Foods to avoid during weaning
It's important to introduce your child to a variety of foods when you start weaning, to ensure they get all the nutrients they need for normal growth and development. It also promotes healthy eating later in life.
But there are some foods that aren’t suitable for babies under 12 months, and should be avoided during the weaning process. These include:
- Cows’ milk – this can be used in cooking from 6 months onwards, but doesn't contain the right nutrients to replace breastmilk or formula as your baby’s main drink until at least their first birthday.
- Goats’ milk – similar to cows’ milk, this lacks the right balance of nutrients to replace breastmilk or formula as your baby’s main milk drink until after 12 months. Provided it is pasteurised, goats’ milk can be used in cooking from 6 months of age.
- Salt – babies’ kidneys aren’t developed enough to cope with much sodium, so avoid adding salt to their food and take care with shop-bought foods, which can have high salt levels.
- Sugar – excessive consumption can damage your baby's teeth, and encourage them to develop a sweet tooth. Sugar also has very little nutritional value and contributes nothing to a balanced diet, so is best avoided.
- Honey – bacteria in honey can very occasionally produce toxins in a baby’s intestines and cause infant botulism. Honey also contains high sugar levels.
- Whole nuts – because they create a choking hazard, whole nuts shouldn't be given to children under 5 years old. As long as there’s no family history of allergy, they can be given ground or in cooking from 6 months onwards.
- Low-fat food – babies need fat in their diet and should not be given low-fat milks, yogurts or low-fat adult foods.
- Shark, swordfish and marlin – these types of fish can contain harmful levels of mercury, which could affect your baby’s developing nervous system.
- Raw shellfish – your baby's immune system is less developed than an adult’s, making them more susceptible to food poisoning. Raw shellfish should be avoided, but cooked shellfish is fine for babies over 6 months old.
- Undercooked eggs – because raw eggs may contain salmonella, they could potentially cause a serious illness. Using pasteurised eggs, which have been processed at high temperatures to kill bacteria, does minimise the risk, although they’re not easy to find. Pasteurised eggs are often in liquid, dried or frozen form.
- Mould-ripened soft cheese or unpasteurised cheese – because your baby’s immune system is still developing, they are more susceptible to illness from bacteria in foods than adults. Unpasteurised cheeses and soft mould-ripened versions, such as brie or camembert, are OK for you, even while breastfeeding, but your baby’s young digestive system is not ready to cope with these yet.
- Tea or coffee – any drink that contains caffeine is unsuitable for a baby, and the tannins in tea may prevent iron absorption.