For the first four months of life, your baby’s dining experiences were rather limited – breast milk, formula, or a sampling of both. Then, your little gourmet’s menu expanded to include the inaccurately named “solid foods,” soupy edibles that are much more pudding than pork chops. Finally, after months of anticipation, the vast world of culinary delights is opening to your little one, and it’s a tummy-tempting journey that you’ll both enjoy! But before you put your best fork forward, be sure to follow these 9 tips for feeding your child safely. Bon appetit!
1. Never give your baby warmed foods before checking the temperature first. Prevent burns by sampling the food yourself or placing a small dollop on your wrist. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your baby.
2. Do not feed honey or corn syrup to a baby younger than 1 year of age. These edibles can cause infant botulism, a bacterial disease that can be fatal if not treated. Honey and corn syrup are safe for children over 1.
3. Refrain from giving your baby a bottle containing milk, formula, or juice just before bedtime. The sugars found in these liquids will pool around your child’s budding teeth and lead to a condition known as baby bottle tooth decay. (Learn more about preventing baby bottle tooth decay.)
4. Never feed your baby foods that pose a choking hazard – especially raisins, peanuts, hard candies, popcorn, or raw carrots. Hot dogs can be given to babies if they are cut lengthwise and then sliced into quarters. Grapes should be peeled and halved.
5. Introduce new foods one at a time. By doing this, you’ll notice if any particular foods cause an allergic reaction. Also, wait until your child is at least 1 year old before introducing food that traditionally spark allergic reactions – such as peanuts, tree nuts, dairy products, and shell fish.
6. Always wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and antibacterial soap before preparing foods.
7. Do not give unpasteurized milk, apple juice or apple cider to your child. Such products may contain E. coli, a foodborne illness that is particularly dangerous to babies with weak immune systems.
8. Speak to your doctor before trying to prepare your own baby food. Certain vegetables contain high levels of nitrate – beets, carrots, collard greens, turnips, and spinach – and improper home-canning is a leading cause of botulism in the United States.
9. Don't give your child too much fruit juice. While fruit juice is an excellent source of vitamin C and can be part of a healthy child's diet, they contain large amounts of sugar and offer little to no fiber. Also, too much juice can curb children's appetites, meaning kids may skip meals where foods rich in essential nutrients and vitamins are served. To keep kids from drinking too much fruit juice, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Do not give fruit juice to infants before 6 months of age.
- Refrain from giving babies older than 6 months juice in bottles or cups that allow them to consumer juice easily throughout the day. Along with curbing appetites, too much juice can also lead to baby bottle tooth decay.
- Never give infants fruit juice at bedtime.
- Children ages 1 to 6 should drink no more than four to six ounces of fruit juice daily.
- Children ages 7 to 18 should drink between eight and 12 ounces of fruit juice daily.
- Encourage kids to eat whole fruits, which, unlike fruit juice, are high in fiber.
Updated August 2012