Foods to avoid when starting solids for your baby. What foods do you introduce to baby first, and which should be excluded? Here are some basics around weaning nutrition, including what solid foods to start baby on.
We both remember Googling many questions around how to wean our kids from breast milk and introduce them to solids. We were both interested in doing baby-led weaning, but having never done it before, weren’t sure what foods got the green (or red) light.
So, we know that many other parents out there probably have the same questions. And let’s get one thing straight from the get-go: there’s no one “best” way to introduce solids.
Understanding which foods are best avoided in the beginning is a helpful tool as you figure out your plan.
Signs of feeding readiness
Whether you’ve breastfed, formula-fed, or done a combination of both, your baby will start to tell you when he’s ready to try some solid foods.
- Your baby is 6 months old
- He or she is sitting up on their own for at least 60 seconds
- Baby is losing the tongue thrust reflex that makes them push food out of their mouth
- They are interested in food (often on your plate!)
While there’s some wiggle room for when to start, there’s no benefit to starting solids before 4 months of age, and this may actually come with potential health risks.
First foods to avoid
When planning your babe’s menu, we want to expose them to as many foods, textures, and flavors as possible to help them develop a widely varied palate.
However, it’s important to avoid foods that have a higher risk for choking.
First foods should be soft enough for baby to eat with her gums. To test consistency, smash a bit of the food you’re planning to offer between your thumb and forefinger.
Regardless of whether you’re choosing to do baby-led weaning or spoon-feeding, there are certain foods that should be avoided between 6-12 months.
Foods to avoid when starting solids
- Deli meat and unpasteurized cheese. If you’re incorporating animal products in your baby’s diet, exclude these items before age 1 because of their risk for Listeria, a potentially dangerous bacteria that can cause listeriosis.
- Large amounts of milk. Whether you’re using cow’s milk or plant-based milk, too much of either can fill baby up and displace room for other nutrients. Cow’s milk before one year of age can also cause damage to the intestinal lining.
- Popcorn, raw nuts and seeds. These are too hard and shouldn’t be offered until at least age 4, as they are major choking hazards.
- Gobs of nut/seed butters. Nut and seed butters can still be too thick and risky for getting stuck in the esophagus. Instead, try thinning these with water and drizzling them onto strips of toast or swirled into oatmeal.
- Citrus segments. While whole slices of oranges and grapefruit shouldn’t be given to baby, you can slice these thinly and remove the membranes that are too tough to chew.
- Foods that form a crumb in the mouth. Things like French bread and crackers can form a ball in the mouth and become a danger.
- Food that breaks off in large chunks. For instance, raw apples and most veggies. Shred apples with a grater and offer them this way at around 10 months.
- Round foods. This is the perfect shape to get caught in the esophagus of a baby. Examples include veggie sausage and hot dogs, cherry tomatoes, and grapes. Eventually, cut these into quarters or halves as baby gets older and is able to chew them safely.
- Honey. Before age 1, honey is a high risk for containing Clostridium botulinum, bacterial spores that can cause a serious neurotoxic illness called botulism. It often ends up in breads and cereals, so be sure to read ingredient labels.
- Salt. Before age 1, baby’s kidneys are not developed enough to efficiently filter out large amounts of salt. Look for no-salt-added packaged foods, like tomato sauces and canned beans.
- Sugar. There’s no need – or nutritional value – to offer babies added sugar. Instead, offering natural sugar in the form of fruits can help them develop and affinity for these healthier foods. Added sugar is found in many foods like yogurt, packaged snacks, fruit juices, etc.
We realize this this is a long list of foods to avoid when starting solids for your baby. But it still leaves plenty of delicious, nutrient-rich foods you CAN offer baby! It may be helpful to print and hang this list in your kitchen as you decide what solid foods to start baby on.
Chime In: What first foods has your baby loved so far?
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