There are many clear indicators that show when a baby is ready for food. But before introducing any food, it's always better to err on the safe side and check if a particular food has been green-lighted as a started food. As a general rule of thumb, it's a good time to start solid foods as of the baby's six month birthday.
Some of the indicators that the baby is ready includes sitting up with minimal support, demonstrating good head control, begin to reach for food, show a general interest in food or possibly even refusing milk.
Still, starting a baby on food can be a pretty daunting task. Is he or she ready? Should he or she start with purees or direct solids? Does incorporating solid food mean the end to our breastfeeding journey or the end to formula feeding? Surely parents will have a lot of questions when beginning a food diet for their kids, but some of the most important questions surrounding starter foods are rarely ones that come to mind, like, which starter foods are safe and which foods should be held off a while longer?
There are foods that pediatricians and child development specialists urge parents to stay away from when introducing food. We compiled a list of 20 risky starter foods to avoid when the baby is finally ready.
20 Got Milk?
As a first food, parents should definitely try to avoid cow's milk. Babies just can’t easily digest it, which is one reason why experts recommend waiting until the one-year mark before offering it. Cow's milk also does not contain any of the nutrients that babies need to grow or be healthy. cow's milk contains high concentrations of protein and minerals, which can be hard on a baby's immature kidneys.
Not to mention the fact that cow's milk does not have the right amounts of iron, vitamin C, and other nutrients for infants. Giving children cows milk too young can cause severe illness like heat stress, fever, or diarrhea.
19 Liquid Waste of Calories
Sure, fruit drinks contain fruit, but that doesn't mean they are healthy. Most people eat fruit for the fiber, which is the main nutritional aspect in fruit, but most of that fiber is lost in the juicing process, and what's left is a whole lot of sugar.
"Juice is basically a waste of calories," says pediatrician Ari Brown. Using juice to sweeten your baby's food isn't a good idea either: The sugars in juice can make food pass through the digestive tract more quickly, interfering with the body's ability to absorb nutrients which can cause diarrhea in some babies.
And no, vitamin C isn't even a reason to start giving children under 12 months fruit juice, since "Babies can easily get their vitamin C from one small serving of fruit," says Brown. In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend juice for babies younger than 12 months at all. According to The Academy, from 6 to 12 months babies can have small amounts of water, but breast milk or formula should still be their main beverage.
18 Fruit From A Can
Although the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' research shows that canned and frozen foods receive around the same nutrient score as fresh fruits, canned fruits are still ill-advised as a starter food for most infants because of their size and the syrups the fruit is packaged in. Syrups can be high in sugar and cause mouth and stomach discomfort in infants.
Canned fruit cocktails contain fruit pieces that are too large for infants who are just beginning to eat solids. And though every child is different, finger sized foods like fruit that comes in cans, can be dangerous and should be avoided as one of the starter foods.
17 Certain Vegetables -- Believe It Or Not
Vegetables are good for you, they can make your baby healthy and raw vegetables have even more nutrients than cooked ones so those are the best start foods, right? Not quite, Mom.
Although raw vegetables do contain a high concentration of nutrients they are not good starter foods for infants. Raw vegetables are too hard. They can hurt a baby's gums and discourage healthy eating habits since your baby can begin to associate pain with vegetables. And before you think, 'okay well I can just cook my vegetables before offering them to my baby,' The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises not to feed homemade cooked spinach, beets, green beans, squash, or carrots to babies younger than age 6 months because these foods can have high amounts of nitrates.
Nitrates increase the risk of your baby developing a blood disorder known as methemoglobinemia, which can interfere with oxygen delivery in the blood.
16 Sweet Like Honey
We all want our children to be as sweet as honey, but did you know that children under 1 year of age should never ingest honey? Not even for a sweetener or when it's mixed into baby food. According to Nutrition, Honey contains a certain type of spore that can give infants a type of food poisoning called infant botulism that can be fatal.
The stomachs of babies under age one are unable to deactivate the botulism spores that might be in honey. So it is best to avoid this food until your baby has passed his or her first birthday, Mom.
