During the first four to six months, your baby should only be having breast milk or formula milk that is designed for newborns. After four months, you can try introducing solid foods to your child. However, some foods that we happily eat as adults can be very dangerous for children less than one year old.
Honey is a natural product and sometimes contains bacteria. An adult’s digestive system can cope with these bacteria, rendering them harmless, but in babies they can cause botulism. This is a life-threatening disease, so avoid feeding honey to your baby until he or she is at least a year old.
Cow’s Milk and Soy Milk
Many parents are confused by this advice, as they associate babies with milk-drinking. However, the only milk you should give your newborn baby is breast milk or age-appropriate infant formula. This is because the types of milk that adults drink do not contain the right nutrients for a growing baby. There is also some evidence that babies struggle to digest the proteins in soy and cow’s milk. After the first year, you can introduce these milks, but always choose a full-fat, unsweetened brand.
Babies can choke on hard foods such as nuts, raisins, and popcorn. They’re not used to eating solid food and many of them don’t yet have teeth to chew with. Stick to soft foods until your child reaches two, and always mash them or chop them up into small pieces. Sticky foods such as peanut butter or gummy candies can also get stuck in the throat, so it’s best to avoid these as well.
Never add salt to your baby’s food as it can cause serious damage to tiny kidneys. The amount of salt that babies can tolerate is very low: about one gram per day. Many foods marketed at adults contain added salt, so either stick to pre-prepared baby food or check the labels carefully. In 1999, there was a high-profile case of a 3 month-old baby who died of dehydration after being fed instant hot cereal by his naïve parents; it was found that the excess salt in the product was to blame.
At around six months, your baby’s first teeth will be starting to come through. You can help to protect them from decay by limiting the amount of sugar your baby eats. Babies love to eat sweet foods such as mashed bananas, sweet potatoes, or strawberries, but you should avoid adding any extra sugar to their meals. Not only does sugar rot a baby’s teeth, it also puts them at risk of childhood obesity. Also, if your baby gets used to eating sugary foods, they will keep that sweet tooth as they grow up, leading to tantrums when you try to get them to eat something other than candy.
Expired or Undercooked Food
Babies’ immune systems aren’t as well developed as ours, so food hygiene is especially important when preparing food for a baby. Never give expired food to your baby, even if it is only a day past its use-by date. Always check that cooked food has been heated through thoroughly, but make sure that the temperature is not high enough to burn your baby’s mouth.