16 Aug The Best Food for Babies
By Jennifer Lefner, M.D.
Board-Certified Neonatologist and Pediatrician
Saratoga Springs, New York
Baby food. It should be simple. Just food that your baby can eat.
As a new parent, you might find yourself doing research, because, of course, you want to feed your infant only the best, freshest, locally grown food available, but why is that important?
Infant nutrition is directly related to brain development, growth, and long-term positive health outcomes. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, undertake baby-led weaning, or traditional complementary feeding, your infant requires a variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in order to be healthy.
Nearly one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Additionally, one-third of American children carry a diagnosis of allergies, autism, ADHD, or asthma. The U.S. is one of the only developed countries that allows toxins in our food system in the form of insecticides or genetically modified ingredients. We are only just starting to realize the real-life health outcomes of those exposures.
Recently, many of the largest baby food companies have become subject to a number of lawsuits due to toxins found in a number of their products. Toxic metals, for example, can harm a baby’s developing brain. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this exposure has been linked to problems with both learning and behavior. I, along with my colleagues at the AAP, strongly believe that nothing foreign should be present in our food – especially the food we are feeding our developing infants!. It’s important that families are informed when making choices about what to serve their babies.
I have thought a lot about where our food comes from. Living in Upstate New York, surrounded by farms, has given me the opportunity to take advantage of the most fresh and local produce. Many Americans don’t have the same opportunity or access to fresh food. Local farmers, some of whom are my neighbors and friends, have suffered greatly due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Due to shutdowns and decreased spending, many farmers across the country had to dispose of tons of produce and dairy, wasting their hard work and losing income.
There are so many baby food products you can find on the shelves of your local markets. Have you ever wondered where those products come from, not where they are made, but where the squash or apples were grown? How many hands has that food for your infant passed through? How long has it been on the shelf? Aside from making your own food for your infant at home, why are the choices seemingly so limited? Why can’t you find fresh, local food to feed your growing little one?
It is possible to find products that contain all natural, fresh from the farm produce for your infants and toddlers, but you have to do your homework. Take my word for it, that homework will be well worth the effort.
Dr. Jennifer Lefner is a double board-certified neonatologist and pediatrician practicing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She has dedicated her career to caring for infants. Her passion for home cooking and supporting local farmers’ markets and her expert knowledge of infant nutrition gave life to Seedlings Baby Food, LLC. Learn more at seedlingsbabyfood.com