When it comes to feeding a baby, some of us get a little nervous, and for a good reason! There have been so many do’s and don’t's, revisions and differing opinions on when to introduce certain solids and common allergens over the years, that it’s hard to keep up. So what foods pose allergy risks or can cause other serious (if not fatal) problems? Here is a simple list of foods to avoid or to be cautious of, though you always need to use common sense and caution based on individual risk. It is wise to:
- Review your family’s history of allergies, digestive problems and food intolerances
- Assess baby’s health and development
- Obtain recommendations from your baby’s doctor regarding your particular situation
- Introduce new foods one at a time and to wait at least 3 days before introducing another new food (This will help you in identifying the culprit of any food allergies or intolerances.)
Some of these foods are perfectly fine for older infants (and even some younger ones, depending on your individual case), but you still need to be cautious of potential choking hazards.
- Egg whites
- Peanuts and other nuts and nut butters – Besides being highly allergenic, they can be a potential choking hazard.
- Fish and shellfish – Mercury content and allergies (especially with shellfish). Choose those with lower mercury content.
- Processed soy products (tofu and the like are included) – These are never good for anyone, especially baby.
- Most berries (not including blueberries)
- Cow’s milk – Baby cannot digest the protein in cow’s milk, and the high amount of mineral content can damage the baby’s immature kidneys.
- Wheat – Baby can develop gluten intolerance (although there are contradicting studies that say the risk decreases if introduced earlier rather than later).
- Chocolate, desserts, candies, sugar, artificial sweeteners and other sweets – Nutritionally empty for the most part, and not safe for baby.
- Citrus fruits
- Deli (or lunch) meats and hot dogs – These contain a lot of sodium and, in most cases, preservatives and chemicals. Try to find the natural versions. If you are worried about possible bacteria, just make sure to cook them thoroughly (I always heated my lunch meats in the microwave).
- Honey, maple syrup, corn syrup – Aside from empty (sugar) calories, these may harbor Clostridium botulinum spores and that grow and produce toxins in the immature intestinal tract of babies (infant botulism can be fatal).
- Certain homemade vegetables (like spinach and carrots) and other foods that are high in nitrates – These can can cause Blue Baby Disease.
- Low fat or nonfat dairy products – Children need the full fat for proper brain development and growth.
- Unpasteurized milk or juices – These may contain harmful (and even fatal) bacteria and parasites for baby.
- Fruit juice – These contain unnecessary sugar and can cause diarrhea. Dilute with water when possible.
- Salty foods – Too much salt can cause damage to a baby’s immature kidneys.
- Gummy or sticky foods (like gummy snacks and marshmallows) – These are potential choking hazards and are usually devoid of any nutrients.
- Sodas – Sodas are never a good idea for anyone, much less an infant. They contain too much sugar (and caffeine in some instances) and are nutritionally deficient. In fact, they rob calcium from growing bones
- Snacks, fried foods, fast foods – For the most part, these are not nutrient-rich and are hard to digest.
- Raw vegetables and fruits – Make sure the pieces are small and soft enough for baby to mash with his gums (or teeth if he has any). Wash thoroughly (and I would suggest organic, as well).
- Small, rounded pieces of food (such as grapes, cherry tomatoes, raisins, sausages and hot dogs) – Because these are potential choking hazards, always make sure you cut them into quarters. It may be wise to remove the “skin” of grapes and sausages/hot dogs as well.
- Small, hard foods (like popcorn and nuts)
- Seeds – Aside from the choking factor, seeds carry an extra risk of getting stuck in baby’s esophagus and causing inflammation. Small seeds (such pumpkin or sunflower seeds) can also be inhaled and cause lung infections. Some fruit seeds, especially when chewed or given in higher quantities, are toxic as well (such as apple, apricot, peach, cherry). Be cautious of seeds in whole grain breads as well.
Not only is it important to be concerned about the foods your baby is eating, but also how he eats. Make sure he is seated properly during meal times (not reclined, playing, walking, crawling, jumping, etc.) and is not laughing or giggling when his mouth is full.
Keep in mind that babies can choke on any type food. Be sure to shred or cut pieces into pea-sized chunks, and to always supervise your baby when eating.
DISCLAIMER: This list is meant to serve as a guide and does not replace professional medical advice or common sense.