An Ayurvedic approach to baby weaning
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurvedic medicine is the world's oldest holistic healing system. It has been used for over 5,000 years to cleanse and restore balance to the body and mind. Tridosha (Vata-Pitta-Kapha) is the foundational concept in Ayurvedic understanding of human anatomy and physiology. Every individual has a unique configuration of the three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha - known as Prakriti. Balancing the doshas in line with your unique constitution is the key to health and well-being.
Western medical science is only recently starting to think about “person centred” health services, however Ayurveda has been doing this for thousands of years. According to Ayurvedic texts (Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita) Prakriti is determined at conception and can be seen through physical traits, personality/behaviour and susceptibility to illnesses. Depending on factors such as the season, condition inside the uterus, food of mother and so on, the Prakiti is determined. It can be dominated by Vata, Pitta or Kapha or may be by the combination of two Doshas. Doshas can become imbalanced by improper diet, poor digestion, daily stress levels, and environmental factors such as pollution, pesticides, and chemicals.
There are many common child illnesses such such as constipation, eczema/skin rashes and colds, irritability and difficulty sleeping, that can be helped or prevented by applying some key Ayurvedic principles.
General principles for baby weaning
Babies need foods which have Kapha qualities as Kapha is responsible for anabolic processes in the body which tend toward the growth of organs and tissues. Kapha has the qualities of moist, cool, dull and soft. These relatively sweet tasting foods (i.e. compared to other foods, rather than foods containing sugar), help give pleasure and contentment to the baby much like mothers milk.
Foods include, ghee/butter, dairy products such as milk (goat or cow), yogurt and soft cheese, white rice, sweet tasting vegetables (squash, pumpkin, carrot, sweet/white potato, peas), white fish and egg whites, peeled fruits such as pear, cooked apple and fresh dates.
If you are breastfeeding you can eat more Kapha type foods to pass on these qualities through your milk. Drinking a warm milky drink 15 minutes before breastfeeding can help to increase your milk supply. Avoiding fasting and situations which reduce your own sense of calm such as physical exertion and stress.
Good first foods are sweet vegetables, such as pumpkin and carrots, sweet potato and baby rice to mimic the sweet taste of breast milk. You can steam and mash these or give them in pieces for baby to pick up.
Create a good atmosphere at meal times. Eat together and enjoy your food. Babies learn through imitation so lead by example! Don't worry if baby doesn't take to foods initially, keep offering them again and again and eventually they will enjoy a range of foods.
Give easy to digest foods. Babies have a very immature digestive system. Imagine the journey that a piece of food has to take from your plate to being absorbed into the cells of your body - this is a complex process. When foods are not digested properly this can cause Ama (this is toxins in the body) and can lead to illness and emotionally a feelings of discontentment or anxiety. Examples of foods that are easier to digest are
Those which are warm, moist, well cooked (rather than raw),
Containing a small amount of spices/herbs to aid digestion. A small amount of sweet and mild spices to add flavour to food and increase digestibility of food, such as cardamom, clove, ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander.
Well balanced e.g. containing protein and carbohydrate.
Avoid bread, hard cheeses, processed foods such as pasta. Go for red lentils and chickpeas rather than harder to digest pulses such as black beans and kidney beans.
Avoiding certain combinations of foods which Ayurveda tells us do not combine well in the same meal, these include.
Dairy foods with fish/meat
Fruits and dairy food
Avocado and egg or cheese
Fruit is best consumed as a snack on its own between meals
Give the digestive system a rest between meals. it's a good idea to allow the baby’s digestion time to rest (as it is with adults), snacking little bits of food throughout the day can lead to imbalance of the doshas by disrupting the digestive fire and lead to loss of appetite at the main meals of the day. Give a snack of fruit or yogurt between meals.
Freshly prepared food has different qualities to reheated food. A practical way to be able to cook more fresh food is make meals that all the family can enjoy.
These recipes are appropriate for when your when your baby is eating eat three meals a day.
Basmati rice breakfast porridge. Porridge oats can be drying and so avoid using these if your baby has constipation. Boil some white basmati rice in water until almost cooked. Add some chopped dates or sultanas and a small amount of ghee or butter and a pinch of cardamom (freshly ground or powder). Add milk (goats milk is easier to digest than cow's milk) and continue stirring the rice until it is well cooked and has a porridge like consistency. If you are using oats, avoid jumbo oats and cook them in a mixture of water and milk until they are completely soft. You can use coconut milk instead of dairy milk to make this dish into a rice pudding for dessert.
Mashed potato with butter or ghee, a small amount of milk with egg whites chopped up and mixed into the mash and some peas.
Simple baby risotto: saute a small amount of white onion in some ghee or olive oil until soft (do not let the onion go brown), add a small amount of chopped garlic and ginger and some chopped carrot/pumpkin/squash or other sweet vegetables. Add white basmati rice and water and simmer until all the ingredients are well cooked.
Lentil Dal with basmati rice. See recipe
If you are interested in Ayurvedic treatment for yourself or your baby please get in touch for a free 20 minute introduction (by telephone) or to book a consultation. Consultations last 1 hour and cost £55. Herbs are at an additional cost of £20 for 3 weeks supply.
Tel: 07792 274 916
If you're interested in learning more about Ayurveda visit the Ayurveda Institute UK.