15 Baby Rice Cereal
Baby rice cereal is great in theory, it has iron and vitamins that supposed to be super nutritious for your little one when they begin eating solids. But for some reason parents began giving their little ones baby rice cereal in bottles, mixed in with their milk or formula to make them "more full."
Pediatricians across America warn to never feed your baby solid foods from a bottle. It can be a severe choking hazard, cause a delay in learning feeding skills and it may encourage your baby to eat too much. And despite the oh so popular misconception, putting cereal in a baby's bottle does not actually help with sleeping through the night. So if baby rice cereal is your first choice of solids, try feeding baby with a spoon, first.
14 Say Cheese!
Can't wait to teach your baby about the oh so incredible goodness that is cheese? You probably should. Cheeses like feta, goat cheese, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, and Mexican queso fresco or queso blanco are more apt to be made with unpasteurized milk than harder cheeses like cheddar or Swiss.
Any form of unpasteurized cheese should be avoided for a baby's first food since they carry a risk for a type of food poisoning called listeriosis. The same goes for soft cheeses, not to mention their gooey texture which will be difficult for a baby new to eating to swallow without choking.
13 Go Fish
Who doesn't love a little sushi in their diet? Unfortunately putting raw fish on the menu for your little one may have some serious repercussions when they are first starting to eat real foods. Foodborne bacteria and viruses thrive on raw and undercooked fish and can leave your little one with a pretty serious upset tummy or worse.
And although cooked fish sounds like the next safest, most logical option, even large fish like swordfish, tuna, mackerel, and shark contain high levels of mercury so they are not safe for babies to eat, especially as introductory foods. Granted they may not be the go-to choices on your weekly shopping list, but, it's better just to avoid them now.
12 Peanut Butter
The texture of peanut butter is not suitable for a baby's first food, at all. The creaminess and softness can be really difficult for them to swallow. Creating more problems for you as a parent in the long run. According to American Pediatrics, "you can introduce small amounts of creamy—not chunky—peanut butter when your child is one year old"
It should be introduced by spreading a thin layer on a cracker so at least there is some crunch. Even if you fear an allergy, many pediatricians advise not waiting too long to introduce peanut butter since introducing it earlier on can actually help your baby build a resistance to a possible allergic reaction, just don't use the butter as a starter food.
11 Grapes, Not In Its Entirety
Grapes are... you guessed it, another choking hazard. Avoid mini foods like these as they will likely get your little one all choked up. Grapes are one of the top choking hazards due to their shape, size, and slipperiness. If you want to serve your little one grapes, since they are pretty tasty, child development specialists suggest thinly slicing the grapes, instead of just in half so they do not get lodged in your child's throat.
According to the American Society of Pediatrics, one U.S. child chokes to death approximately every five days; and 75% of choking deaths occur in children under the age of 3 years, making choking a leading cause of death in infants and toddlers.
10 Sweets For My Sweetie
Whether hard or soft, sweets, in general, should be avoided when talking about baby's first foods. Although it may be tempting to break of your little one a piece of that pop tart or cupcake at a birthday party, introducing non-natural sweets to your child as his or her first foods can encourage some pretty unhealthy eating habits, not to mention the damage it can do to their mouths.
Hard sweets also carry a risk of choking. If your baby does eat a sweet, make sure you offer him or her something nutritious to follow, to help neutralize the sugars.
9 Soda & Carbonates Are Huge No-No's
Soda provides absolutely no nutrients to infants, and it makes no difference whether they are drinking regular or diet. Filling your child up on either type means babies eat and drink less of the nutritious food their bodies really need. Especially as a starter food or drink. Regular soda also contains a ton of sugar and acidity which can damage your baby's emerging teeth.
The high levels of sugar and artificial sweeteners and caffeine can build up in babies' bodies, causing them to be wakeful, restless or irritable. So you will have a sleepless baby with no nutrients and rotting emerging teeth. Best to avoid soda and caffeinated beverages for a while, Mom.
8 Once You Pop, The Fun Don't Stop
Popcorn is a childhood classic, and whether it's kettled or cheesed or popped at home or at the movies, popcorn is just not a food that children should eat when first learning how to use their chompers. Popcorn is a major choking hazard. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that children should not have popcorn for the first time until they are at least 4 years old.
