Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 May

The Definitive Guide to Feeding Primal Babies

It’s commonly portrayed as the realm of infant formula, rice cereal, applesauce, teething biscuits, Zwieback toast and Cheerios. And in the following months a large pantry selection of strained this or that in tiny glass, commercial jars… Add to this picture more recent concoctions like toddler formula, Elmo crackers, mini juice packs, fruit gummies, and “Graduate” lines. All of this begs the question, exactly when and how did baby/early toddler nutrition become a string of processed convenience foods? The ingredient lists often smack more of Candyland than the “wholesome goodness” claimed on the labels. Was this really what nature intended? Can’t we do better by our baby Groks? What would Grandma Grok have to say about all of this? We’ve taken up the kid question before, but I thought it was time for a definitive focus on the youngest of the seedling set.

In a consumeristic society, conventional wisdom has an odd way of merging with marketing maneuver. These revisions to common sense seep in slowly, idea by idea, item by item, until we look around and suddenly don’t recognize the landscape or logic anymore. (That is, if we choose to think about it…) As we so often ask at MDA, how did our current customs come to stray so far from the way of our ancestors?

In Grok’s day, for one, babies had to nurse. Human milk was a long complex product of evolution. Milk with fatty acids for brain development, antibodies for immune system support and high nutrient and fat content resulted in healthy babies who would more likely survive the challenges of Grok’s day. If the milk could change as the child aged to better meet his/her needs over time, that child would have an even better chance of making it to adulthood. And, as we know, these characteristics in breastmilk were exactly what evolution favored and selected for over time. Because human babies had small stomachs, they needed to eat often. Breastmilk was the ultimate in portable food. Because it took two years for babies and young toddlers to develop teeth adequate to chew much of the food available in Grok’s day, they were dependent on their mothers’ milk. (There were, of course, no Cuisinart processors or food mills in Paleolithic times – and little time to bother with elaborate food preparation anyway.) Children transitioned to solids at a slow and gradual rate and took milk from their mothers throughout the toddler years.

So, if the Primal Blueprint vision blends the best of Grok’s day with the benefit of ours, what does this mean for the youngest among us today? Before you scratch the food processor from your baby registry, you should know that I don’t believe in eschewing the gadgets and gizmos that assist in providing good nutrition. I take issue with the modern redefinition of infant/toddler nutrition and the decided disadvantage it imposes on today’s seedlings.

Breastfeeding Benefits

One thing is for certain. Nursing was good enough for baby Grok, and it remains the ideal, unmatched source of nutrients that support human development. Though I’m not going to make a point of comparing formula feeding to mechanical bull riding while pregnant (remember that ad campaign?) I will put it out there – breast is best. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (as well as other pediatric associations) recommends exclusively breastfeeding until six months, continuing through the first year with the introduction of solids, and after that as long as the mother desires. WHO and UNICEF promote breastfeeding until at least the age of two. As for the MDA stance, I consider breastmilk an absolutely crucial element in optimal infant and young toddler nutrition. Extended breastfeeding and/or the offering of pumped milk should continue through the age of two and ideally beyond.

Last month an Atlantic article The Case Against Breastfeeding caught the public’s (and my) attention and got a lot of tongues wagging. The author, Hanna Rosin, made the case that research didn’t support a significant health benefit of breastmilk over today’s infant formulas. Rosin set out to scrutinize the science behind the nursing-formula debate and to weigh the benefit of breastmilk against the efforts and frustrations of the mother who must provide it. Unfortunately, the article accomplished neither goal in any comprehensive or accurate way. As to the science, critics complain that Rosin conveniently scanned (and cited) selective medical literature. Her “search” into the debate was triggered by a 2001 JAMA article suggesting “inconsistent associations” between breastfeeding and subsequent obesity risk. She went on to point out the occasional incongruity to be found in breastfeeding research – whether it be related to allergies, IQ, diabetes, etc. (Someone should tell her this is always the case – no matter what the issue or condition studied.)

As for Rosin’s and other skeptics’ arguments, it’s true that subsequent diet and circumstance can undo the benefits of breastfeeding. Other advantages are so difficult to nail down in any absolute way that results can always be questioned from some angle (e.g. an individual child’s potential IQ versus his/her actual IQ). She also doesn’t mention (and perhaps didn’t bother to look at) how many of the “critical” studies were indirectly funded by the formula industry. Trust me, there are a lot out there, and the fine print is usually buried at the bottom.

Nonetheless, the overall picture of breastfeeding benefits looks like this. One of the most comprehensive review studies examined and screened over 9000 research abstracts. The final contents of the review included “43 primary studies on infant health outcomes, 43 primary studies on maternal health outcomes, and 29 systematic reviews or meta-analyses that covered approximately 400 individual studies.” The findings were these: a 36% reduction in SIDS, a 23-50% risk reduction (depending on breastfeeding duration) for middle ear infections, 42% risk reduction in eczema, 64% reduction in non-specific gastroenteritis, a 72% reduction in hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections (infants under 1 year of age), a 27% reduction in asthma (40% for those with a family history), 7-24% reduction in later obesity, a 19-27% reduction in type 1 diabetes, a 39% reduction in type 2 diabetes, a 15-19% reduction in childhood leukemia, as well as an association with lower blood pressure, and lower total and LDL cholesterol. Association with cognitive development, particularly for premature or low birth weight infants, has been shown, but environmental factors have not been completely ruled out as confounding factors in existing studies.

Finally, research is coming out now suggesting a significant health benefit for the mother. In addition to helping prevent postpartum depression, nursing (particularly for two years or more) can also reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, maternal type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Membership has its privileges.

