The first developmental milestones of your baby’s life seem to come so quickly, and are so important to meet on time. The line, “they grow up so fast!” begins to become less of a commonplace saying and more of a reality when your little one begins to coo, smile, roll over, and – *gasp* – eat their first foods!
This can be an exciting time for many parents and usually occurs around the age of 4-6 months. You want your child to explore the very best of what this stage has to offer and enjoy the tastes of your favorite foods.
Before you let the creative beast inside of you loose, though, there are some important food facts that you need to consider before shoveling spoonfuls of your favorite dish to your baby.
We’ve previously talked about some of the best first foods for babies you could offer your little one, as well as a list of iron rich foods for babies if they need the extra boost – but there are some foods that should remain off-limits until your baby is old enough to consume them.
This article lays out some of these most common non-baby safe foods, risks that they pose to the health and safety of your bundle of joy and when it might be okay for them to eat from.
Foods Not Safe For Babies: A List Of What Not To Feed
Honey is known to have loads of beneficial medicinal purposes. However, honey can be a danger to your child because it can contain something that produces botulinum spores.
These toxic spores can lead to muscle weakness, a poor ability to suck, constipation, and – in severe cases – paralysis.
Your baby’s digestive system is not yet mature enough to deal with these dangerous spores.
Experts recommend you do not feed your baby any form of honey until they are at least one year of age.
Egg whites, or any products containing egg products, should not be introduced until your child is at least one year of age. This, of course, is assuming your baby doesn’t have any allergy to eggs by that age.
A large number of children develop allergic reactions to eggs but tend to grow out of this by the age of five.
Breastmilk or formula should be the only source of milk that your baby needs.
Cow’s milk can cause issues if given to a child under one year of age. Children younger than one year of age can’t digest the protein or enzymes present in this milk, and it can be harmful to their kidneys.
Besides, cow’s milk doesn’t offer the same nutrition that your growing baby needs. It contains too much sugar for their needs and doesn’t offer the same nutritional benefits that breast milk or formula provides for your little one’s daily needs during their first year of life, lacking it vital nutrients such as iron and Vitamin C.
Soy milk should also be avoided during your baby’s first year of life, because their bodies lack the enzymes required to break down the protein soy milk contains.
It is best to consult with your pediatrician before introducing peanut butter into your baby’s diet, even if it’s just for a light snack every now and then (peanut butter and jelly sandwich, anyone?).
It was long thought that peanut butter, or any nut products, increased the risk of allergic reactions to children later in life. However, some new studies suggest that introducing peanut butter at a young age can have the opposite effect.
Healthline.com recommends holding off on giving peanut butter until your child is at least 6-8 months old. At this point, you should water down the peanut butter so it’s less likely to stick to the roof of their mouth.
Whole peanuts shouldn’t be offered until the age of 4 because of choking hazards.
Again, it’s important that you make sure your child doesn’t have any sort of allergy to peanuts before you get into any of this.
You may think that fruit juice is a healthy alternative for your little one when they’re not old enough to eat the whole fruit in its raw form yet (or are just not feeling it at the time), but the sugar content of these drinks makes them inadvisable until your child is at least one year of age.
It’s recommended that your baby is exclusively breastfed or formula fed until the age of six months. Giving your baby fruit juice during that phase will suppress their appetite and make them less inclined to drink the milk that was intended to give their developing bodies what they need.
The sugar content in fruit juices can also lead to tooth decay and diarrhea.
If you’re anxious for your little one to try juice, wait until they are at least one year old. At this point, you can dilute the juice with water.
Try to avoid giving your child more than 4 ounces of fruit juice a day.
There’s no denying that vegetables should be an important staple of your child’s diet.
However, when first introducing foods, avoid the vegetables that contain high levels of nitrates. These foods include beets, spinach, fennel, and collard greens – just to name a few.
Babies under the age of one don’t have strong enough stomachs to process the nitrates. This can lead to low levels of oxygen.
Foods like broccoli can also cause gas, so use your best judgment and do your research beforehand.
Who doesn’t love a good cheese spread? However, think twice about serving certain types to your baby.
Children should not eat soft cheeses that aren’t pasteurized because they may contain harmful bacteria. These types of cheeses include Brie, Feta, Camembert, Roquefort, and blue cheese.
Other cheeses, ones that have been cultured, can be given to your child when they’re around the 9-12 months of age mark.
When serving, always be sure that the cheese is cut small enough so your child won’t choke on it.
Large, Hard Foods
When your pediatrician gives you the green light to start introducing solids, you should ensure that foods are pureed or easy enough to eat.
You should never give your baby whole nuts, popcorn, grapes, seeds, raisins, etc .. until they are over the age of one.
