meanwhile in Michigan, Gerber began pureeing fruits and vegetables and that was the beginning of a lucrative baby food empire. Women loved the convenience that this “modern” innovation offered and jars were soon flying off of the shelves.
As baby food became more available, the age at which parents introduced solid foods dropped from nine to twelve months to less than three months old. Mothers embraced this modern wisdom, and breastfeeding began to be seen as “primitive”.
By the 1960’s and 1970’s over ninety percent of babies were fed jarred baby food and breastfeeding rates dropped to all time lows as mothers embraced the ease and convenience of modern feeding methods.
6 Question Everything
Commercial baby foods and formulas reigned unchecked until the late 1960’s and 1970’s when people began to question literally everything.
Ralph Nader spearheaded the consumer movement, and Americans began to hold manufacturers to a higher standard of quality, and the baby food industry was no exception.
As parents became more concerned with what was in those familiar glass jars and powdered formulas, companies were forced to listen as revenues dropped.
They did away with baby desserts and lowered the salt content in their products in an effort to cater to a generation of mothers who were embracing a more natural form of parenting, that, oddly enough, mimicked the wisdom from generations past.
To the detriment of the health of the nation’s infants, convenience and blind trust trumped traditional wisdom and intuition and by the 1980’s jarred baby foods and cans of formula were once again the norm.
5 Store Bought vs. Homemade
The debate between store bought and homemade baby food is still a hot topic among today’s parents. The majority of modern families have both parents working outside the home in order to provide for the basic necessities of life.
Convenience is a commodity as we cut corners in order to fit the day’s activities into our jam packed schedules. Fast food and frozen dinners are the norm, as are jars of baby food lining the pantry shelves for our littlest ones.
What are the benefits of homemade baby foods vs. store bought?
Store bought foods:
- prepared to government safety guidelines
- offers a variety of choices
Homemade baby food:
- allows you to know exactly what is in your baby’s food
- environmentally friendly
- allows baby to get used to the family’s diet
Toxins and Chemicals
There is a lot of talk today about the toxins and chemicals that are found in the food we eat, and baby foods are no exception. What is in commercial baby foods and how can that affect our children?
By the age of one, the typical American baby has consumed over six hundred jars of store bought baby food. That amounts to billions of dollars in the pockets of baby food manufacturers annually.
4 Baby’s First Food
Consumer Reports reports that arsenic was found in quantifiable amounts in rice baby cereals, one of the first foods that America’s healthcare providers recommend as baby’s first food. According to The American Cancer Society , arsenic is a known carcinogen. Arsenic has also been used to poison people for centuries. Even organic rice baby cereal was shown to contain measureable amounts of arsenic.
Extruded cereals, such as infant and baby cereals, are toxic to baby’s immature digestive system. Extruded grains through metal plates at such a high temperatures during processing, that the makeup of the grains is altered, making them toxic. This is especially true for infants who are more sensitive to chemicals and toxins than older children and adults. Some research indicates that early introduction of these extruded grains can cause allergies.
A better choice for an infant’s first food is a mashed egg yolk, which is rich in protein and the beneficial fats necessary for baby’s brain to develop properly.
In testing done by a USDA study that researched pesticide residues in baby food, the results were disturbing, to say the least. As a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, “ minimizing using foods in which chemical pesticides or herbicides were used by farmers.”
In an analysis of green beans packaged as baby food, five pesticides were present. Organophosphate pesticides were found in twenty percent of the green beans analysed.
This is especially troubling according to Johanna Congleton, a toxicologist with the Environmental Working Group, because, “ Organophosphate pesticides are of special concern since they are associated with neurodevelopmental effects in children. Infants in particular should avoid exposure to these pesticides since they are more susceptible to the effects of chemical insult than adults.”
Green beans weren’t the only food that contained pesticides, other fruits and vegetables tested revealed pesticide residue as well.
Andrew M. Weil, Founder and Director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, recommends, “ Parents should purchase organic baby foods, or better yet, prepare their own organic foods through a simple hand turned food mill. It is vital that an infant’s developing brain and nervous system contain only uncontaminated nutrient- dense foods.”
The Environmental Working Group researched pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables and released a list of the produce that contained the highest concentrations of harmful pesticides called, “The Dirty Dozen”.
The group recommends that parents take notice of this listing and only feed their babies certified organic versions of these foods:
- sweet bell peppers
- nectarines (imported)
- domestic blueberries
- ●collard greens/kale
- ●green beans
GMOs , or genetically modified organisms, are living organisms that have been altered through genetic engineering. This process creates combinations of plant, animal, viral and bacterial genes that go against the original makeup of the organism.
