What NOT to Feed Your Baby
For the first four to six months of life, nutrition found in breast milk and/or formula is sufficient to meet all of your baby’s needs. When your infant is beginning to sit independently, seems interested in foods and is putting things in his or her mouth, it is time to introduce solid foods! While this is an exciting milestone, many parents find themselves consumed with worry over what they should NOT feed their baby. Though the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently changed the feeding guidelines for babies, there are still some additional recommendations to keep in mind.
Common “first foods” for baby to try are simple rice cereals, oatmeal and pureed fruits and vegetables. Infants need to adjust to a new texture other than liquid, so remember that your baby may be resistant at first. A helpful rule of thumb is to allow several days between each new food item’s introduction. This allows baby to adjust to the new taste and texture. Introducing items one at a time also allows you to pinpoint the source of any potential allergic reaction (rash, diarrhea, etc.).
There are no true restrictions from the AAP regarding fruits and vegetables for babies, which is great news for parents! Dr. Aundria Speropoulos, M.D., Leawood Pediatrics, encourages offering your baby a variety of these essential nutrient-filled foods. Eggplant, carrots, squash, strawberries, blueberries and all other fruits and vegetables can be given to your baby to try. “By exposing your child to a variety of fruits and vegetables at an early age, they are more likely to have a larger selection of these foods as they grow,” Dr. Speropoulos says.
One food item that babies under one should not be given is honey. Honey poses a risk of containing bacteria that could cause infant botulism. An infant’s intestinal tract is not strong enough to fight off the growth of these bacteria, so honey should be avoided entirely for children under the age of 1.
Another food item to avoid before your child’s first birthday is cow’s milk. The topic of dairy food can be confusing, because young children can eat dairy in food items, such as cottage cheese and yogurt, but not drink whole milk by itself. If you have a formula-fed baby, it sure would be cheaper to switch over to whole milk, but whole milk before age 1 puts your baby at risk for developing anemia. BabyZone.com explains: “An excess of cow's milk protein can irritate an infant's intestine and cause microscopic blood loss. This blood loss over time can be enough for babies to lose significant amounts of iron, resulting in anemia.” Babies under 1 simply do not have the intestinal maturity to handle the whole milk protein.
Because babies under 1 should not be given cow’s milk, you may think there is no harm in giving fruit juice. However, babies should not be given “excessive” amounts of juice, which means no more than 4-6 ounces of fruit juice per day, if any at all. Dr. Speropoulos says, “Most pediatricians prefer your child is given no juice and only fresh fruits. The extra calories and sugar provide no nutritional benefit for the growing child.” If your child needs something to drink throughout the day or at mealtime, offer them water.
There is also a list of foods to avoid simply because they present a serious choking hazard to your young child. Though your 1-year-old may have seven or eight teeth already, he is not ready to thoroughly chew everything yet. Foods to avoid because of the potential choking hazard are hot dogs, raisins, popcorn, nuts, marshmallows, hard candies and peanut butter, due to its sticky consistency. Also avoid offering foods in large chunks that would be difficult for baby to gum up or could get stuck in her throat. Taking the time to cut food items into small pieces lowers your child’s chances of choking.
While certain foods used to be delayed to help children avoid developing possible allergies, the AAP is more concerned now with family history. In general, pediatricians would agree with the AAP that unless there is a family history of an allergy to a particular food (such as eggs, strawberries or fish), your baby can eat these food items. Dr. Speropoulos says, “New studies show us that delaying the introduction of allergen-based foods does not actually reduce the risk of getting the allergy.” As a parent, it is important that you know your family’s history to make safe and informed food decisions for your baby, and always consult with your pediatrician, who is one of your child’s best advocates for health and nutrition.
Have you considered making your own homemade baby food but just aren’t quite sure how to get started? It’s easier than you think, saves you money and offers health benefits to your baby. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Purchase fresh produce or buy it frozen. I usually do a combination of frozen and fresh, depending on what the food item is.
- Steam or bake your food, but never boil. Steaming is my preferred way because it seems to take less time than baking. The steaming or baking method “retains much more of the nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin B, which leak out into cooking water (Ruth Yaron, Super Baby Food).”
- Using a food-processor, kitchen blender or hand-turned food mill, purée away! For younger babies, add small amounts of the water used to steam the produce to thin out the texture of the puréed food.
- Puréed baby food (once cooled) can be stored in ice cube trays, which is the perfect portion size of baby food. To store, pop frozen cubes into a labeled and dated freezer bag and pull food cubes out as needed for up to 3 months.
Marisa Frymire loves that there are so many options of healthy foods to give her kids, even at a young age! If only they wouldn't be so picky!