All that said, I understand that modern life and individual circumstance can make nursing (particularly “extended” breastfeeding) difficult despite the incredible advantages to both mother and child. More mothers work outside the home and are away from their children for long stretches of time. Although the breast pump industry (along with the pumping culture) has skyrocketed in recent years, not every woman has the practical opportunity, legal entitlement or adequate location for pumping during the workday. These are legitimate questions our society needs to actively and concretely address.

Additionally, nursing requires a tremendous amount of patience, time, and (at certain stages) physical fortitude. No wonder nature designed positive motivators like hormonal release to encourage mother-child bonding and relaxation during breastfeeding. Mother Grok didn’t have much of an alternative to nursing, but she likely had more support and informal instruction within the tribal community than mothers do today.

In the rare case of milk supply issues or maternal absence, it’s probable that other lactating women in the group took on nursing responsibilities for an ailing or orphaned infant. Today we have the likes of La Leche League and professional lactation consultants to stand in for some of the traditional supports. Herbal remedies like fenugreek, alfalfa, nettle leaf, and goat’s rue can help stimulate milk production in mothers who need a boost because of illness, abnormally difficult labor and delivery, premature birth or poor nursing latch.

In the rare case of milk supply issues that couldn’t be fixed through herbal medicine, it’s probable that other lactating women in the group took on nursing responsibilities for an ailing or orphaned infant. Today, we don’t really live in tribes, villages, or closely-knit families with lactating females in our midst at all times, but we can still obtain donor breastmilk through programs like Milk Share, Human Milk 4 Human Babies (nice ring to it, eh?), and Eats on Feets. If milk-boosting isn’t working, I would strongly consider donor milk. Human breast absolutely is best, even if it’s not yours.

If breastfeeding isn’t an option because of maternal health, adoption or other irremediable circumstance, opinions differ on the best secondary options. Most experts suggest conventional formula preparations (particularly for newborns and young babies). Some have evaluated their composition to aid parents in their decision, but nearly all recommend avoiding soy formula all together.

There are also recipes for homemade formula, but it’s crucial in these circumstances to consult your pediatrician. For newborns and young babies, I would recommend conventional formula with DHA and ARA. (I’m not any fan of the formula companies, but infant nutrition involves a whole constellation of considerations. As much as I despise some of the industry marketing practices, the formula companies are closely regulated, and nutrient/hydration requirements have been precisely figured.)

For older babies, I would suggest caution and close medical collaboration when selecting and feeding homemade formula. Though many pediatricians suggest that cow’s milk is a sufficient substitute for formula after twelve months, I recommend continuing a DHA-containing formula (pediatrician-approved homemade or conventional if necessary) until at least eighteen months and preferably two years. Finally, although human breast milk can be purchased, it is generally far beyond the budget of most families. If your baby is premature or unhealthy at birth, talk to the hospital staff and your insurance company about the availability and coverage of donated breast milk.

Even in the best of circumstances, it’s important for nursing mothers to prioritize good nutrition for themselves. Breastmilk production requires extra protein, calcium, fatty acids and an overall addition of daily calories (usually between 350-500). Incorporating a wide variety of foods will help cultivate an infant’s taste for that same healthy fare once they transition to solids. It’s a wise idea to limit or eliminate foods associated with sensitivities and allergies like dairy, soy, gluten, peanuts, coffee and citrus.

Sampling Solids

This brings us to early foods… It’s impossible to cover the first year or so without discussing the transition to “real food” (as if breastmilk is somehow a substandard stand-in…). Ask a roomful of parents what their children’s pediatricians suggest for first foods, and you’ll inevitably hear infant rice or oatmeal from the vast majority. How many of us received the same from our parents? Show of hands?

Conventional wisdom and practice promotes a timeline that goes something like this: rice cereal at six months (sometimes even earlier!), quickly followed by infant oatmeal, followed by barley, followed by processed and pureed fruits, processed and pureed “sweet” vegetables (e.g. squash, sweet potatoes), followed by infant desserts like pudding and cobbler (seriously, folks), followed by the gradual inclusion of maybe an additional 3-4 processed “vegetable” varieties (for the last time, corn is not a vegetable – and neither are peas for that matter). Mixed into this mash of baby mush are innumerable Cheerios, “puffs” (grains decorated with coloring and air), “yogurt melts” and other such nutritional nonsense. I need a timeout just thinking about this….

First off, let me say what should be the obvious. Forget the grains. Pitch the cute boxes with the baby face and baby bowl and other sentimental imagery. Rice, oatmeal, barley. These are unnecessary elements of infant (or adult) nutrition. Although they might be cheaper per ounce, they are less nutrient dense, have a high glycemic index, and in early infancy can trigger allergic conditions. There’s the argument that babies should be exposed to grains to actually prevent allergies or intolerance later. The research is spotty, inconsistent, and the evolutionary logic doesn’t add up. However, because grains are so ubiquitous in our society, it might not be a bad idea to “test” for allergies at some point. Nonetheless, this process can easily wait until the age of one or later when babies have the enzymes to better handle their composition.

That takes care of the boxes. What about the jars? I mean, of course, the customary jars (Gerber, Heinz, Beechnut, etc.) that have lined the cabinets of parents for the last few generations. My first reaction is save your money. These baby purees contain so much water that you’re paying through the nose for a truly minute amount of actual food.

