Special care is needed with food choice in the first year of your baby’s life and although there is a wide range of nutritious foods that you can introduce when they’re ready to start solids, there are still some foods and drinks that are not suitable or that should be used with care. These include:
Here are Foods To Avoid In the First Year:
Nuts and other hard foods – whole nuts, seeds, raw carrot, celery sticks, chunks of apple and other hard foods for the first 3 years of life should be avoided to reduce choking risk. Nut pastes and nut spreads however, do not pose this risk and therefore, can be offered to your baby from around six months of age.
animal sources – Any fresh and unmodified milk from non-human species, including cows’, goats’ and sheeps’ milk should be avoided as a main drink before 12 months as the composition of these milks are not suitable for an infant and can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Any unpasteurised milks have additional infectious risks. From 6 months of age, food products made from full-cream cows’ milk such as yoghurt, custard and cheese can be introduced, as well as small amounts of fresh pasteurised full-cream cows’ milk, just not as a main drink.
Plant-based– Plant-based milks (e.g. soy, rice and oat) are not an appropriate source of nutrition for infants. Calcium fortified plant-based milks can be used after 12 months, as long as a full-fat variety is used and under health professional supervision.
Honey – is a source of the toxin botulin which causes botulism, and should not be given to infants under 12 months of age. Pacifiers and teats should never be coated with honey.
Sweeteners – Sugar, honey and other sweetening products should be avoided in the first year of life as they add no nutrition benefits to the diet and can cause tooth decay. It is also important that infants are not encouraged to prefer sweet tastes by offering them sugary foods or drinks, particularly between meals. Infants given very sweet foods may acquire a taste for them, resulting in poor food choices later in life. However, natural sugars including milk, fruit and vegetables are important sources of energy and provide many nutrients.
Salt – Should not be added to foods eaten by infants in the first year of life as their organs are not able excrete excess salt. It is also important that infants are not encouraged to prefer salty tastes by offering them salty foods, particularly between meals. Infants given salty foods may also acquire a taste for them, resulting in poor food choices later in life.
Low-fat and reduced-fat products – As children under two years are growing rapidly and have relatively high energy needs, low-fat or reduced-fat versions of products are not recommended.
Non-milk beverages – Breastmilk or infant formula should be the main drink in the first 12 months of life. Drinking other drinks under 12 months of life will interfere with an infant’s consumption of breastmilk or infant formula. From around 6 months, small amounts of cooled boiled water can supplement breastmilk or infant formula.
Fruit juice and fruit drink – should not be given to infants and should not be considered as a replacement for fruit at any age. Fruit drinks and juice offer no nutritional benefits over whole fruit for infants and children and is associated with poorer dental health. Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits to meet their recommended daily fruit intake.
Caffeinated and sugar-sweetened drinks – Tea contains tannins and other compounds that bind iron and other minerals, thereby reducing their bioavailability. As well, sugar is often added to tea, increasing the risk of dental caries. For these reasons, tea is not recommended as a drink for infants – it is of no known benefit to infants and could possibly be harmful. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks are also unsuitable for infants.
Raw eggs, unpasteurised milk and milk products, fermented meat, raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, deli food and leftover food should not be given to infants as they may be contaminated and cause food poisoning.
Where possible, breastfeeding should be continued while solid foods are introduced as it is considered to help prevent the development of allergy to allergenic foods. If your baby is not being breastfed when solids are introduced, infant formula is the only other suitable option and remains the main source of nutrition for the first 12 months of life.
For infants that have a food allergy, it is advisable to seek guidance from your baby’s GP, Paediatrician, Maternal and Child Health Nurse, or Healthcare Professional when solids are being introduced.
Advice adapted from the National Health and Medical Research Council Infant Feeding Guidelines 2012. For more information on infant feeding, visit https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/.