Babies and Bugs
What could be more personal than food? Probably the only answer to that would be the food that you feed your child. There are many considerations, and double the advice on this matter. So, when I propose crickets as one of the most obvious super-food solutions to many of the developing child’s needs, I can see how there would be a grand backlash.
I don’t want to eat insects, why would I feed them to my child? Perhaps you should want to eat crickets as our survivalist Paleolithic ancestors did, and perhaps baby’s palettes and intuition should be more guiding than culture’s non-logic based aversions.
A mother is trained to be protective of her child, this is what keeps the gene-pool alive right? Of course this is a cut and dry answer to a dynamic that is laden with hormones and the emotions that follow, so as a mother, I would rather think of rearing a child as my life’s work and legacy, creating a best friend and a family member that makes life worth living! So I can see how a non-traditional but heavily important historical food source such as cricket would be revulsive to the modern parent regarding childhood development and meal time. But here’s the thing, crickets are quite delicious and nutritious…let’s take a deeper look:
Childhood development - Nutrition of a growing human being
The question of:
Increased demand for iron. Iron is not transmitted to child from breastmilk so baby travels through the first few months of life with the iron stores the placenta provided. This is one of the reasons the AAP recommends introducing solid foods around 6 months of age. Iron is important for (but not limited to) carrying oxygen throughout the body and brain development. Iron-rich foods like spinach and prunes are common foods that provide baby with the iron he/she slowly runs out of during breastfeeding.
Increased demand for B-vitamin complex. B-vitamins are important in countless ways in the human body, but on the most basic level they are the substrate that fuels energy production of each cell. Of course you can imagine the type of energy demands a human baby requires, since the type of growth a human child undergoes in the first year is almost unparalleled. B-vitamins are also extremely important for nervous system function.
Increased demand for omega-3 fatty acids. We learn more and more that fatty acids are crucial for proper brain development. I don’t need so say more, but I will. Omega’s are necessary for the inflammation process, both healthy inflammation and anti-inflammatory processes. Essential fatty acids play an important role in healthy endocrine function…and I will stop there as not to overwhelm. But if you're interested, you can read more here.
Increased demand for calcium. This is the one we all know too well. Bones growing, getting bigger…gotta’ have ample calcium. Calcium does a whole lot more, but we won’t get into that here.
Increased demand of protein. Protein is necessary for growth of tissues, immune function and much more.
ALERT: Crickets are an excellent source of protein, iron, b-vitamins (especially B12), omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids and calcium! Not only are crickets a good match nutritionally, but they provide heme-iron. Vegetable and fruit sourced iron are non-heme and less absorbable in the human body.
The Milk debacle: Breast milk vs. formula vs. cow milk, and why it is relevant to cricket powder
When you do a search online to find out if your baby NEEDS cow’s milk at the age of 12 mo. as is usually suggested, it is suspicious that the top few hits are backed by big AG dairy. I mean of course that’s the case, but is it truly necessary to feed your baby cow’s milk? This is not an issue I am willing to touch with a ten-foot stick. Instead, I will chat a bit about the different forms of milk and their benefits, also that crickets could be an excellent supplemental addition to each form of milk as baby transitions to toddlerhood- 12 months and beyond.
Breastmilk: The most absorbable form of baby nutrition, easy to digest and vitamins assimilate effectively. Immune system is passed down from mother to infant. High in essential fatty acids required for brain development. The perfect-nature-designed infant food.
Formula: Excellent form of nutrition for moms who have had supply issues, desire not to breastfeed, have trouble integrating breastfeeding (it is a HUGE commitment!) into a busy work life and many of the other valid reasons! Formulas are fortified with all of the baby’s essential nutrition needs.
Cow’s milk at 12 mo.: Many suggest cow’s milk be introduced to a toddler diet starting at 12 months. The toddler has presumably developed well enough to handle the more complex animal proteins within cow milk. Indeed, cow milk packs a punch taking care of many bullet points on the nutritive list: Calcium, fats, protein, B-vitamins etc. This is why cow’s milk is so popular for parents who want to make sure their growing baby gets their needs met. Some parents would rather not go that route, and that is okay too! Perhaps goats milk, soy, or any of the nut milks that are fortified are a great sub. See where I am going here? A little cricket powder mixes well with baby food and formulating taste preferences are free of aversion-taint at this point!
Before everyone rushes the cricket farm, please be aware! Just as any allergic reaction (IgE-mediated) response requires a protein, crickets contain protein! It is possible that a child could have an allergic reaction to crickets. This is not dissimilar to the nature of a child having an allergic reaction to any other protein such as gluten, cow milk protein, soy, seafood etc. If your child is sensitive or has a family history of food allergies, please proceed knowing that crickets may cause a similar reaction.
It would be smart to avoid incorporating crickets into your child’s diet until other proteins are recommended by your physician. For a comprehensive guide on age appropriate foods click here.
Also, I am enjoying this book!
Kate Stoddard, MScN