My second response is to forgo them for the sake of better nutrition as well as a better bottom line. Commercial baby foods, whether they come in the traditional jars or those little plastic containers, contain unnecessary and questionable fillers. (Something has to hold it together after including all that water). Fillers like cornstarch or tapioca add to the processed carb content of the “meal” without adding any nutrition to it. The primary food ingredient itself is likely overcooked, a process which depletes the nutritional content. (Some analyses have found natural and organic brands such as Earth’s Best to be more nutrient dense than the bigger conventional companies.) By all means, skip the infant desserts, which have a lower nutritional profile than their regular puree counterparts. If you’re looking for convenience, I’d suggest the frozen baby foods that have become widely available in the last few years (Happy Baby, Plum, Sweet Cheeks, etc.).

Ultimately, however, I’d recommend making your own. The business of do-it-yourself baby food has come a long way since my children were young. In addition to the old fashioned food mills and the small size processors, you can now find special freezer trays, portable serving cubes, baby food sieves, innumerable cookbooks and even an all-in-one steamer and processor. With all the gadgets and gizmos, the time investment is minimal, the nutrition unmatched, and the financial outlay less than most other options.

The best first foods around six months of age are non-allergenic, fresh and flavorful foods that provide impressive amounts of the nutrients especially helpful for infants. Avocado is a great first option: easy to prepare and rich in healthy fats. Bananas, another old standby, aren’t bad either. Cooked (but liquid) egg yolks are a good choice and offer essential cholesterol. (Yes, cholesterol is good for something.) Meats run through a fine food mill provide the iron and protein critical for this stage. Pureed beets, carrots, spinach and other softer greens, sweet potatoes, turnips, apples, pears, berries are good additions. (Side note: some experts suggest delaying the feeding of fresh beets, spinach and carrots until at least six months if not a few months longer given the high nitrate content that young babies largely convert to nitrites.)

Most fruits and vegetables can be slightly cooked to create an easier consistency and promote better digestion. (Obviously, roots and tubers need to be fully softened.) That said, it’s unnecessary to cook these items to the point of unrecognizable mush. You want to balance nutrient retention with baby-friendly texture.  You can add unsweetened yogurt to fruits and pureed greens. Include a bit of cod liver oil, and you’ve got yourself a good smoothie Baby Grok would’ve loved.

For babies and young children, I’d definitely recommend organic whenever and wherever you can find it. (This goes for any food group.) The smaller the seedling, the more vulnerable they are to pesticide residues, hormones and antibiotics. Organic and wild variety produce also offers more nutritional bang for your buck. Dairy and meats should be pastured whenever possible.

The bottom line on baby seedlings is this: it’s clear what nature intended. Human milk for human babies. Whole foods in appropriate, easy to eat forms. Traditional practice trumps conventional wisdom here as it does in nearly every part of the Primal Blueprint. Nonetheless, Lady Grok would’ve killed for that Beaba….

Have your seedling suggestions, comments or questions? Send them on, and thanks for reading.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

bookgrl Flickr Photo (CC)

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Wonderful to see someone say that rice cereal is a non-essential food!!

    Jenni wrote on May 26th, 2009
  2. Thanks Mark! Very timely post for my little family.

    egmutza wrote on May 26th, 2009
  3. Mark,
    My Mom doubted “conventional wisdom” before doubting was cool. Mom gave me steak bones to suck on before I had teeth. Couldn’t have hurt and may have set me up for my “meat diet.”

    Curiousfarmer wrote on May 26th, 2009
  4. Great post! As a mother of an 18-month old little girl (still breastfeeding!) I do believe that fresh, organic food is the best. It’s hard not to go convenient when life gets hectic though.

    We’re out of the house a lot and aren’t always in a place we can sit and have a full-out meal.

    I’d love some more ideas for on-the-go snacks for kids…we’ve got cut up fruit down to a science, but sometimes beyond that it can be hard.


    Monica wrote on May 26th, 2009
    • My daughter loved plums at that age, there can also be jerkey type foods, my kids love dried mango, nuts, stuff like that?

      Kristin wrote on March 8th, 2012
    • great tips! I agree wholeheartedly with everything. I rarely give my 10 month old daughter grain, and she’s sensitive to dairy, and I have on occasion bought those little fruit and veggie pouches and freeze dried fruit for convenience. I tried making homemade teething biscuits but they failed. I need some ideas for portable foods on the go! We aren’t always at a place where I can get a quick primal/grain/dairy free snack for my daughter. This is my biggest hindrance right now. Ideally I’d just stay home and not go anywhere but that’s not very realistic!

      stacey wrote on March 13th, 2012
    • Quick convenient food ideas for little ones on the go:

      – frozen peas, tossed int a to-go container or baggie
      -frozen slices or chunks of steamed/sauteed veggies (they keep well for hours if they are packed frozen for travel after you cook them)
      – yogurts made of goat milk or almond milk (if dairy sensitive)
      – dried fruit

      Not so portable:
      -mixing flavorful broth with steamed or sauteed veggies, and pureeing them to make a textured “spread” consistency makes a great meal. Don’t be afraid to add a high-quality mineralized salt (Himalayan pink, fleur de sel, etc). Tastes great to the little ones.

      ~amron (Mom of a super-healthy 16 month-old raised on a HOMEMADE formula)

      Amron wrote on December 10th, 2012
  5. Mark,

    Love the site, actually bought some of your vitamins today. I am proud to say that my two sons, Michael and Patrick, were/are being breastfed, and our third boy, due in July, will be the same. My wife, thankfully, is VERY healthy around the solids. chicken, and a lot of vegetables and fruit, so bananas, carrots, etc. We are pretty strict about it. meats, vegetables, fruit, that’s all that we feed our boys!

    Thanks for the great site!