Modern farming practices tout the benefits of using GMO seeds because they can handle being sprayed with herbicides or contain an insecticide.
Sixty countries around the world, including all of Europe, ban the use of GMOs. In America, the government continues to support the use of GMOs, based on results of research conducted by the companies that stand to profit most from their use.
America’s top makers of baby formula, Similac, Enfamil and Gerber, refuse to stop using GMOs in their formula, in spite of the fact the their products are not on the shelves in over sixty countries around the world, due to concerns about the effects of GMOs on humans.
In fact, all three companies spent millions to fight the passage of a bill in California that would require labeling for products that contain GMOs. The combined income of the three companies was $135 billion dollars in 2012. It’s clearly evident that the health of America’s most vulnerable citizens has been sacrificed on the altar of monetary gain.
The American Medical Association suggests mandatory testing before products with GMOs make it on to store shelves, and into consumers cupboards. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine calls for a ban on GMOs and prompt safety testing and comprehensive labeling.
In spite of these warnings, the FDA and USDA maintain that GMOs are completely safe for human consumption. GMOs are present in almost all foods found on grocery store shelves.
Experts advise buying organic foods, which can not contain GMOs, under Federal Law. Look for foods that are specifically labeled “No GMOs”. It’s also advised to avoid foods that are not organic or labeled “No GMOs” that contain corn, soybean, or cottonseed.
2 Sugar and Trans Fats
In a study that looked at the sugar content in over 100 baby foods, it was found that one manufacturer’s teething biscuits contained twenty nine percent sugar. It was also discovered that many baby snacks contain trans fats, a leading contributor to diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
Parents who place their trust in the manufacturers of these baby foods are being duped by the very companies they trust to provide safe, healthy foods for their growing babies. In 2002, the FDA came to the conclusion that there are absolutely no safe levels for trans fats in foods.
Because trans fats are cheaper and extend shelf life, baby food manufacturers don’t hesitate to place children at risk, all in the name of making money.
Dangers of Soy
Soy based formulas are recommended for babies who struggle to digest formulas derived from cow’s milk, or to supplement breastfeeding.
Soy formula has been proven to cause the following issues:
●cause disruptions in hormone levels
●expose the baby to 2,000 times normal estrogen content
●cause behavior issues
●expose babies to dangerous levels of manganese and aluminum
1 What About Organic Baby Foods?
Commercially prepared organic baby foods sound like a healthy option for quick, and convenient nutrition for your baby, but are they really what’s best for baby?
Americans spent an estimated $116 million dollars on organic baby foods last year, and the numbers are increasing as parents become more and more wary of traditional baby food manufacturer’s products.
While store bought organic baby foods are pesticide free and free from GMOs, there are other things to consider when choosing which food is healthiest for baby to dine on .
Organic baby foods still contain large amounts of common salt. While it is true that we need salt in our diets for optimal health, this refers to natural unprocessed salts, that aren’t found in any commercial baby foods to date, organic or otherwise.
Baby can also be exposed to BPAs that are harmful to his or her health. The product itself may be healthy enough, but the packaging can expose baby to dangerous toxins.
Preparing Homemade Baby Foods
Preparing homemade baby food is much simpler than you think! By preparing your own baby foods at home, you know exactly what is in baby’s food and can ensure that your baby gets nothing but the tastiest and freshest foods.
You can use a simple fork to puree baby foods, or invest in an all in one steamer and baby food maker. Most parents settle for using their food processors to puree their baby’s foods.
Start out by getting the freshest, organic food available. Farmer’s markets are a great place to get fresh picked fruits and veggies for baby at a great price! If you can’t afford fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, frozen organic produce is a close second for nutrition and taste.
Simple steam the veggies until tender and blend. Fruits may need peeling before pureeing for a smooth texture.
First foods for baby can include:
- mashed egg yolk
- sweet potatoes
- winter squash
Once baby has mastered these basics, you can move on to feeding baby pureed table foods at about nine months to a year old. Make sure to use the quality, organic ingredients when preparing foods for your family and baby.
There are various websites and cookbooks that contain recipes for baby friendly combinations for advanced eaters.
Good nutrition begins at birth. If possible breastfeed your baby. If you are unable to breastfeed, avoid soy formulas at all costs, and invest in organic baby formula. Then add in organic pureed foods that have been prepared at home, if possible. This will give your baby the foundation he or she needs to build a lifetime of healthy eating habits.