At one of my baby showers I was gifted a book, Super Nutrition for Babies by Katherine Erlich and Kelly Genzlinger. I put it aside until not too long ago after I read Baby Led Weaning. Unfortunately Super Nutrition for Babies has a picture of puréed baby food on the cover so I opened it up and quickly discarded it as “not for us” thinking it was going to be about making your own puréed baby food which is very much not along the mindset of baby led weaning (BLW).
I most definitely judged the book by its cover and I thought nothing of it until I had a few mama friends rave about this book. So I picked it back up and decided to give it a go. After all, it was gifted for a very specific reason and other moms were loving its principals. And let’s be honest, I do want Vivian to have super nutrition and I want to set her up to be a healthy and happy little girl!
It is very important when you consider what to feed your baby because food is the most significant “environmental” component in his life. (Page 12)
Too often parents focus on making sure their children get enough calories, rather than focusing on the nutrients their kids most need. (Page 14)
So I curled up with the book and started reading. I quickly saw the value of the book and its lessons on nutrition not just for babies, but as a general lifestyle for all humans.
It comes down to this: Poor health comes from poor food. (Page 11)
In an ideal world we’d be eating all “super power foods” as they are called and none of the crap processed stuff. But life isn’t ideal. Life is life! It is real and it is fast paced and the book does touch on that briefly saying it is OK to have some of the crap food and it is OK if you can’t get all grass fed, cage free, organic and untainted meat but of course your quality of life will be better and toxin level will be lower if you make the best choices most of the time.
The food selected, their source, the preparation, their timing of introduction, their quality, and the combination are all important in the protection of health. (Page 18)
Your child will be fed a diet made up of a mixture of crap, okay, PURE, and some super POWER foods. (Page 35)
The book is in chapters based on age and offers helpful recipes for each stage based on baby’s digestive system and its abilities. One of the biggest eye openers of the book is how it details why allergies are on the rise and how the gut flora impacts life from babyhood and beyond.
While your baby’s digestive system won’t be fully “grown-up “until at least two years of age, at around six months, he’ll have some very particular nutrient needs that are best met by introducing solid foods. (Page 39)
Food allergies come from undigested protein and “open,” or “leaky,” gut walls. In early months, your baby has openings in his intestinal lining – a normal state called “open” gut. This allows good antibodies from mom’s milk to pass through his gut wall easily into his bloodstream, where they can protect him… When the immune system sees whole or only partially digested proteins, it views them as foreign invaders and attacks. (Page 39)
With celiac’s disease in our family, I seriously took note of the warnings of feeding our baby gluten so early on. Cheerios are a go-to first food for many babies but it is theorized that the early introduction of gluten is a main factor in gluten intolerances these days. Apparently babies don’t yet have the required protein or enzyme to breakdown the gluten proteins.
Even if she has “bad” genetics (or genetic susceptibility) that sets her up… It is most often not her genes, but rather her environment that will determine whether she actually ever gets any of these conditions. (Page 18)
Your baby’s body is not ready to digest grains… Babies (prior to toddlerhood) are functionally grain intolerant because they don’t effectively make starch-digesting enzymes. (Pages 43 – 44)
Early gluten introduction has been shown to play a role in the development of celiac disease, as well as other autoimmune disorders… Some experts postulate that this increase might be directly related to early and excessive gluten-containing diet, including an increasing reliance on grain foods for babies. (Page 81)
A special enzyme (called DPP-4) is needed to digest gluten. Since babies don’t yet have this gluten-busting enzyme, the gluten can get “stuck” in a partially digested form… [which] acts similar to other opiates – opium, morphine, and heroin – clouding and fogging the brain, hindering development and perception, and altering behavior… your baby can get physically hooked on cereal and wheat. (Page 82)
Of course, the day before I read about this, I had given Vivian her first peanut butter sandwich. On bread, yes, glutinous bread. I’m not worried I broke her for life and I have seen others unknowingly give her something gluten based and I don’t flip a lid but it now makes me think twice and I won’t be choosing gluten options for quite some time. In fact, I’ve made a few easy substitutions thanks to the book - Viv absolutely loves my coconut flour pancakes. They pack a huge protein punch with an egg as well as lots of fiber from the coconut flour. Yum.
The book actually recommends a meat diet early on with suggestions of baby’s first foods being egg yolk and liver.
Saturated fat and cholesterol are absolutely necessary in a baby’s diet… Babies need most of their calories from fats in the first year… Babies should not be on any kind of fat-restrictive diet for at least the first two years. (Page 42)
The first readily available digestive enzymes your baby makes are those for digesting protein, fat, and cholesterol. Perhaps this is why, historically, traditional first baby foods have always been animal based. (Page 46)
I can easily see the importance of giving such high fat and protein foods instead of sugary meals of just fruit. In fact, how can that actually fill her up enough if I am trying to make it a real meal?
Always serve an animal protein or fat with each meal. (Page 84)
Another concern was the glycemic index of all the fruit based “baby foods”. Sure they are natural but having dealt with gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with Vivian I learned a lot and I always have the worry in the back of my mind that she now has genetic markers that may predispose her to getting diabetes. I’d like to keep that at the absolute minimum! So I have a hard time offering a high carb load food without balancing it with a protein.
Apparently the book also suggests that the sugar is a main factor of immune deficiencies.
Studies show that sugar in juice reduces immune function by disabling critical white blood cells for five to seven hours after ingestion, which makes them less able to fight off infection. (Page 80)
Avoiding flour – and sugar-based foods and other inflammation-causing foods will increase the chances that your baby’s immune potential will be reached… Sugar and white flour are the favorite foods of many bad bugs and yeasts… By eliminating refined carbohydrates in your baby’s diet, you reduce these sickness causing flora by starving them. (Page 102)
In addition to a high sugar intake, Super Nutrition for Babies suggests that over-sterilization is a huge factor of illness as the body doesn’t have enough good bacteria. I have always believed this myself and it is a reason I am not a afraid of germs - you need them to get stronger!