    James wrote on May 26th, 2009
  6. Before I was eating semi-primal myself (I do still eat rice and corn), I thought the diet my little nephews transitioned to was just not right. My sister and brother-in-law are conscientious parents who’ve followed the guidelines available to them to a T…but it just didn’t seem right to me that babies in particular might be imagined to need so many empty calories. It does concern me that this approach may be part of why we Americans are falling behind in height.

    Kim wrote on May 26th, 2009
  7. Excellent article. As a LLL leader and a mom of a preschooler (who weaned just after his fourth birthday on his own), it is refreshing to see such a well researched and thoughtful article about infant nutrition outside the breastfeeding support/promotion circles. An important note about rice cereals . . . not only is there little nutritional value but the iron it is fortified with has been shown to interfere with absorption of the iron in breastmilk.

    A note on solids . . . it is quite possible and easy to skip the purees altogether. Put soft chunks in front of a baby at mealtimes and let them experiment themselves . . .when they are ready, they will eat. Avocado, banana, steamed soft veggies or even small pieces of meat all work as first foods. For information on how to tell if your baby is truly ready for solids check

    Amy wrote on May 26th, 2009
    • YES! I was going to say something about baby led weaning :) you should look it up Mark! my son was eating steak – actually biting it off with his gums and chewing it up – at 7 months. Now at 10.5 months he LOVES meat, and more meat, and will eat some vegies too :)

      Jenni wrote on July 4th, 2012
  8. I’ve been sneaking fermented high-vitamin cod-liver oil into my 8-month old’s solid foods. We pure meat and vegetables for her on a regular basis. Mix banana in with whole yogurt. We give her egg yolk from free-range chickens. And since I make my own beef and chicken stock, we add that to her home-prepared meals as well. Real bone broth is a great source of fat-soluble vitamins AND minerals, and makes digestion easier.

    Unfortunately, I only discovered that grains are bad news in the last half-year. My 3.5 year old has become addicted to crackers, pasta, cereal, etc. I was buying whole grain in the false Conventional Wisdom belief that I was doing the right thing. But Whole Grain is probably worse! I’ve been trying to cut back her grain consumption and increase the amount and breadth of fruits, vegetables, and meat, eggs, dairy, but it’s been difficult. She’s starting to like more nutritious foods like carrots dipped in almond butter, drum sticks cooked in coconut oil or ghee, cheese (real, raw cheese that is! no more of that kraft crap), and soup made from bone broth.

    AaronBlaisdell wrote on May 26th, 2009
  9. Great article! Starting 15 years ago, I breastfed all 4 of my kids for over a year each, including a set of twins and a micro-preemie (3 mos. early). At 6-7 mos., they started homemade baby food – steamed and blendered. I always brought food from home for them when we went out, or made sure I had my portable food grinder and they had what we had. It’s so important for these little ones to have the best start possible. Unfortunately, most new parents follow the “conventional wisdom” they hear from their doctors and the media, including how formula is “just as good” as breastmilk.

    Theresa wrote on May 26th, 2009
  10. My daughters first food was pureed avocado. She LOVED it. I can highly recommend it as a mom who gave it to her baby.

    Krista wrote on May 26th, 2009
  11. Thanks so much for this article. I’m nursing a 5 month old and have already had to fight off advice from all corners (pediatrician in-laws, and the pediatrician himself, my nanny) to feed Finn iron-fortified rice cereal.

    My pediatrician did make the reasonable comment: “Cod liver oil? Have you tasted cod liver oil? If you introduce that as a first food your son probably won’t like eating very much.”

    Fortunately, I’ve found an orange-flavored cod liver oil that I’m gonna try in one month. ..

    And when I told my mom-in-law that I was avoiding grains she said “what about iron?” to which I replied, “grated liver.” That shut her up.

    Laura wrote on May 26th, 2009
    • I give my son cinnamon flavored cod liver oil almost daily and he’s 7. He’s rarely sick (allergies mostly) and hasn’t had to be to the doctor for illness since 2005. He prefers the cod liver oil with apple cider or water. He actually hasn’t ever said anything about it tasting bad. And he’s complained once when he couldn’t taste it…

      maybe he’s weird because he HATED macaroni and cheese as a baby (before I knew better) but loved sauerkraut. BTW – I ate that a lot when I was pregnant and breastfeeding him; my family is Polish. He thinks my food is great and loves cod liver oil.

      Holly wrote on May 27th, 2009
  12. My youngest son couldn’t eat any grains at all. He went into what we affectionately called “projectile vomit.” Very hard time for everyone…

    Greg at Live Fit wrote on May 26th, 2009
  13. Great article Mark, I wonder how I could advise my in-laws of this without offending them, as it saddens me to say they feed their two beautiful babies soy & corn based formula, proceeded meat, nutra-grain cereal and white rice and wonder why they both have digestive problems.

    Miriam wrote on May 26th, 2009
    • I saw a pretty good video rant on Mercola’s website about feeding babies soy formula. Pop over to his site and find it. Would be easy thing to email your in-laws.

      You could play dumb and say “wow, look what I found.”

      Grok wrote on May 26th, 2009
  14. Mark,
    Any advice for children 11,9,2. I am new to PB. I feel like I am not meeting all the nutritional values for my children if they don’t get all the “food groups”. I know , you see this as brain washing but I just need some direction. How much protein/fat/carbs do you recommend for children?

    Karen wrote on May 26th, 2009
    • I would check out some of Weston A. Price’s stuff for kids. My son has done the best with a high fat diet. And the dentist told me today that with the way his face/teeth is/are developing he probably won’t need braces!! His father and I both had them so that’s a huge relief for my wallet!

