Few parental tasks are more anxiety-provoking for a new mom, dad or caregiver than feeding a baby real food. Giving baby formula is one thing—it’s liquid, can be measured in ounces, is easily digestible and you can see exactly how much your baby is getting. Human food, on the other hand, requires more thought. There’s actual chewing and more advanced digesting (remember babies have immature digestive systems) and comes with a slew of dos and don’ts that parents need to be aware of to ensure their child’s safety.
Yes—just as certain foods are off-limits during pregnancy, so too are certain foods for babies, especially in their first year of life. The first reason is due to choking hazards. “Certain foods, when ingested, could get caught in a child’s throat blocking their airway so they can’t breathe,” warns Dr Lauren Crosby, board certified pediatrician and Bobbie medical advisor. “Children under 4 years of age tend not to chew their food well, so foods that are hard and round are particularly dangerous.”
Foods for baby to avoid include:
Other reasons certain foods are on the “do-not-eat list” for young babies are due to super rare, but serious and potentially fatal, complications that can result from consumption, and honey is the most common culprit. “Honey products may contain a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum which makes botulinum toxin (a poison) and causes a disease called botulism,” says Dr. Crosby. This side effect is quite rare, with only 100 cases being reported each year, and the risk lifts once a child reaches one-year old. By then, their intestines have matured enough to handle this bacteria.
Choking foods, on the other hand, are still not OK once your baby reaches the one-year mark. Even if you’re ready to start your baby on solids, with baby led weaning or another technique, it’s important to know what not to feed your baby. To help you navigate the unchartered waters of feeding in the first few years, but especially during year one, here is a list of the top 10 foods you should avoid feeding your baby at all costs.
Foods to never feed your baby before the age of 1:
Honey is one of those seemingly perfect first foods for baby, thanks to its smooth, gooey texture and super-sweet flavor, however, it’s actually one of the most dangerous. While uncommon, infants under 12 months of age may get a disease called botulism that results from consuming a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that’s rarely found in honey. As a good rule of thumb, it’s best to introduce this sweet treat once your child has celebrated his first birthday.
A spoonful of peanut butter
Here’s another delicious food that you’re probably dying to see your baby devour and enjoy. However, nut butters have a very thick and sticky consistency that can get stuck in the back of an infant’s throat and be a choking hazard. It’s best to give peanut butter only when it’s spread very thinly on a cracker or a vegetable and save the spoonfuls for when your child is at least 4 years of age.
Baby Foods to Avoid If Your Child is Gassy
Young infants are not yet able to chew their food well enough to handle vegetables when they are uncooked—mostly due to the fact that they don’t have many teeth, notes Dr. Crosby. As a result, they can easily choke on a raw veggie due to their small airways that could allow the food to become stuck more easily. Also, tons of raw veggies, including brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, are known to cause gas and indigestion, so it’s a good idea to wait until your child’s first birthday to start serving strips of raw veggies.
Also due to the fact that infants don’t yet have even close to a full set of teeth, it’s a good idea to avoid popcorn, which requires a great deal of chewing for safe consumption. If a child eats popcorn, it could get stuck in their smaller airway and potentially cause choking.
For the same reasons infants cannot yet enjoy a movie with some popcorn, they cannot indulge in chips of any kind just yet. If your child is showing interest in the chips you’re chomping on, be it tortilla or potato chips, you can offer up some baby-friendly varieties, such as puffs, which come in a variety of flavors and are formulated for young babies. They dissolve right into your kiddo’s mouth, so you don’t have to worry about their chewing skills.
Grapes are a delicious fruit that’s seemingly ideal to feed your baby thanks to their bite-sized nature. Unfortunately, grapes are round and can get stuck in a baby’s tiny airways. If you want to serve up grapes to your baby, you can slice them in half the long way to prevent them from easily sliding down a child’s throat and blocking their airway.
When it comes to tasty foods you think your child will go crazy for, hot dogs probably top the list, but, unfortunately, this cylinder-shaped food can be a choking hazard for a baby, especially when cut up into round pieces. If you want to feed hot dogs to your baby, you have to cut them into super tiny pieces—like, no larger than your pinky nail—to make sure that your child won’t choke on them.
Baby Foods to Avoid If Your Child Has Acid Reflux
If you’re running low on formula or just plain-sick of buying it, you might think to give your older baby cow’s milk instead. After all, it is chock full of nutrients, right? Yes—and no. While cow’s milk is an important beverage to serve a baby older than 12 months, it should not be given until the one-year mark. Cow’s milk contains certain proteins that young infants’ immature kidneys cannot handle, which can lead to severe illness, according to the AAP. What’s more: Dr. Crosby warns that some babies have food allergies that manifest as acid reflux symptoms. “Babies who have a dairy intolerance or cow’s milk allergy may have symptoms similar to acid reflux so giving a baby any dairy could cause vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, poor sleep and difficulty feeding,” she says. Hold off on this one until your baby’s first birthday.
You’re probably looking forward to seeing your child’s reaction when she enjoys your favorite candy bar as much as you do, but it’s a good idea to hold off on the sugary treats until your baby’s over a year old. Chocolate not only contains a ton of sugar, but also caffeine, and hard candies can pose as choking hazards for young babies.
Pretty much all smoked meats or those that are cured (like salami, pepperoni or bacon) contain chemicals known as nitrates, which can wreak havoc on your baby’s blood counts and cause a condition known as methemoglobinemia. Dr. Crosby recommends rarely, if ever, serving these foods to young children—the same goes for smoked fish.
FAQs about which foods baby should avoid:
When can babies eat scrambled eggs?
Eggs are an excellent source of protein for your little one, as well as choline, a nutrient that helps with brain function. According to Dr. Crosby, parents can introduce eggs at 4-6 months. Many parents hard boil and mash the egg and add breast milk or formula to it.
An infant can have scrambled eggs starting between 8-9 months because, at this age, they usually have enough oral motor skills to have small soft pieces of food that can easily be gummed. Another reason to wait until 8 months or so is because eggs are a common allergen, so it’s a good idea for your baby to have been introduced to other solids first, like fruits and veggies.
What is the first solid food to feed a baby?
Introducing a variety of foods to your baby is important. Not only is switching up the menu appealing to tiny taste buds, but it also ensures your child is exposed to different flavors and textures. Some great first solids that Dr. Crosby recommends are infant oatmeal, beans, lentils, meats, avocado and sweet potato. “It is best to introduce one new food every 3 days to monitor for any type of allergic reaction or upset tummy,” she says. “Then, when a baby is starting table foods, they can have small pieces like Cheerio size or smaller and very soft.”
Can a 7 month old have (cow milk) yogurt?
While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against giving cow’s milk to babies under the age of one, yogurt made from cow’s milk is perfectly safe so long as they don’t have a dairy allergy. “A food allergy may show symptoms such as severe colic, skin rashes like hives or eczema, vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool or even trouble breathing,” says Dr. Crosby. “If a baby is allergic to dairy then they can not have any products from a cow or goat such as milk, cheese, yogurt or ice cream.”
When can a baby eat chicken?
Chicken, as well as steak and pork is completely safe to serve to your baby any time after you’ve introduced solids, according to Dr. Crosby. “At this point, they can have soft small pieces of table food.”
It seems scary to hear about all of the foods you can not feed your baby. But don’t worry, the list of what you can feed them is equally long. Many foods are great starter foods for babies, and we can’t wait to hear which ones work best for you!