The digestive system of your baby is not fully developed until the age of one. This means that the foods that you can give your child are limited. Until the age of six months, your baby should not be given any other food items besides breast milk and formula. Usually, solid foods are introduced at the age of 6 months. You need to make sure that you choose the right foods in order to avoid issues such as infections, allergies, or even choking. Take a look at these 18 unsafe foods for your baby before 1 year.
Understanding an infant’s digestive system
The digestive system of an infant develops rapidly in the first six months. There are several changes that occur which make it possible for the body to produce certain enzymes that not only digest the food but also keep infections at bay.
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When the baby is in the womb, all the nutrients are received through the placenta. This process changes abruptly when the baby is born. The digestive system of the baby is immature and the stomach is too small. As a result, meals that are more frequent are necessary for the baby to meet the required, daily calorie intake.
Even though the infant is able to digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, the immature pancreas is still not producing all the necessary digestive enzymes. Enzymes present in the breast milk fulfill this enzyme requirement. Therefore, any other food besides mother’s milk until the age of four months can cause dehydration and also reduce the number of nutrients absorbed by the body.
Development of the digestive lining
A mucous membrane protects the digestive system from any infection from microbes or pathogens present in foods. In infants, this layer is not fully developed. Breast milk contains certain antibodies that keep the baby protected until the age of six months. Foods rich in minerals and vitamins after the age of six months help in better development of the digestive system. However, until the age of six months, breast milk or formula milk is extremely necessary for the baby.
Unsafe Foods For Your Baby Before 1 year
Keeping in mind the ongoing development of the baby’s digestive system, here is a list of unsafe foods for your baby before 1 year:
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Honey is a natural sweetener. However, it contains spores of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum that grows rapidly in the intestine of the baby. This leads to a condition called infant botulism. Common symptoms of the condition include uncoordinated movements, inability to suckle, constipation, and soft cries. Once the digestive system is mature, it is safe to introduce honey to the child. Corn syrup is another natural sweetener that needs to be avoided.
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The sugar that we use in our everyday diet is refined after going through many processes. It is therefore exposed to many chemicals that are harmful for babies. Sugar is also inflammatory in nature and leads to reduced immunity in babies. Therefore, it is best avoided until the baby turns one year old. Babies do not normally need any additional sweeteners in their diet. However, if you feel the need, use fruit pulp or date syrup (homemade) to sweeten your baby’s food.
#3. Cow’s milk or soy milk
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For the first year, it is best to stick to formula or breast milk. The milk proteins in cow or soy milk are difficult for the immature digestive system of the baby to handle. These can put a lot of strain on the kidneys of the baby that are still developing. It is also true that many children are unable to digest the lactose present in cow’s milk. They are born with lactose intolerance, which prevents the body from digesting milk or any milk products. This leads to common allergy symptoms like diarrhea. It can also cause intestinal bleeding in some children.
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#4. Foods rich in nitrates
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Leafy veggies such as spinach, beets, lettuce, and fennel are known for their high nitrate levels. These nitrates are too hard for the infant’s digestive system to breakdown. This is because the necessary acids in the stomach are absent. Excessive nitrates in the blood reduce the process of oxygen transportation. This leads to a condition called Blue Baby Syndrome. Therefore, until the age of one, it is best to avoid leafy greens for the child.
#5. Certain varieties of seafood
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Seafood is a common allergen. If there is a history of seafood allergy in your family, avoid it altogether. If not, you can give your child fish such as cod or salmon until the age of one. Make sure that you avoid shark mackerel, shark, and tuna as these fish contain high levels of mercury in them. Shellfish is not advisable until the age of three for children. The allergies caused by these foods are very severe and can even be fatal; especially if there is a history of allergies within the family.
#6. Peanuts and peanut butter
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Avoid peanut butter or any nut butter until the age of one. To begin with, peanuts are very potent allergens. The reaction can be very intense and life-threatening in some cases. Nut butter is also very sticky and may choke the child. This food is difficult to dislodge with usual methods like the Heimlich maneuver. Even when you are giving peanut butter to older children, make sure that you only spread a thin layer that will not cause choking in the child. You can even reduce the consistency of nut butter by mixing it with applesauce first.
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#7. Citrus fruits
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The acidic nature of Citrus fruits can be difficult for an immature digestive system to cope with. This leads to an upset stomach and can cause a lot of discomforts. There are cases of rashes on the back of the baby, the face, and in the diaper area because of the consumption of citrus fruits. Even with juices that contain citrus fruits, it is best that you wait until your child is one year old.