      Holly wrote on May 27th, 2009
  15. Thanks so much, Mark! Matty is 6 months old, and his sum total of solid food so far consists of a bit of avocado, a bit of banana, and sucking on a cucumber slice every now and then. I’m ditching the rice cereal someone gave us (probably the manufacturer). I love the idea of giving him T-bones!!!

    Bob wrote on May 26th, 2009
  16. The zero carbers can attest that babies thrive on an all meat diet :)

    damaged justice wrote on May 26th, 2009
  17. Does anyone know of a handy replacement for cherrios/puff for toddler on the go snack food?

    Matt wrote on May 26th, 2009
    • I have had this issue with my 9 month old. I have actually found some organic gluten free puffs that we use on a limited basis.

      Chrystle wrote on January 29th, 2013
  18. Sorry, but I can’t imagine nursing into the second year. Most of my kids stopped on their own around 13-14 months. I sat down to nurse my fifth child, as I had done everyday of her life, and pretty much on her 1st year birthday she looked at me and her eyes said “There’s not another person in this house that does this–why am I?” And she stopped cold turkey–which any nursing mother knows is quite painful. But she could drink from a cup like every one else, and that’s just the way things go.

    As far as snack foods to replace cherrios, my kids have always liked frozen berries and veggies (peas and the dreaded corn–sorry)–straight from the freezer. Very convenient–around the house, at least.

    shutchings wrote on May 26th, 2009
    • It is nearly impossible for a child under 18 m/o to self wean. I would say your children are quite rare. The normal range for self weaning is 2y/o-6 y/o biologically speaking of course in humans.

      I found it kind of rude to say “you couldn’t imagine nursing into the second year” I think it is important to respect all mothers decisions. Also I completely respect that you weaned your children when you were ready.

      kami wrote on August 6th, 2011
  19. My daughters first food was pureed avocado. She LOVED it. I can highly recommend it as a mom who gave it to her baby.

    PB wrote on May 27th, 2009
  20. “There were, of course, no Cuisinart processors or food mills in Paleolithic times …”

    There were doubtless devices for pounding and grinding food that needed processing. You can find them today among primitive peoples. I don’t know of any archaeological examples from tens of thousands of years ago, but then a wooden mortar, for example, would be unlikely to survive in the record.

    What mothers would certainly have done is chew food for their infants. Since modern mothers are unlikely to be up for that …

    Nick wrote on May 27th, 2009
    • Chewing food for your baby -> That is exactly what my grandmother’s mom did. I don’t know if being native american has anything to do with it…

      I think I remember my grandmother telling me thats how she fed all four of her kids as well.

      My grandmother is 91 years old and still plants some of her own veggies. Her mother lived to be 102.

      Leanne wrote on June 5th, 2009
    • oh and I chew my food for my baby all the time! especially meat, and I bite things into smaller peices for her. I hide it a bit in public, but at home, that’s all I do lol

      stacey wrote on March 13th, 2012
      • I chew stuff for my baby all the time. I am also blessed to have a good oral health, and I suppose this might be in part because I avoid eating crap. Assisted chewing is standard practice in TRADITIONAL native american culture, from what I have heard. I first did it because we were all eating apples or something and my baby was grabbing at the fruit and glaring at me with an indignant look on his face that made me feel like a selfish clod for not sharing.

        Vanessa wrote on July 18th, 2012
  21. You were reading my mind. The last week I have been thinking about how to introduce a primal lifestyle to children. Thanks for the great article!

    jpippenger wrote on May 27th, 2009
  22. Thank you, Mark. Perfect timing for me as well. Our son is five months now and still breastfeeding. My wife would like to introduce solids next month. All of you have provided great comments. How can you show more love to your child than by giving him breastmilk and quality foods in time? You are giving him the best start in life. I will do anything in this world to ensure his health. If it means waking up early to mash avocado over buying a jar of Gerbers I think I can do that.

    Jay wrote on May 27th, 2009
    • I recommend a book called “Baby Led Weaning”. It is all about introducing whole solid foods. No baby food. We loved and used the techniques on my youngest.

      Courtney wrote on August 28th, 2011
      • we did baby led weaning with our now 1 year old. It took the stress out of sitting him down and forcing spoonfulls of mush down his throat. he ate with his hands and quickly became a pro. Its an amazing technique and suggest it for everyone!

        Emma wrote on March 22nd, 2012
  23. “If breastfeeding isn’t an option because of… adoption or other circumstance….opinions differ on the best secondary options.”

    One thing adoptive mother’s should consider is artificially inducing lactation. Using a breast pump or having the adopted baby suckle continually and most women will eventually begin to lactate. All of the herbs mentioned (fenugreek, alfalfa, nettle leaf, etc) can aid in milk production even when artificially induced. The nutritional quality of artificially induced lactation is identical to that of postpartum lactation, except that artificial induction will skip the production of “first milk” or colostrum.

    Meg wrote on May 27th, 2009
  24. This topic (how to raise/feed) kids is a hot button. I keep my mouth shut in public because most people don’t want to hear about the “research” –real, flawed, incomplete or definitive (wink, wink). But, this site is sort of preaching to the choir – so here goes. My two are 10 and 15.

    Until they were 3, neither had processed food – except for food I chewed myself and gave them.

    I know – ugh. But, I knew enough about digestion to know that it starts in the mouth – and saliva is not just what you leave by the side of the trail when you’re having a hike. I knew that I could give them tougher food once it was processed in my mouth, with saliva. That’s how you get raw food into your kids.

