Conventional baby food wisdom is full of misconceptions so it may not always be the best guide. More than likely you’ve received conflicting information from your family, friends, neighbours as well as the internet that made your head want to explode.
The reason for this conflicting information is that the pendulum on how, what and when to start your baby on solid foods have massively shifted in the last 10-20 years. The problem is, bits and pieces of old data mixed with contrasting new research findings, are getting tossed around making a lot of parents confused.
Here are 5 common myths about baby food, debunked for your peace of mind.
Myth #1: Rice cereal should be the first solid food
Many parents (and doctors) still believe that rice cereal is the ideal choice for first foods. It has just the right texture and taste to be easy for tiny mouths to swallow, and it has always been said to be high in nutrients and fortified minerals too.
Problem is, because rice cereal is not whole grain, there have in recent years been concern about its nutritional value and studies have shown that rice cereal may cause both overweight and obesity and lead to cravings for simple carbohydrates.
Studies have also shown it contains high levels of arsenic, organic rice cereal included, so most paediatricians will now recommend one of the other single-grain cereals instead, such as oatmeal or barley, as a first food.
Myth #2: Babies are a big risk for food allergies
Until fairly recently it hasn't been uncommon for doctors to recommend the top allergenic foods such as peanut butter, egg whites, shellfish and tree nuts to be introduced only at age three. Many have also encouraged the "4-day wait rule" which basically means introducing your baby to one food at a time and wait approximately four days until you introduce the next food.
Several studies are now showing however that waiting to introduce allergenic foods does not have any impact on whether a child develops a food allergy, rather the opposite, so both the late introduction of allergenic foods until 3 years of age, as well as the "4-day wait rule" is becoming both obsolete and outdated.
The best time to introduce allergy foods is usually from around 6 months of age when most babies start the journey of solid foods. It is also recommended that you have introduced all allergenic foods before your baby turns one, since leaving it for later has actually shown to increase the chances of their developing an allergy.
If you wish learn more about baby food allergies and allergenic foods, we have another blog post covering this topic.
Myth #3: Babies only refuse foods they do not like
It’s no secret that babies can be fussy about foods, but rather than this being a taste thing, it is often simply a case of getting used to new foods. A study done by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State showed that parents should offer a food six to eight times before it is accepted by a baby. Ultimately, you know which foods are important for growth and development, and it is your job to help your baby learn to love those veggies from as early an age as possible.
Myth #4: Babies know what they should be eating
Some moms believe that babies and very small toddlers have a natural instinct for which foods they should be eating. Sadly, this is not true. A baby offered a variety of foods will not grab the healthy food – they will grab the most interesting looking food. Once babies are able to start feeding on its own, a good way to encourage healthy selection is to offer finger foods such as avocado, sweet potato wedges, mashed beans and fruit that they can choose from when feeding themselves.
Myth #5: Store-bought food is better than homemade
Prepared store-bought baby food may be a tempting option when baby starts solid foods. It requires less preparation, less cleaning, less pureeing, less freezing and often less waste. Additionally, it is also tested for contamination and nutritional content.
But in reality, with no clear idea of what really goes into factory-made food; regular fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and grains that are already found in your kitchen offer a far healthier and tastier option for your little one. Not only do you control the quality of the ingredients, you decide the texture as well as the flavors of the food. And, since store-bought foods are cooked at very high temperatures to kill bacteria and achieve a longer shelf life, many vitamins and minerals and flavor are lost in the process, so you get the added benefit of higher nutrient contents by making it at home as well.
With just a little extra effort to shop for ingredients and prepare the foods, you can have the confidence in knowing exactly what goes inside your baby's food. This small investment of time and energy is well worth it if it means providing your little one with a more varied and nutritionally sound diet.