Even at the age of one year old, these foods can become lodged in their throat. Consult with your pediatrician on how to appropriately feed your child these types of food.
Any food you give for your baby to eat should not be larger than 1/2 inch in size, or else it could get stuck in their throat and becomes a choking hazard.
This is one element that should really be avoided at any age. There is not an agreed upon age among experts at which it’s safe to start giving your child caffeine.
Even if there was, there are no nutritional benefits whatsoever to giving your child coffee, soda, tea, etc.. Or any edible products that contain caffeine, either.
Kidshealth.org warns of the many side effects associated with caffeine intake in small children. Caffeine can cause increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and seizures.
This is why it’s also important for you to minimize your caffeine intake during the breastfeeding phase.
Low Fat Foods
For young and growing babies, it’s essential to get calories and important vitamins from fat. So, avoid feeding them low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, etc .. Unless your pediatrician says otherwise.
Speaking about fat, though, you should avoid giving your baby any foods specifically high in saturated fat. Unsaturated fat is good for them, while a high amount of saturated fat causes all sorts of health issues.
Hot dogs have reportedly caused the most injuries and deaths than any other food for children under the age of 5 years.
Hot dogs should be avoided until your child is at least one year of age.
Not only do hot dogs contain high levels of nitrates, but they can also become easily stuck in your child’s throat before this age. When your child is older and ready to eat a hot dog, make sure it’s cut lengthwise and sliced thinly.
Ideally, you should avoid this altogether.
Babies receive all of the sodium they need from their mother’s milk or formula milk they’re on.
Salty foods should be avoided. Babies only need less than one gram of salt per day.
Avoid salting foods yourself and try to avoid canned and processed foods that contain high amounts of sodium as well.
You might be having a good time after cooking smoked or cured meats for the family, but these are crazy high in sodium and animal fat, and should never be given to babies.
You might also be tempted to give your baby some crisps you’re munching on, but that will only fill them up and leave less room for breastmilk or formula.
Chocolate & Sugary Treats
It’s best to wait to give chocolate to your child until they’re at least one year of age because of the caffeine and dairy that it contains.
We’ve discussed the potential risks that dairy and caffeine can pose to your child. Chocolate can be introduced at their first birthday when their digestive systems are more equipped to deal with it, albeit in small amounts and avoiding over-doing it.
Besides, there’s nothing better than a bit of chocolate birthday cake! It’s the best gift of all!
This also holds true for other sugary treats such as M&Ms, smarties, reese’s pieces, etc ..
If your baby is under the age of one, they shouldn’t be eating any boneless fish at all.
Foods like shark, marlin, shellfish, and swordfish all contain high traces of mercury and should be avoided.
If you wish to introduce fish to your child, consult with your pediatrician first on which types would be best, how you can best serve them to your little one and how much you should include in their diet on a weekly basis.
Healthline.com suggests avoiding offering oranges and other citrus fruits until your baby is at least one year old.
The acidity level of fruits such as oranges can cause a very bad case of diaper rash or redness around the mouth.
A child’s digestive system is not mature enough to withstand the symptoms which could lead to acid reflux or an upset stomach.
Oranges in particular also pose an added threat of choking due to their string-like nature.
The AAP’s Pediatric Journal has long advised against giving children under the age of 12 months strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries. The main reason being the increased likelihood of severe food allergies with these raw fruits.
However, new research has shown that you can safely introduce children to these foods between 6-12 months of age. With that being said, it’s best to avoid these foods if you or someone in your family has food allergies.
As always, ask your pediatrician before deciding to start foods classified as “high allergen” foods.
Wrapping It Up
Like any other aspect of parenting, new developments can be a cause of concern and confusion.
Once your little one enters the age of solid foods, you want to ensure that their health and safety comes above your personal preferences.
All of a sudden, your child has transformed from a limited infant to a child with personality and a world of possibilities to explore.
Food is an exciting realm to enter into and you’ll quickly find that your child will develop a strong liking or disliking to certain foods. It’s fun to watch their reactions to new tastes and witness the food habits they develop.
Some children are ready to eat solids at a younger age after meeting developmental milestones and having sufficient neck control, while others need to wait a bit longer.
Whenever you decide to start solids, it’s important to understand that eating is a learning process for both parents and baby. Your child will need to get used to eating from a spoon, dealing with different textures and experiencing a whole world of new tastes they’ve never explored before.
As a parent, you’ll be learning all of your child’s inclinations and which foods will deliver the best source of nutrition for them. But before you do any of that, you have to know what’s safe for them to eat, and what should remain strictly off-limits.
Savor all of these moments because they really do pass by quickly!