Parenting in the Early Years

Sweet peas and potatoes

Dr. Susan Rubin is a holistic nutritionist and health counselor who believes that the things a child eats make a difference in lifelong health, beginning with the very first foods. Much of her philosophy comes from ancient Chinese medicine, which traces many health conditions back to their nutritional roots and therefore concentrates on prevention. She notes:

The Chinese have a saying that treating a disease is like digging a well after you’ve become thirsty.

For instance, parents may be interested in preventing food allergies. According to Chinese medicine, allergies, skin problems, and respiratory problems result from starting on some things too early. The preferred method is to initiate new foods slowly and one at a time, and to wait at least a week before introducing more novelty.

The important thing is to really pay attention to the ability of the baby’s digestive system to handle the unfamiliar substance. How does a parent know what’s going on in that diaper? Dr. Rubin advises:

Are your child’s poops affected? Signs of indigestion: gas, loose stools, constipation, increased mucus, skin eruptions. Discontinue that food and wait a few weeks or longer before re-introducing it.

And wait until much later before bringing on cheese, meat, or any other variety of animal protein. Cheese and other milk products tend to produce phlegm and mucus in the body, so if you don’t want a mouth-breathing child, leave dairy out. Put off wheat and corn as long as possible, including bread, baked goods, and snack items. According to Chinese tradition, raw vegetables are very difficult for babies to digest.

And for heaven’s sake, keep the kid away from ice cream and other sweets as long as possible. This is extraordinarily difficult to do. When babies get sweets, their immediate joy is so overwhelming and such a reward mechanism for the adult who supplies the sugar. But long-term, it’s a recipe for disaster. Dr. Rubin actually uses the term “sugar addiction.” She says:

As parents, it is up to us to monitor and limit the amount of sweets that our kids eat. We do have to step in and set limits when sugar intake becomes excessive to the point of setting up disease mechanisms.

Another recommendation is to shun processed foods that contain chemicals. In fact, go organic if possible, because pesticide residues do affect babies. If possible, avoid GMO foods.

Those were the “don’t”s

Okay, now for the “do”s. Fruit juice is one of those sweets that Dr. Rubin warns against. Babies are much better off with eating pureed fruits, and drinking water. Not cold water, or cold anything. Babies need warm stuff inside them, and it needs to be mooshy. They don’t have teeth, and if their food isn’t ground up with a blender or food mill, it can cause problems ranging from choking to lifelong digestive disorders.

Dr. Rubin gives a thumbs-up to these “first foods”:

Start with well cooked rice, pureed into a congee — a soupy rice porridge.
Follow with cooked pureed carrots, roasted butternut squash.
Mashed sweet potatoes.
Mashed regular potatoes.
Mashed cooked peas or beans.

False convenience

And proceed with caution when introducing solid foods, no matter how well pureed. Apparently there is a myth that solid foods will help a baby sleep through the night, but Dr. Rubin says it isn’t true, and that solid foods too soon can cause problems. Even if the sleep-through-the-night myth were true, the overall result would be trading momentary relief for trouble down the line.

Speaking of processed and prepared baby foods, she warns:

Unfortunately, the food industry has spent millions upon millions to convince moms that convenience is the most important piece of food selection. But if you think about it, staying up all night with a child who has an ear infection or a fever is not all that convenient. Maybe it’s time to rethink the way we feed our kids… It really is more convenient in the long run to have your kids healthy, introducing the right foods at the right time is the secret formula for success.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Baby’s First Foods Make a Huge Difference for Health in Later Years,”, 12/09/07
Image by Kim Love.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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