    My kids had only breast milk until they were over a year. I gave them stuff to nosh (red chard, lightly steamed, works great for teething) but the majority of their calories came from me. Doable? You bet. But, I had to make some major life choices. One of those was to not continue full time in my career.

    I am the main breadwinner now, as my partner stays home with the boys, but for 7 years I stayed home. I never planned to breastfeed them both so long, but they loved it (for 5 years each). Also, when you kids are older, you will relish those times… I know I do.

    What are the benefits? I’m very, very close to those boys. Thank Goodness because I now work away from home about 12 to 14 hours a day. I’m grateful for those early years and I have to say both my children are brilliant.

    But – all children seem brilliant to their moms! (My 15 year old is taking college level courses and completing high school at home so he can do it at his own speed.)

    More importantly, they had zero health problems until I split with their father – when my oldest was 7. It took about 2 years of eating the normal north american diet at Dad’s (on weekends) for both my boys to put on extra weight and start having health problems. I know a study of 1 doesn’t mean much to most people, but I’ve seen with my own eyes, with my own kids… Believe that what you feed your children is the single most important factor in their health.

    Before the split, the boys ate what I fed them. All that time breastfeeding was beneficial to me because I had a baby in one arm and a book in the other and I got to read a heck of a lot – mostly about diet and nutrition. So, I knew what to feed them.

    After the split, my ex decided they were going to join him in eating what “everyone else eats.”

    Before the split, my oldest child was an early talker, early walker, off the charts physically – by age 5 he could unicycle for blocks – and did so daily. He drew audiences at the skate park and he was the youngest kid on the swim team. (they’d never seen a kid who could swim endless laps at 4, but he could.)

    After, as they incorporated more crap in their diets, they lost that Grok edge. They’re great kids, but, as I said, both have asthma and struggle with weight now.

    These days, both are old enough to spend their allowance where they want. I’ve told them why I eat unprocessed (mostly) and why I try to offset my desk work with cycle commuting. But – culture is a hard thing to fight. And when you have a Grok mom, a “normal” dad and culture and advertising, etc etc. Well, I’ve had to accept a lot of stuff…

    I hope they will go back to the Grok lifestyle that they started life with.

    The choice I made to stay with my children has meant that a) my retirement will come very very late, if at all and b) we have to go without a lot of stuff that other people regard as necessary (owning a house, car, vacations etc etc).

    I’m grateful for my children and grateful for the choices I made. You can take from my story what you’d like – I know that most people think spitting raw food into a spoon for a toddler or breast feeding a four year old is disgusting…but, research can’t beat evolution.

    Truthfully: When I tell them how I feed them (breast and pre-chewed food), both cross their eyes with horror! :)

    When the best we had to give our babies going onto solid food was today’s catch – chewing it for them was how we did it.

    When daycare wasn’t an option, kids moving all day, when not nursing or napping, got extraordinarily fit and strong.

    But – I’ll be honest – as a Grok mother doing it naturally, it was very, very lonely out there…

    Janice wrote on May 27th, 2009
    • I’m struggling with a spouse that isn’t on board. I am so glad you posted this. Do you have a blog I can follow? Or would you be interested in a pen pal?

      James wrote on December 7th, 2011
    • My son didn’t have solids until after a year either. We never did cereal or jar food. He has remained in the 99th percentile for height and 95th for weight :)

      He is now 20 months with a full set of teeth, still nursing often, sleeps with us, and loves steak, avocado, greens, etc! I didnt intentionally buck the system. When I was pregnant, I read all of the books on pregnancy and was very mainstream. Once he was born, my instinct took over. Let him cry? Hell no! Feed him On a schedule? You’re kidding. Put him in his own bed? Unnatural.

      Everyone is so brain washed with what doctors have told women for less than 100 years! I didn’t need a doctor or any other expert to tell me what to do. I relied on moms who nursed for at least a year (although now that seems like a short time to me) and my instinct. I hate that new moms are made to feel like they will be lost with their new baby. Babies don’t need much- just mommy. I tell me friends to save the money they would have spent on cribs, changing tables, millions of clothes/shoes, infant toys, etc. I had a swing and a bouncy chair but never used them. I wore my son when I prepared food or did house chores (including mowin the lawn!). When my husband and i take a shower, he is with us!

      Most people would find our lifestyle weird, but they don’t realize that it is simply a natural one. I don’t talk about it to most of our friends/family and they always assume he is in his own bed in his own room or that he has weaned.

      Primal parenting reduces stress in my opinion. I don’t hold myself or my child to expectations set by a general public base on… Well usually based on nothing!

      Rachel Morgan wrote on January 28th, 2012
    • Hello Janice. I know it’s been a while but I love your comment. It reminds me of me so much. My daughters are only 3 years and 4 months and I can totally agree that it is very lonely! You’re like “one in a million” to me. I wish there were more people like you around me. Is there an email I can reach you?