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Fruits like strawberry and blackberry may seem like an enjoyable snack for children. However, they contain a certain protein that is very hard for the infant’s stomach to digest. Berries are also a choking hazard for children. Even when the child is 12 months of age or older, make sure that you cut the berries into smaller pieces before feeding it to him or her. Additionally, you may dilute juices containing these berries to make sure that there are no adverse reactions.
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The kidneys are responsible for maintaining the sodium levels within the body. In case of infants, they are not fully developed and therefore, any excessive salt consumption can be very harmful. In any case, children do not require as much salt. They need less than 1 gram a day when they are infants. This requirement is fulfilled by formula and breast milk. Make sure that any processed foods that you introduce to the child do not contain added salts.
#10. Seeds and nuts
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When giving any fruits to the child, make sure that they are pitted and there are no seeds in them. Seeds may contain certain microbes that cause infections in children. The hardcover of the seeds makes it a choking hazard as well. In addition to this, seeds and nuts are common allergens that should be avoided until the age of one. You can give children seeds or nuts in the form of a powder to be completely safe. If there is any history of nut allergy in the family, hold off the nuts until one year.
#11. Whole Grapes
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Grapes are commonly given to children along with the skin. Kids have a tendency to swallow them whole as the skin makes the grapes slippery. This makes them one of the top choking hazards for children below the age of one. If you want to give your child grapes, you must slice them up into thinner pieces.
#12. Raw vegetables
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Raw vegetables such as carrots contain a high level of fiber. These fibers are hard and difficult to digest. They also are a choking hazard for children. It is best to cook and mash veggies before you give them to the baby. Any raw fruits or vegetables should not be given to infants until they can chew the food properly.
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#13. Fruits with skin
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Avoid giving any fruits with the skin on, including apples. The fibers in the skin are tough to digest and can choke the child as well.
#14 Egg White
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You can give eggs to babies after they turn eight months old. However, it is suggested that only egg yellow (yolk) be given when introducing the food item. Egg white is a common allergen in babies and toddlers. It should be avoided till the age of one. After that you must slowly introduce egg white and if you see any reactive symptoms such as stomach ache, vomiting, or skin reactions, discontinue it with immediate effect and consult a pediatrician.
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Chocolate is a very popular choice of food for children. However, it contains caffeine and dairy products. Both these ingredients are hard for the child to digest. Chocolate is also a choking hazard which should be avoided until the age of one.
#16. Any crunchy or hard food
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Foods like candy and gum should be avoided at all costs. They contain refined sugars that can cause allergic reactions, to begin with. In addition to that, these foods are usually smooth and round which makes them a very common choking hazard. These easily slide down kids’ throats, resulting in gagging. Popcorn is another common food that becomes a major choking hazard. Popcorns have a hard core that is difficult for little ones to swallow. For this reason, doctors suggest that you keep the food away from the child until the age of four.
#17. Any sticky food
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Besides peanut butter, other sticky food like éclairs or marshmallows should not be given to children under the age of one as they may choke the child. These foods are very hard to dislodge from the throat, making them additionally risky.
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Wheat is also a very common allergen. It is known to cause a disease named celiac disease. This is the result of gluten intolerance in many people. So, avoid giving your child any wheat until the age of one. This means that any bread, pasta, or other products containing wheat too should be avoided. Brown rice makes a good alternative.
Common allergic reactions to watch out for
If your child is allergic to any food, the following symptoms are seen upon consumption of that food:
- Hives or rashes
- Difficulty in breathing
Tips to deal with food allergies in children
- Do not give the child any food that is known to be a common allergen until the age of 1-2 years. This includes peanut, eggs, milk etc.
- When you are introducing solid foods, introduce them one at a time. Make sure that you do not change the food that you are giving your child for at least three days after introduction. If there is an allergic reaction, this will help you identify the food that is causing it.
- If you have any food allergies in your family, make sure that you consult your pediatrician before giving your child any food that triggers this allergic reaction.
- If you do see any symptoms of food allergies in your child, rush him to the doctor immediately.
Babies are sensitive. It is important to handle them with care as we are their primary food givers and care providers. Hope the article helps you make wiser and better-informed choices as you strive to do your best for your little one.
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