Foods to Avoid Giving Your Baby
Moving on to solid foods is a huge milestone for your baby and for you. But as babies progress from porridges and pureed fruit and vegetables to explore new flavours, textures and tastes, parents need to be aware of what foods it is safe to give their infants at different stages. It's advised that you should start weaning your baby at around six months, but not every food will be suitable for them to try straightaway.
Foods to Avoid Giving Your Baby
Salt isn't good for a baby. Their kidneys aren't mature enough to cope with processing salt and too much can cause permanent damage. In addition, if children become used to eating salty foods they will probably keep the habit, putting them at greater risk of developing long-term health problems such as strokes and high blood pressure in later life.
Don't add any salt to your baby's food and if you are making sauces and soups from scratch, use low salt or salt free stock cubes. Your baby may be interested in trying your own meal, so make sure you haven't added any salt to the food before offering it to your little one.
Be aware of the salt content of foods. Everyday items like butter, bread, cheese, biscuits and breakfast cereals all contain salt and it's easy for the quantities to start adding up. Look out for low salt varieties of popular foods such as baked beans.
Salt consists of two components, namely sodium and chloride and sodium is the one that can cause health problems. The NHS has daily maximum amounts of salt recommendations for babies and children. Babies up to 12 months old should have under 1g (0.4g sodium) a day. Children between one and three years old should eat no more than 2g of salt (0.8g sodium) a day. Four to six year olds should consume 3g (1.2g sodium) at the most every day and for seven to 10 year olds, it becomes 5g (2g sodium) a day. Children from 11 years can have the same quantity as an adult, which is 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium).
Sugar is another foodstuff that should be avoided. Babies don't need sugar, so steer clear of sugary foods, drinks and snacks. Use breast milk or formula if you need to sweeten food. Give toast with cream cheese or mashed banana rather than jam or marmalade and look for breakfast cereals that aren't coated with sugar.
If you give your baby lots of sweet products, they will develop a sweet tooth, which can be hard to shake when they are older. Products with added sugar also have a lot of calories and can lead to your child becoming overweight. In addition, these foods often have few other nutrients so have little food value. Keeping sugar levels to a minimum also helps to prevent tooth decay.
Parents are often nervous about giving nuts to their child for the first time due to the increasing awareness around nut allergies. The NHS Choices website recommends that providing there is no family history of allergies to food or anything else (cats, for example) and if your baby hasn't shown signs of intolerance to any other foods, you can go ahead and give peanuts once your baby is six months old. It's important that they are ground or crushed into peanut butter.
However, if allergies do run in the family, talk to your health visitor or GP for advice before you start weaning. Also, if your baby already has allergies or a condition such as eczema or asthma, they have a greater chance of having a peanut allergy, so seek medical advice before giving peanut butter or any products with peanuts for the first time.
Some foods are more likely to cause an allergic reaction than others so you may want to introduce them one at a time. That way you can identify the trigger foods more easily. Foods in this category include cow's milk, egg, soya, grains that contain gluten such as rye, barley, oats and wheat, citrus fruits, fish, shellfish and nut butters.
Whole nuts, peanuts included, should not be given to the under fives as they are a choking hazard. Other foods that can be choked on include grapes, olives and cherry tomatoes, so always slice them lengthways. Popcorn can also be choked on so should be avoided. As a general rule, don't leave your baby alone whilst eating.
Other Hazards to Avoid
Honey shouldn't be given to children until they are one year old. This is because it occasionally contains bacteria that may produce toxins in your baby's intestines. This can lead to a serious illness called infant botulism.
Some foods should be avoided because they carry a greater risk of food poisoning. Whilst they might not seem like the sorts of foods you would offer a baby anyway, don't give them undercooked or raw shellfish, liver pate or cheeses such as camembert or brie. Well-cooked eggs are fine from six months but not raw or soft boiled eggs.
With so much emphasis on the fat content in some foods it's important to know that for infants, fat is a good source of calories and also some vitamins. Under twos should have full-fat milk, cheese and yoghurt rather than any low-fat varieties. Saturated fats, however, are bad for all of us, so don't give them to your child. Foods to avoid include chips, cheap burgers, crisps and cakes.
If all this seems a bit of a minefield remember that your health visitor is always there for advice. Don't be afraid to ask for guidance if you're unsure what foods are appropriate. There is also lots of information available on the internet to help and leaflets and booklets for anyone without easy access to the internet; again, just ask your health visitor.