Instead, try a puree of regular corn parings to see if your baby likes the taste of the sweet vegetable. And after about 10 months of age, he or she may be ready for the real thing.
7 Going Nuts for Nuts
Whether their honeyed or roasting over an open fire, children under five should not eat whole nuts because of the risk of choking. Even if they're honey nuts should probably be avoided until your baby is at least 9 months.
"Believe it or not, many experts love good old-fashioned Cheerios once your baby can properly chew. The little O’s in the yellow box are an excellent finger food and a good source of fiber", says pediatrician Dr. Stern. "I don’t think childhood would exist without Cheerios,” says Stern. Just ask your general practitioner before you offer your baby peanuts if you have a family history of allergies.
6 More Than Meets The Eggs
Doctors say that eggs are soft and high in protein so many parents look to them as a relatively safe starter food for their children. But did you know there may be more than meets the egg? Since the egg white contains allergenic components, yolks generally tend to be safer for infants.
You can introduce egg whites later, once you feel more comfortable being able to determine whether or not your little one has an allergy, or is developing an allergy. Symptoms of a food allergy include flushing, an itchy rash or hives, swelling, irritability, diarrhea, vomiting and wheezing. If you see these symptoms in your little one, call your pediatrician or go to the hospital.
5 Chocolate Lover
Giving your little one sweets, like chocolate is not advised. Chocolate often contains ingredients known for causing allergies or food intolerance, so it's important to read labels before giving your child chocolate for the first time. And though there are no specific guidelines about when or how to give chocolate to a child for the first time, it's sensible to introduce chocolate at home and begin with a small taste.
If your little one is able to enjoy it without a problem, you can gradually give him or her a bit more. The same goes for chocolate milk. As we mentioned before, milk should not be given to infants before one year of age, but if they take to milk okay, chances are they will be fine with chocolate milk too.
4 Salty Snacks, As Tempting As They May Be
Good as they may taste to adults, the seemingly innocuous chips, pretzels, and other salty snacks are high in salt, and likely to fill your baby up, leaving less room for more nutritious foods. According to The American Pediatrics, babies should only have a very small amount of salt, less than 1g a day. And parents making their baby's food at home are advised to never salt their baby's first foods.
In a 2008 study, researchers found that about 14 percent of 9-month-olds eat salty foods like french fries at least once a week. That figure goes up to more than 40 percent by 12 months of age, making french fries among the top foods consumed by toddlers and meaning a very unhealthy start of an unhealthy habit.
3 Taffy, Hold The Laughing
If your little one has any teeth by the time they start testing out foods, it is not a good idea to risk giving them taffy to start out. Loaded with sugar, which attacks babies' tooth enamel, chewy toffees and pastilles are the worst of the bunch, since they stick to teeth.
Taffy is also hard to swallow, and since the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that a baby's esophagus is about the size of a tiny straw, getting a piece of taffy lodged in their throat is highly possible.
If you notice your little one gravitating toward sweeter foods, try infusing vegetables with breastmilk if you are breastfeeding or go for more healthy fruit since they are sweeter than vegetables.
2 Eating Is A Process
People define processed foods in different ways, but in general, the more the food is modified from what was originally caught, raised, or grown and the more ingredients are listed for one item, the more processed it is.
"The more processed the food, the more nutritional value tends to go down, and the more the sugar, salt, and fat content goes up," says dietitian Kate Geagan. Meals made specifically for babies can be healthy and appropriate. The best-prepared baby foods have few ingredients and no added salt, sugar, or modified food starch. Keep it natural since learning how to eat is always so much of a process.
1 Anything Sticky
When talking about introducing new foods to your child, any pediatrician will tell you that textures are very important. Hard, soft, juicy, moist, textures can make eating fun. It can be said that most babies prefer to start with softer, smoother textures and gradually move toward thicker foods. But sticky foods are a no-no.
Sticky foods can stick to different parts of your baby's mouth blocking airways and making it easier for them to choke. Sticky foods like gum, licorice, and caramel should always be avoided until babies have been conditioned to eat by themselves for quite some time.
References: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Interviews with Child Development Specialists, babycenter.com, University of Rochester Medical Center, Nutrition Magazine