The primary cause of infection is not due to the presence of unfriendly bacteria, but it’s actually due to insufficient friendly bacteria… Significant findings imply that chronic runny noses, coughs, and viral illness in children could actually be caused by a probiotic deficiency. (Page 96)
Being “sterile” by using disinfectants should not be confused with being “clean.” Instead of seeing antibacterial soaps, cleansers, wipes, sprays, and sanitizing gels as ways to protect your baby from “harmful” “bugs, view them as products that kill off his army of protective microbes, making bad bugs even stronger and your child’s defenses even weaker… Let him fight his own microbial battles; he’ll be healthier and stronger for it - all his life. (Page 97)
Ensure that soaps and products do not contain antibacterial agents such as triclosan (a toxic agent). (Page 73)
Simply being exposed to germs doesn’t mean your baby will get sick. Whether he gets sick is based on the strength of his immune system, not germ exposure alone… Microbial exposure serves to strengthen immunity by helping your baby’s gut develop and create a strong barrier against agents that could make him sick… A weak immune system is the true culprit behind illness. Struggling immunity comes from poor diet, sugar, toxins, antibiotic overuse, nutrient deficiencies, low omega-3 and high omega-6 fatty acids, protein deficiency, and lack of good bacteria… 80 percent of our immune system is actually found in the gut… Healthy intestines discourage infection… By building these layers (intestinal tissue, mucosa, good bacteria), you’ll be ensuring that he’s got a really thick and strong barrier against infecting agents and toxins, so your baby is much less likely to get sick. (Page 95)
Vitamin D insufficiency is related to higher rates of common colds, influenza, and the respiratory infection RSV. It likely contributes to the increased rate of illness during darker winter months when we expose our skin to less sunshine. (Page 96)
In fact, it may seem extremely strange but since having Vivian I have made sure to get my intake of bacteria. I don’t hunt germs down and lick something someone sneezes on (super disgusting image there) but I don’t stop Vivian from putting her very likely germy and dirty hands in my mouth. Why? Because I know that as a breastfeeding mother that it is important to come in contact with the same bacteria Vivian has (of course she doesn’t think twice about chomping on her dirty fingers) so that my breastmilk can contain the antibodies. Maybe I’ve been mislead and this is not at all how it works, but that is how I’ve come to understand it and I will do anything to help my kiddo out - including being a homemade “drug” against illness.
Of course, she’s bound to get sick because Tyler and I aren’t germaphobes but it is important to remember,
When your baby does get sick, honor his instincts to eat (or not eat), but ensure that he drinks and stays hydrated… “Feed a fever, starve a cold”… Temporarily not feeling hungry and therefore not eating much while sick might allow his immune system to function better. While we don’t ever suggest you make your baby fast, we offer this information to help reassure you that if he’s not eating for a day or two, as long as he’s drinking, you need not be over worried. (Page 104)
Besides germs, the book talks a lot about toxins. There are a lot of statistics about scary environmental factors and toxins but I’m not going to detail all of those. You just have to read the book for all that info. But I will say it notes,
If you serve a nonorganic apple to your baby, you’re also serving up an average of sixteen pesticides applied at least thirty-six times. (Page 69)
Also a hot button issue - vaccines. The vaccine debate can become quite a heated topic and this book doesn’t necessarily go into that, as it shouldn’t being a nutrition book, but it does state,
Nutrition deficiencies, particularly vitamin K, B12, and folic acid, can increase the risk of side effects from vaccines. (Page 74)
Ok, to wrap this post up I will leave you with the fundamental beliefs laid out in the book. The main idea is if you follow Super Nutrition you will greatly decrease/limit the risk of being affected by the 3C’s.
Contemporary Chronic Childhood maladies [called] “3C” conditions, and they include autism spectrum disorders; allergies, eczema, and asthma; attention deficit disorders and learning disabilities; emotional, mood, and behavioral disorders; recurrent pain disorders; metabolic syndrome, obesity, and autoimmune diseases; digestive disorders; tooth decay; and cancer… [which are] nonexistent in preindustrialized populations. (Page 17)
To best follow Super Nutrition keep in mind that "whole foods are your best source of nutrients." (Page 20) and the four pillars of super nutrition (summarized from pages 26-28):
Pillar one: digestibility. Facilitate digestion and support intestinal health.
-since the digestive system impacts immunity, availability of nutrients, protection from toxins, and detoxification of toxins, it directly affects the health and functioning of the brain.
-digestible foods are soaked, sprouted, or leavened; fermented or cultured; and/or containing enzymes.
Pillar two: Purity. Reduce toxic exposure and improve detoxification capabilities.
-no additives, synthetic nutrients, preservatives, or other chemicals; organic; pasture fed; no growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs given to farm animals; whole form; minimally processed; not genetically modified.
Pillar three: immune boosting. Strengthen and support immunity.
-healthy bacterial exposure and colonization is critical to a healthy body and strong immune system… The best way to prevent infection isn’t to avoid microbes. It is actually to fortify the immune system from within.
Pillar four: nutrient worth. Provide optimally nourishing foods.
-are nutrient dense, containing a rich amount of nutrients per calorie; do not contain antinutrients that block mineral absorption; do not contain sugars or refined salt.
There are so many other very interesting points but you might just want to get your hands on a copy of Super Nutrition for Babies yourself. Happy mealtime!