Yea! My baby is eating solid foods from all food groups. What foods shouldn't I give my baby at this age?
Congratulations! Your baby is moving from infancy towards being a toddler with his/her feeding skills. By about 9 months, your baby can eat foods from all the different food groups – appropriate texture is the biggest issue. There are still certain foods that infants should not be given until after they are 1 year old. These include milk, egg whites, peanut butters, juice, sweets, honey and high risk choking foods. Let's look at each of these a little bit closer.
Milk: Until one year of age, the only fluids your baby needs are breast milk, artificial baby milk or water. Cow's milk should not be offered until one year of age. Cow's milk contains large protein that your baby's digestive system may not be ready for – this can cause bleeding inside their digestive track. Cow's milk is low in certain nutrients (Vitamins C & E and iron) and too high in other nutrients (like protein, sodium and potassium) for babies. After one year of age, your toddler's digestive track is more mature and he/she is eating from all food groups. At this time cow's milk will be a great, healthy addition to his/her diet.
Eggs: At 9 months your baby can start eating fully cooked egg yolks - but NOT the white. The proteins in egg whites may be too large for your baby's immature digestive system to handle. Introducing egg whites too early could lead to an allergy to eggs. Go ahead and boil eggs and give your baby the yolk only or separate the whites from the eggs before cooking and offer scrambled egg yolks to your baby. Regardless of the form, always give your baby fully cooked eggs to reduce the risk of Salmonella.
Peanut Butter: Nuts and nut butters are also a food that could lead to allergies if introduced too early. Peanut butter (or any nut butters) is very sticky and can be a choking hazard for your little one as they are learning to eat. After 1 year of age, most toddlers can handle a small smear of peanut butter on toast, crackers or fruit.
Juice: The reason juice is not recommended for an infant has to do with its high sugar content. The American Academy of Pediatrics states there is no nutritional advantage of fruit juice over whole fruit. WIC does not recommend offering juice to infants. Your infant does not need to drink anything but your breast milk, artificial baby formula and water until they are 1 year old. The sugars in juice start breaking down the enamel on your baby's teeth with every sip. Most babies don't need the extra calories from juice and some have problems learning to drink water once juice is introduced. Your infant does not need juice. IF you're going to provide juice anyway – consider offering it in a cup only – drinking it with a meal or snack. Don't put it in a bottle or sippy cup and don't allow your infant to "sip" on it for hours.
Sweets: The reason for avoiding sweets goes along with the reasons for avoiding juice. You know sweets taste great and most of us don't NEED them. Your baby does not know what he/she is missing and that's OKAY. Once you introduce sweets you can never go back. We are hardwired to like sweets – once your baby has tasted sugar they will usually prefer sweet foods over not so sweet foods (like vegetables). Your baby has the rest of their life to develop their sweet tooth – help them get established with good eating habits and avoid sweets for as long as possible.
Honey: While honey is a natural food, it is also at higher risk for containing Clostridium botulinum – which could cause your baby to develop infant botulism. Older toddlers and adults have more mature digestive systems and can fight off this type of botulism – your infant cannot. Avoid honey and products made from honey until after one year of age. Best recommendations are to avoid light and dark Karo Syrup for the same reasons.
High Risk Choking Foods: Along with nuts and nut butters as mentioned above, there are other foods to be avoided until a child has learned to eat well. These include: popcorn, whole grapes, hot dogs, hard/raw fruit or vegetables (like apples, green beans, carrots), chunky or stringy meat, chunks of cheese, or any other foods that are hard to chew. Always supervise your baby while he/she is eating and have them sit upright throughout the meal - no running around the house with food in their mouth or hands.
This may seem like a lot of "don'ts" but there are literally hundreds of foods your older infant can enjoy – eventually they will get to these restricted foods – but there is no hurry. Remember - you're not going to hurt your baby by going slow on the introduction of foods, but you may hurt your baby by introducing foods too fast.
Paula Vineyard Most, MS, RD, LDC, CLS
WIC Nutritionist/Family Case Manager
Jackson County Health Department