      Melissa wrote on April 5th, 2016
  25. Great article and great comments! I only wish I’d known all this earlier. My son’s now almost 5. I breastfed him for about six months but found it very difficult to keep up with the pumping once I returned to work. The frequent breaks were not looked at kindly by coworkers or supervisor! Even though no outright comments were made (well maybe once or twice now that I think of it) you know the looks you get…the same one the smokers get! I also was relegated to pumping in a storage closet (at least more sanitary than a bathroom). And I worked very long shifts frequently. It was very hard and I regretted having to stop. I also went with conventional wisdom and did all the rice cereal and jarred food. I now struggle with my son try to get him to try new things. I don’t know if it’s just a food jag stage or that he’s just that adverse to trying things. His diet mainly consists of pbj (his usual lunch), frozen chicken nuggets (his usual dinner), eggs, occasional hotdogs, apples with peanut butter, bananas, noodles, sometimes mandarin oranges, he doesn’t like rice or potatoes but loves french fries and chips (I strictly regulate those 2 items and never buy them but my husband does and he doesn’t think it’s a big deal). And of course he gets the daily sweet treat after dinner. I’m new to this site and way of thinking. I knew that the things he was eating weren’t that great but now I feel like a horrible mom. My husband and mother in law believe he’ll just grow out of it. Yet my husband himself is still averse to trying new foods even now after eating that way as a kid. Myself I was bottle/formula fed and ate not only the standard North American diet but the Deep Southern Fried version of it and heave a sweet tooth to boot. I’m just now working my way into the diet/lifestyle little by little and it’s a struggle for me right now. But it’s a pain trying to prepare 3 different versions of dinner! Any suggestions on getting my son to try new things and an alternative to lunch besides pbj? I’ve even made my own homemade versions of chicken nuggets most recently with an almond coating (which were delicious) but he looks at me like I’m a space alien when I try to give him these things. It’s like he only believes real chicken comes from a red Tyson’s bag! Please help! I’ve even thought just today of telling him that Tyson’s went out of business and they don’t make nuggets any more, he’ll have to eat mine. Don’t know if I can get his dad on board with that though. I don’t think he’d believe they stopped making bread for pbj. Any suggestions? Feel free to email them!

    Colleen wrote on May 27th, 2009
    • Have your child help you cook, kids are more likely to eat what they help make. Keep serving the healthy foods. Kids get used to whatever you feed them. Pecans also make a tasty coating for ‘nuggets’, fish or chicken. You can always prepare meats and veggies and just add whatever starch your hubbie wants to his plate only, not to the table, or for your son. Almond butter is easy to make, and served with carrots, celery or root veggie ‘chips’ is a dipping snack or meal. Lettuce subs well for breads or wraps(with a bit of meat and roated veggies). There are lots of great recipes here…try something totally different, instead of changing the nuggets. Then, after you haven’t made them for a while, serve the nut covered ones. And good grief, no more hotdogs…the chemicals in them are the worst! If you are gonna do a ‘dog’ get organic/natural and nitrite/nitrate free ones, saute in tiny chunks, in gee or coconut oil and add to veggie stirfry.

      Donna wrote on June 2nd, 2012
    • Do it gradually but at a fast clip if that makes sense. The first thing i would do is go cold turky on any grains. Trust me, he will lose his cravings for this stuff in short order. It may take a week or 2 and it gets easier with time. My son just wanted snadwiches all the time also. Now we dont eat any grains and he is happy eating what i give him which is lots of eggs,meats, nuts, fruits,veggies. Again, give up all grains, he willl eat when he gets hungry enough. Make sure there is healthy fats for him to eat..

      Kathy wrote on June 6th, 2012
  26. Just saw this on Science Daily today, it dovetails nicely with your recommendations:

    Kim wrote on May 29th, 2009
    • Full paper is subscription only but appears to be a modern duplication of some of Weston Price’s work. Which is good.

      Trinkwasser wrote on May 30th, 2009
  27. OHH This is good for me. Thank ^_^

    Toddler wrote on May 31st, 2009
  28. Great article. I’ll have to forward to my son and daughter-in-law who are expecting my first grandchild in August. They are pretty on-board with primal philosophies anyway, and follow a more or less Weston Price-based diet. But it never hurts to get more information.

    I just wish I’d had the resources available to me 30 years ago when my son was born. I tried to do the best I could with the knowledge I had at at the time. I breastfed for almost a year, but had to give it up when I had to return to work full-time. I scrupulously avoided any added sugar in my son’s infant diet. But I did rely a lot on the jars of baby foods – picking only those with no listed additives.

    But I was also in the “grains are good” mindset, and tried to use mostly only whole grains which I felt were better.

    I mean I *tried*. My son whined and begged for the soft spread margarines because they were easier to spread on his (whole grain) bread, but even then I knew instinctively that they had to be crap. I mean how come something that tasted so dreadful really be any good. So I made my own “soft spread” by mixing softened butter with an equal amount of olive oil in the blender. It stayed soft and spreadable in a tub in the fridge, and my son was happy.

    But now, 30 years later on, I know I could have done much better if I’d only known then what I know now.

    Debbie wrote on June 2nd, 2009
  29. I have a couple of questions regarding feeding my 8 month old. He is extremely active (has been crawling since 5 months and is now standing and walking along the furniture) and loves to eat. I am still breast feeding at least 5 times a day, but also feeding him pureed food about 3 times a day. So far, we have introduced a number of vegetables and fruit (all organic) and are avoiding grains.

    My first question is about the vegetable choices. Currently my son is eating squash, sweet potatoes, peas, lentils, green beans, carrots and spinach. The fruits he’s been eating are apples, mango, pears, peaches, and blueberries. I’m pureeing everything and he loves them all. He doesn’t like avocado and banana makes him constipated. I understand that the Grok diet discourages starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and legumes. Looking at my list, that doesn’t leave much. What veggies should I be prioritizing? Should I not be feeding him so many sweet potatoes (they are currently his favorite and he gets them for both lunch and dinner).

    My second question is with regards to meat. I have not yet introduced him to meat but your article recommends putting meat through a mill. Would babies of our ancestors be eating meat at such a young age? Chewed up by mom? I can’t imagine being able to chew up chicken soft enough for him at this point. And does the fact that he only has two teeth and not able to masticate the meat on his own not indicate that it’s too early for meat? And what are your thoughts on iron for babies as I’ve chosen not to feed him iron fortified cereals.


