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Ask Dr. Sears: Homemade Baby Food Causing Gas?

Q. We make all of our baby's food from scratch, but he seems to have a lot of gas. Could this gassiness be caused by the homemade baby food, and if so, are there certain foods we should avoid to alleviate the problem?

A.
I applaud you for making your own baby food. It's a lot better for your baby than anything you could buy, and it's most likely not the cause of his gassiness. Aside from the nutritional benefits, how you feed your baby now is going to shape his tastes later on. Remember this principle, and you'll give your child a real health advantage for the rest of her life.

Let's go over this important concept first, and then I'll give you a list of suggestions for making mealtimes more intestine-friendly.

Feeding your baby homemade solids accustoms his taste buds and gut to fresh, wholesome food, while also programming your child's tastes to the healthy adult foods typical of your family's cuisine. Similarly, if your baby grows up on canned or jarred foods, his body will learn that this is what food is supposed to taste like, and so, later on, he will be more likely to choose processed items over fresh.

Years ago, I had a group of moms in my pediatric practice that I dubbed the "pure moms." They never let a single morsel of packaged food enter the mouths of their kids. Monitoring these children as they got older, I noticed that they were not only much healthier than average, but also that they tended to not overdose on junk food and, in fact, many of them would actively shun junk and packaged foods. Because their developing tastes and intestines had been programmed to the tastes of real foods, they had made the connection: "I eat good, and I feel good."

So, please do keep making your own baby food, and follow the tips below to help ease your baby's gassy belly.

Feed twice as often, half as much. Smaller, more frequent feedings is one of the best remedies for gassy babies, and here's why: It's not the food itself that causes gas, but the quantity of food at one feeding. Remember, your baby's tummy is only about the size of his fist. If babies take in more than that amount, the undigested food ferments in the lower intestines, producing gas.

Serve the least allergenic foods. Begin your baby on the solid foods that are least likely to cause an allergic reaction, such as avocados, carrots, squash, pears, applesauce, apricots, broccoli, rice, sweet potatoes, and papayas. Foods that are more likely to be allergenic are: berries, citrus fruits, corn, cow's milk, egg whites, nuts, peanut butter, soy, tomatoes, wheat, and yeast.

Make every calorie count. Nutrient-dense foods that pack a lot of nutrition in a small volume will be much friendlier to tiny tummies. Once you've determined (by trial and error) that your child is not allergic to any of the following foods, you should make them a major part of his diet. The most nutrient-dense foods recommended for toddlers are: avocados, eggs, cheese, seafood (preferably wild salmon), kidney beans, yogurt, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, tofu, and whole grains.

Avoid constipation. A common, but often hidden cause of gassiness is chronic constipation. The longer food waste stays in the intestines, the more likely it is to ferment and produce gas. So, give your child lots of fluids to keep his digestive tract moving smoothly. Aim for about one ounce per pound of body weight per day. Also, encourage your child to nibble or graze on food throughout the day (again, small amounts rather than big meals); this eating pattern should help prevent blockages.

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