Organic foods: Are they better for baby?
We've all been there, standing in the grocery store, looking at fresh fruits and vegetables, and wondering, "Is organic really better for my family and me? Is it worth the extra cost?"
Organic foods are usually grown with fewer pesticides than other foods. But according to the American Dietetic Association, organic foods may not be healthier or safer than other kinds of foods. We don't have enough research to know.
Some parents have decided to be cautious and to buy organic foods when they can.
If a vegetable or fruit is labeled organic, it meets certain standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here are examples of the standards:
- Only approved fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides can be used. Man-made products are discouraged. Organic farmers often use natural fertilizers such as manure and compost. Instead of using weed killers, they rotate crops, till, weed by hand, and mulch. Genetic engineering and certain types of radiation cannot be used.
- Certain organic standards also apply to animals used to produce milk, eggs and meat. For example, they may not be given hormones to promote growth or antibiotics for any reason. Also, the animals must have access to the outdoors, such as a pasture.
Foods that meet USDA standards can be labeled with the "USDA Organic" seal.
Organic foods usually cost more than non-organic foods. For instance, in May 2008, Newsweek reported that organic red delicious apples cost $1.99 per pound, while non-organic cost only $1.49. Organic eggs cost $3.99 a dozen; non-organic, $1.89.
Natural foods are as close as possible to their original state. No artificial ingredients or preservatives are added to them. Examples: brown rice, almonds, certain apple juices. Natural foods may or may not be organic.
First and foremost, it's important for your child to eat healthy foods. If organic foods are available and you can afford them, great; give them a try. But don’t sacrifice good nutrition for the organic label.
Regardless of whether food is organic or not, handle all food carefully and safely.
- Buy vegetables and fruits when they're in season. This will help ensure the best quality. For example, buy apples in the fall and berries and tomatoes in the summer. This also saves on fuel to transport produce from far away.
- Read labels carefully. Organic may not mean healthy. Some organic foods are high in fat, sugar or salt.
- If you worry about pesticides, peel all fruits and vegetables. Trim the outer leaves of leafy vegetables like lettuce and cabbage. But remember, peeling may also reduce nutritional value. Pesticides are sometimes found in the fatty parts of food. So remove fat from meat and the skin from fish and poultry.
- Handle all food carefully and safely.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much vitamin D should my baby get?
Vitamin D is important to help avoid a bone-weakening disease called rickets. All babies should receive 400 IU of vitamin D per day, starting in the first few days of life. This includes breastfed babies and babies who drink less than 1L of infant formula per day.
Our skin makes vitamin D when it gets sunlight. But too much sunlight can be harmful, too. In fact, babies 6 months and older and young kids should stay away from direct sunlight and wear sunscreen at all times when out in the sun. However, sunscreen stops the skin from making vitamin D. The best way to get enough vitamin D is by giving your baby liquid multivitamin drops with vitamin D. They can be found in many pharmacies, and you won't need a prescription for it. Just be sure you've filled the dropper to no more than 400 international units (IU).
How often should I nurse my baby?
All babies are different and have different feeding patterns. In general, breastfed newborns need to eat 8 to 12 times in 24 hours (about once every 2 to 3 hours), for about 30 minutes each time. Breast milk is easily digested so it may be difficult to time when you should nurse your baby.
Newborns may need to feed more frequently than older babies. They may need to be fed on demand. As your milk supply is established and the baby grows, the baby's feeding patterns may change and she may go longer between feedings. Remember, breastfeeding is a natural skill, but it’s also a learned skilled. Be patient and give yourself (and your baby) time to master this new ability.
What solids foods should I start my baby on?
Begin with a single-grain iron-fortified cereal such as rice, barley or oatmeal. Mix it with breast milk or infant formula. Start with a small amount once a day. It's hard to tell how much your baby will eat. At first, most of her food will probably end on her bib or face. Be patient and help your baby learn this new skill. It's important that meal time is a pleasant time. This will build the foundation of healthy eating habits. If your baby cries, shows no interest in feeding or turns her head away from the spoon, stop feeding her. She is trying to tell you that she's full or she doesn’t want anymore. You should never force her to eat more than what she wants.
When should I give my baby solid foods?
Breast milk is the best food for most babies. It's best to give only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. Some babies might be ready to start solid foods between 4 to 6 months of age. When your baby is between 4 to 6 months, she may begin to show signs that she's ready to try some solid foods alongside her breast milk or formula. Watch for her developmental cues (signs) and she'll let you know when she's ready. Some signs that show your baby might be ready to start solid foods are:
- She can sit with support.
- She shows a good head neck control when seated.
- She shows a desire for food by opening her mouth, drooling and leaning forward.
- She begins to chew and brings her hands to her mouth.
- She begins to handle objects with the palm of her hand.
- She swallows pureed food and the extrusion reflex starts to go away (tongue-thrust reflex).