    Carina wrote on June 3rd, 2009
  30. Thanks very much – I’ll be introducing my younger daughter to solids soon so this post is very timely! I just read the book “Real Food for Mother and Baby” which had some similar advice.

    Ursula wrote on June 7th, 2009
  31. Great article, thanks. We’re thinking of slowly transitioning to a more paleo way of eating, inspired by friends. We have an 18mth old daughter (who is still breastfed, but only just – she is giving up slowly) and I am slightly nervous about cutting out carbs completely for her, but we’ll do it gradually and see how she does. She has been weaned the “Baby-led Weaning” way, which means skipping the puree stage and just offering real food in manageable pieces – her first meal was steamed broccoli and steamed carrot sticks. Best parenting decision of our lives as we have never had a “difficult” mealtime or any stress over food. You can find more info and a very friendly forum at

    Pagea wrote on August 2nd, 2009
  32. I really wish I’d know all of this when mine were babies….but now I get to educate my daughter!

    When mine were infants I was unable to nurse as there weren’t enough calories in my milk to keep them alive (I know now that this was likely due to the low fat diet I was following!) so they did go on formula, but I’m a big advocate of nursing at least 6 months and preferable up to a year.

    For baby foods, I did make a lot of my own, but mainly because of finances, not because I thought it was healthier.

    Curious….when did they stop making baby meats? or I should say pureed baby meat? I was looking at the baby food section in the store the other day and was surprised to see that they were no longer on the shelves! (Note…a look at the Gerber site does have meat, but all contain corn starch!)

    Alcinda wrote on August 3rd, 2009
  33. Thanks Mark for a great article. I breastfed my three children back in the sixties/seventies when it definitely wasn’t “in”. Thanks to La Leche League, I learned a lot of truths and got a lot of support. They taught me how to nurse inconspicuously (I nursed my 3 month old on a plane, and the man sitting next to me didn’t know – he said “what a good baby” when she didn’t cry! I didn’t give my kids baby foods – just breast milk until they started to grab food off the table :-) I was fortunate in not having to work when they were small. I’m glad some companies are providing time/space for nursing mothers to pump.

    Maxine Humpherys wrote on October 17th, 2009
  34. Hey Mark, you might want to check out “Baby Led Weaning” and then revisit this topic. It’s amazing what babies can eat themselves without any prep work.

    liz wrote on November 2nd, 2009
  35. Hello, this is my first ever comment on a blog.
    I am a nursing mother and am trying to follow the primal blueprint. Does anyone know what effects ketosis in the mother has on the baby?
    My daughter will be a year old next week and I plan on nursing until she weans herself (her sister weaned herself around 15 mo.)
    I am also having trouble balancing enough carbs while keeping my protein to the recommended amount. I will be trying the “Big Ass Salad” for lunch to see if that helps.
    I know I’m supposed to get more calories while nursing. Where should they fall? (Protein, fat or carbs or all three?)

    indiadawn wrote on January 13th, 2010
  36. In answer to the question about effect of mom’s ketosis on baby, since Inuit traditionally ate whale/seal/other animals with lots of fat, and few carbs, it would appear that babies would thrive if moms ate that way. Just be sure to get enough fat to provide needed calories.

    Maxine Humpherys wrote on January 29th, 2010
  37. Thank you for this article, Mark! There are also many great comments from your readers. I wanted to confess that I too have pre-chewed many meals of healthy first foods for my babies, mostly because it was easier than preparing many separate meals for our large family. My 3rd and 4th children were also lucky recipients of extended and tandem breastfeeding.

    In response to indiadawn, the exclusively-breastfed babies I nursed never responded adversely when I was losing the baby fat/i.e., ketosis. I feed myself nutrient-dense foods, plenty of healthy fluids, and didn’t try to do too much too quickly. My current nurser is doing fine with my no-grain diet, and I feel great too.

    Rach wrote on January 29th, 2010
  38. This is good for my soul to read. I have food allergies and found my way to the GAPS diet almost by accident, which is pretty close to what you describe as Primal.

    My daughter is still nursing at 3.5. Like her mother, she has an aversion to high-carb foods unless they’re bathed in a good, nutritious fat. As an infant, she always spit out the rice cereal and couldn’t seem to digest vegetables until recently. She prefered prechewed rare grass-fed meat. Her favorite breakfast is a meat patty made of beef or lamb mixed with a chopped, steamed vegetable and sauerkraut, and a few spoonfuls of rice soaked in ghee or olive oil. When I bake treats for her, they’re either bean flour-based or fruit-sweetened puddings from coconut milk or avocado hardened with beef gelatin. She takes cod liver oil and vitamin D daily. Her health is fantastic and her teeth unlike any kid’s I know – wide spaced, strong and white. She’s got a mouth like a muppet, very wide in the palate. We also keep her in soft shoes or barefoot as much as possible.

    I can vouch for the health benefits of this way of eating. This same kid had allergic colitis as a 4-month old. We were told that she didn’t have much chance of thriving. So there, mainstream allopaths!

    Jen wrote on February 14th, 2010
  39. Interesting! Ground meat is often offered as a first baby food in Africa (according to a comment in a WHO study on transitional combined breastfeeding/solid diets), which makes sense–babies’ bodies run out of zinc and iron as they grow.

    One thing that struck me often as a new mom was how separate babies are supposed to be from the adult sphere. If we could bring them along wherever we went, like Mama Grok, we’d have an easier time breastfeeding . . . and rearing our kids to live in the real world. I bet adults would behave more decently to one another too.

    Patricia wrote on March 20th, 2010

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