Don’t start your baby on solid foods until six months – the age experts now recommend – unless your GP thinks you should begin earlier. But before you embark on this exciting part of your child’s development, there are some foods that are best avoided.
Don’t be tempted to give your baby honey until she’s a year old – even to soothe a cough. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), it occasionally contains a type of bacteria that can produce toxins in babies’ intestines that can cause infant botulism.
Fish can be a healthy part of a baby’s diet – but avoid shark, swordfish or marlin. The FSA says that the levels of mercury in these fish can affect a baby’s growing nervous system. Steer clear of raw shellfish too to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
Cheese such as feta, brie, camembert and blue veined cheeses can contain the bacteria Listeria – even when refrigerated. These bacteria can be fatal to babies, who have immature immune systems.
Never give your baby raw or lightly-cooked eggs because of the salmonella risk. The FSA says it’s perfectly ok to give thoroughly cooked eggs to babies over six months. But in the US, because allergic reactions to egg whites are common, paediatricians recommend that babies don’t eat cooked egg whites until they’re a year old.
Limit salty foods, such as cheese, sausages and bacon, and never add salt to her meals – a young baby’s kidneys can’t cope with too much salt. Bought baby foods will be low in salt, but check the label on foods not aimed at babies, such as sauces and ready-made porridge. Babies under a year should have less than 1g salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium).
Cut back on sugary food and drinks and fruit juices as these can encourage a sweet tooth and lead to dental decay when your baby’s teeth start to come through.
Some children are allergic to wheat so introduce it gradually and in small amounts. Other foods that have an allergy risk include egg, milk and soya so introduce these one at a time rather than all in one go.
If you have a history of allergies in your family, the FSA suggests waiting until your child is at least three years old before giving her peanuts or foods containing peanuts, peanut (groundnut) oil or peanut butter.