In recent years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have drastically changed their recommendations when it comes to starting solids and foods to avoid feeding baby.
Just a few years ago when my kids were babies, I was told to avoid feeding them peanuts until they were older, for example.
With more research about food allergies, the AAP now encourages parents to feed their babies a wider variety of foods, making highly-allergenic foods previously off limits now back on the menu.
There are still several types of foods however, that lack the nutrition babies need, could be harmful to baby’s health or pose a choking hazard and should be avoided. Here are 10.
Before they turn 1-year-old, babies should never consume honey whether it’s raw, processed, local or purchased at the grocery store, a local farm or a farmer’s market.
Although rare, there is a risk for botulism, a rare illness caused by toxins produced by clostridium botulinum, a spore-forming bacteria which can cause weakness, paralysis and even death. Before a year, babies’ immune systems are not strong enough to fend it off so they should never be given honey.
Be sure to also avoid other foods that contain honey such as baked goods or meals you prepare at home or purchase. Although clostridium botulinum is heat sensitive, the spores are difficult to kill.
2. Cow’s Milk and Non-Dairy Milks
Breast milk and/or infant formula are the only two your baby needs for the first year of life. Not only is cow’s milk difficult to digest but it doesn’t have the right nutrition babies need—the nutrition that only breast milk or infant formula can provide.
Likewise, non-dairy milks such as soymilk, almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, rice milk and hemp milk should never be given to baby.
When you introduce a sippy cup to your baby, you can offer water but breast milk and/or infant formula should still make up a majority of his calories.
At around 6-month-old, your baby can eat whole milk yogurt and cheese but always speak to your doctor before introducing these foods. And when you do, stick to shredded cheese or cheese that’s cut into small, soft pieces your baby can handle. After your baby’s first birthday, you can introduce whole or reduced fat cow’s milk. If you prefer non-dairy milk, talk to your pediatrician or a pediatric nutritionist to make sure he’s getting the nutrition he needs.
3. Peanut, Nuts and Nut Butters
Perhaps the most significant development in recent years regarding infant nutrition were results from the landmark Learning Early About Peanut (LEAP) study published in 2015. According to the study, introducing peanut protein to infants at risk for food allergies or eczema actually decreased their chance of developing a peanut allergy.
Before introducing peanut butter however, talk to your child’s pediatrician because the AAP has guidelines specific to an individual baby’s risk.
Regardless of when you introduce peanut butter or other nut butters, it’s important to realize that they’re still a choking hazard. Stick to creamy instead of chunky varieties and thin it out by mixing it with fruit or vegetable purees.
4. Fruit Juice
Many parents think fruit juice is a healthy option for babies, and although it does have some nutrition, the AAP recommends babies under age 1 avoid juice altogether.
Fruit juice is high in sugar and empty calories and whole fruit is much better than fruit juice because it packs more nutrition and fiber. Juice can also cause cavities and diarrhea. Unpasteurized juice should be off limits too because of the bacteria it can introduce to your baby’s immature immune system.
If you decide to offer juice when your baby turns 1, limit it to 4 ounces a day, dilute it with water and serve it in a cup, not a sippy cup or a bottle which encourages baby to sip on the sugar all day.
5. Foods That Are Choking Hazards
Foods that your baby can’t mush with his gums, won’t dissolve in his mouth or can be sucked into his windpipe can cause your baby to choke. Even if you’re a baby-led weaning mama, there are foods that can pose choking hazards. Some of the most common include:
- Hot Dogs
- Peas (whole)
- Raw vegetables like carrots
- Some types of meat, poultry and fish
When your baby can handle chunkier consistencies, you can likely offer more types of foods but you’ll still have to be careful. Although grapes may be OK, you’ll have to peel and slice them.
6. Some Types Of Fish
Fish is an excellent source of protein and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid babies need for optimal brain development. Feeding babies fish early on can also increase the chances they’ll accept—and like— fish as they get older. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend infants consume 3 to 6 ounces of fish per week.
Yet just as you had to limit your exposure to certain types of high-mercury fish when you were pregnant, you should also avoid those you feed your baby. Fish high in mercury include:
- King mackerel
- Tuna (albacore)
The following are low in mercury and can be offered:
- Canned light tuna
You—or someone else in the family—might not think giving your baby some ice cream, a cookie or a piece of candy is a big deal but nurturing a sweet tooth early on isn’t a good idea.
Feeding your baby sugary treats displaces other healthy foods she needs especially during the first year of life which is critical for growth and development. Wait until your baby’s first birthday party to offer the first taste of sugar.
8. Smoked Meats, Cheeses and Fish
Smoked cheeses, fish like lox and smoked and cured meats like bacon or sausage are high in nitrates, a harmful chemical linked to cancer as well as saturated fat and sodium, making them some of the foods to avoid feeding baby.
9. Packaged Snacks
There are so many processed, packaged snacks like breakfast bars, crackers and fruit snacks for babies on the market and although many of them are organic or touted as a good source of vitamins and minerals, babies don’t need these in their diets.
It’s OK to give babies snacks but packaged fare takes the place of healthier foods that pack nutrition and also gets your baby into the habit of eating snack foods—a habit that can be hard to break as your baby gets older.
If you want your baby to grow up eating real, wholesome food, then nix the processed, packaged snacks and offer real, fresh whole foods.