Friday, February 5, 2010

What NOT to feed your baby



If your child is starting solids, run through this checklist of foods you should avoid

There’s plenty of literature and well-meaning advice out there about the best foods to feed your baby and toddler, particularly when they are starting solids.
But there’s some confusion about what not to feed your child, and at what age it is safe to introduce new foods to their diet.
Often advice given to parents is only for babies in specific circumstances. For example, if there is a strong history of allergy in the family, it becomes accepted that the allergy will apply to the baby as well, but this is not always the case.
The best advice if your family has asthma, eczema or allergies is to speak to your GP.
It is recommended babies be exclusively breastfed for six months, but some babies are just plain hungry and starting solids at four or five months results in a much happier baby.
However, if you introduce solids early, there are a number of foods you should avoid giving your child at this time.

Eggs: Cooked eggs can be added to your baby’s diet from six months of age, but avoid raw or undercooked eggs as they may contain salmonella.
Honey: Honey is a sugar and this could lead to tooth decay, but the main reason for avoiding it is the risk of infant botulism caused by bacteria in honey which can produce toxins in your baby’s intestines. Honey can be introduced from 12 months when a child’s intestines are mature enough to ward off the bacteria.
Nuts: Whole nuts shouldn’t be given to children under five because they pose a choking hazard. Nut butters and ground nuts are fine for babies over six months and children who do not have a family history of allergies.
If your family has a history of serious allergies to nuts and seeds, your baby may be at risk. Some health experts recommend avoiding nuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding and not giving your child peanuts for the first three years. If you are concerned, speak to your GP or see an allergy specialist.
Sesame: Like nuts, products containing sesame may cause an allergic reaction. If there is no history of allergy in your baby’s immediate family you can give your child sesame foods such as tahini once he is six months old.
Wheat, oats and other foods with gluten: The risk of Coeliac disease is reduced by avoiding foods containing gluten, such as wheat, rye and barley-based foods. This includes most bread, pasta, flour, cereals and rusks until babies are six months old.
Fish: Fish and shellfish are not recommended for babies younger than six months because there is a chance of an allergic reaction.
Children should also not be given shark, swordfish or marlin because high levels of mercury can affect their nervous systems.
Don’t give raw shellfish to babies and children, as they are a high food-poisoning risk food.
However, fish, especially oily fish, is part of a healthy diet. It’s recommended children eat at least two portions of fish a week.
Fresh fish like salmon, trout, cod, mackerel and barramundi, canned fish such as sardines and pilchards, and products such as fish fingers and fish cakes are nutritious for young children.
Avoid giving fish canned in brine to babies, as it is higher in salt than fish canned in oil.
Soy: Some children are allergic to soy and soy products including soy formula. Children who are allergic to cow’s milk should only be given soy-based formulas on medical advice. Highly hydrolysed milk or casein formulas are an alternative to milk and soy-based formula.
Kiwi fruit: There have been reports of children having severe reactions to kiwi fruit. However, it is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre. Unless your family has a history of allergies, you can include kiwi in your baby’s diet from six months.  
Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits and fruit juices should not be given to babies younger than six months.
Citrus fruits contain lots of vitamin C, but many juices also contain high amounts of sugar.
Both the sugar and the acidic nature of citrus fruits and juices can contribute to tooth decay.
Some ready-made baby foods such as pureed apple and banana contain lemon juice, so check labels when shopping.
Give your child juice at meal times only. Make sure it is diluted (one part juice to 10 parts water).
Strawberries and raspberries: Sometimes these fruits can cause allergic reactions. Reactions are usually mild, just affecting the mouth, causing itching or a rash. Wait until your baby is six months before introducing these.
Cow’s milk: Do not give your baby cow’s milk until your baby is one year old. You can still use full-fat milk in cooking, such as custard, but avoid giving it to them to drink because it is low in iron and other nutrients. Full-fat milk has also less calcium than many of the low-fat varieties.
Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk is not suitable for children under two years because it lacks vitamins.
Goat’s and sheep’s milk are not recommended for babies under 12 months. After this time, make sure all milk is pasteurised.
Cheese and yogurt: From six months of age, you can introduce these into your baby’s diet, but avoid mould ripened soft cheese such as brie and camembert, and processed cheeses which are full of salt and artificial ingredients.
High-fibre food: A high-fibre diet is not suitable for babies or young children. Occasionally wholemeal bread, pasta and grains is fine, but too much could fill up your child’s tummy, not allowing room for other foods.
Do not add bran to your baby’s food since it prevents important minerals being absorbed. Offer your child a variety of starchy foods, including wholegrain varieties, but don’t use wholegrain foods exclusively until your child is five years old.
Fizzy soft drink and cordial: These drinks contain too much sugar for a baby’s diet and cause tooth decay. Water is best.
Salt: Avoid salt in your baby’s food until they are at least one year old. A baby’s kidneys are not mature enough to cope with salt at a young age.
Sugar: Avoid extra sugar. It will only set your child up to develop a taste for sweet food instead of accepting a variety of food.
Raisins and sultanas: Dried fruit such as raisins and sultanas are nutritious for babies and toddlers. However, small pieces of food are a potential choking risk, so always supervise them at meal times.

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