Grains for Your Baby
In Japan, a soft rice called kayu is the traditional first food for babies. You can add some breast milk or formula to the grain porridge to ease the transition. Traditionally, Japanese mothers chewed the rice themselves, and then fed it to their little one, like a mama bird does for her babies. The mother’s saliva provided the first step in digestion and made the grain more alkaline, which helped boost her baby’s immune system. You may choose to skip this step and use a food mill instead.
Usually your baby will show interest in trying food at around the age of six months by reaching for your food. If his first teeth are coming in, that is another indication that he is ready to eat. Good nutrition depends on how well his body absorbs what it takes in, so his first foods need to be soft and moist for easy digestion. Brown rice cooked with a ratio of one part rice and seven parts water, and then pureed, has a liquid consistency that is similar to breast milk and a taste that is naturally sweet.
Soaking grains before cooking makes the nutrients more digestible and enhances their natural flavor. For your baby’s first few meals, you may consider squeezing the rice through cheesecloth to take out the bran. If the porridge is too thick for him, add more water. You can reduce the ratio of water to grain to make the porridge thicker as your baby grows.
Once your baby is accustomed to brown rice, introduce him to other non-gluten whole grains such as millet, quinoa, amaranth, or rolled oats. Mix half and half millet and sweet rice, or combine brown rice with another grain for a variety of tastes and nutrition. Another quality combination is 70 percent rice, 20 percent millet, and 10 percent quinoa. East Asian medicine suggests that millet is a good first grain, because it strengthens the digestive system and is alkaline-producing.
Grains can be cooked as a single ingredient, or with vegetables and legumes. Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds can be boiled with the grain to add protein.
When your baby is seven months old and beginning to get teeth, gnawing on dry toasted bread and teething biscuits of gluten-free flour can be satisfying for him. At nine to 12 months, you can introduce gluten-free pasta and add seasonings such as nori flakes or a few drops of tamari, plum vinegar, or rice syrup for flavor. After 12 months, your toddler can also enjoy noodles, couscous, and treats made from wheat, corn, or barley flour. At 18 to 24 months, when his teeth are in and he can chew well, he can eat grains in their whole form with the rest of the family.
Helping your baby develop a taste for whole grains as a core component of his diet will set his foundation for creating a sensitive palate and a strong digestive system. Add probiotic booster to puree for digestive support.
The following chart gives an overview of which grains to start feeding when and how frequently.