Weaning foods to avoid or limit
To keep your baby healthy and happy during this important year of exciting development, there are special guidelines for foods that are more likely to cause allergies or illness. Here are some tips to remember:
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, oats and barley, so most breads and many cereals. Introducing gluten too early has been linked with coeliac disease. To be on the safe side, it’s best to follow the Department of Health’s advice of waiting until at least 6 months before introducing it. Some experts say that it’s a good idea to let babies have some gluten before 7 months so that their tummy can learn how to digest it. So anywhere between 6 and 7 months is a great time for your baby’s first taste of foods that contain gluten.
Honey can sometimes contain a bacteria that leads to a serious illness called infant botulism. Until their first birthday, your baby’s immune system isn’t strong enough to fight the bacteria, so it’s recommended to avoid giving them honey until they’ve had their first birthday. Sticky, sweet honey is also bad news for tiny teeth – a good reason to only give it occasionally after 12 months.
The recommended age for introducing nuts depends on the history of allergies in your family. Nuts should be off the menu until at least 6 months for all babies. If you know your baby has, or could have, a potentially serious peanut allergy, it’s important to avoid all traces of peanuts, as even the dust can cause a reaction. Whole nuts can be a choking hazard so are not recommended for children under 5 years old. If you are unsure, always speak to your healthcare professional for advice first.
Fat provides essential energy in the form of calories, and with all that fascinating development going on, babies and toddlers need plenty of it. Full-fat milk, yogurt and cheese (rather than low-fat versions) are recommended until at least their second birthday.
Shark, swordfish and marlin
These fish can contain high levels of mercury, which can affect your baby’s developing nervous system. It’s best to avoid them altogether.
Raw or undercooked shellfish, including prawns, can cause food poisoning. But you don’t need to avoid them completely. As long as it’s well-cooked, your baby can enjoy shellfish from 6 months onwards.
Once your baby is over 6 months old, they can have their first taste of egg. You should just make sure they’re cooked thoroughly so that both the white and yolk are solid. This will minimise any risk of food poisoning. And if you think a food, such as mousse or homemade ice cream, could have been made with raw egg, it’s wise to give it a miss.
Your baby’s kidneys are still developing and can only cope with a small amount of salt. During their first year, they need no more than 1g of salt per day and many adult foods contain a lot more than this. If you’re cooking for the whole family, avoid using salt while cooking and just let the grown-ups add their seasoning once the food is served. It’s also a good idea to avoid using stock cubes and gravy powder, which tend to have a high salt content.
Lots of foods are naturally sweet, including breastmilk, formula milk, all fruits and some vegetables. Beyond those, your baby doesn’t need extra sugar in their diet. Avoiding high-sugar foods is better for your baby’s teeth and can help lead to healthier eating habits later on.
Saturated fat is found in foods like crisps, chips, cakes and biscuits, so the best advice is that your baby should only have these foods as an occasional treat.
So what should my baby eat?
Babies need a wide variety of healthy foods to fuel all the rapid development that’s taking place, and our article about weaning foods to include offers lots of ideas for a well-balanced diet. Also, visit the Cow & Gate website and request a copy of their popular 5 Step Weaning Plan, this will help you get started.
The feeding experts here are all mums too and have plenty of tips and suggestions to share. Feel free to give us a call – we’re more than happy to help.