As a new mom, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to feed your baby and when. “With so much information out there, it can be a challenge for new moms to sift through all the nutrition advice and know what's inaccurate or outdated,” says Aimee Stanley, mom of a two-year-old son.
It's enough to keep you tossing and turning at night: Fruits or veggies first? Make your own food or buy it? Serve eggs to baby before his first birthday or wait until he’s older? Before you take anyone’s well-intended advice, make sure you're armed with the most current info on baby's nutritional needs. Some age-old baby nutrition advice is more myth than truth. Of course, always consult your child's doctor before instituting changes in her dietary and nutrition plan.
Myth: Homemade Baby Food Is Always Healthier
It’s not necessary to boil, chop and puree each meal for your baby — you can feel okay buying that chicken-squash-risotto puree you spotted last week in the baby aisle. In fact, the store-bought versions of some baby foods like spinach, beets, green beans, squash and carrots are actually safer than their homemade counterparts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, those same veggies pureed at home can have high levels of nitrates, which can cause anemia in babies. But if you enjoy preparing your own baby food, peas, corn and sweet potatoes are generally safe bets.
Amanda Edmonds gave her three-and five year-old sons jarred food when they were babies and has no regrets. “Before my boys were old enough for table food, we fed them Earth's Best organic pureed fruits and vegetables,” she says. “My husband and I worked full time, and we preferred not to spend our very limited free time pureeing and freezing the food ourselves. Earth's Best did not have added sugar or salt — and it tasted good — so we were comfortable with it.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, some parents prefer feeding their baby organic food “since infants might be more susceptible to harm potentially caused by pesticides...”
Myth: Always Introduce Veggies Before Fruits
Your mom warned you: Don't give Junior those sweet fruit purees before he tries peas and carrots — or else you'll have a lifelong veggie hater. As it turns out, introducing fruits first won't make your baby turn up his nose at green beans. “As long as you offer a large variety of fruits and vegetables, your infant will adjust to eating both,” notes Linda Ghiron, M.S., R.D., L.D.N. “You should focus on exposing your baby to vegetables and fruits multiple times a day.”
“I heard the no-fruit-before-veggies myth back when we were first thinking of introducing solids to my daughter,” says Kristin Greene, mom of a two-year-old. “Over time, I've realized that it's totally silly —most toddlers don't end up being into veggies anyway, and I don't think it has anything to do with their first solid foods!” Anoud Bakri, mom of a two-year-old, doesn't believe this myth, either. “When I started feeding my daughter solids, my mom advised me to start with something sweet like prunes or bananas, which I did. Now my daughter is two, and she prefers veggies over fruit!”
Myth: Wait Until After the First Birthday Before Introducing Eggs, Fish or Peanut Butter
Does the sight of a baby eating a peanut butter sandwich at nearby restaurant table want to make you grab your child and run? You're not alone: Food allergies are scary, and as a new mom, your first instinct is to protect your baby. But the new guidelines for high-allergy foods like eggs, fish and peanut butter have changed. Ghiron notes that the latest recommendation from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases states there's no evidence to support delaying common allergenic foods beyond four to six months of age — and that delay won't prevent children from developing an allergy.
This is a huge adjustment for many moms, especially when they’ve always been told, emphatically, to steer clear of these tricky foods. “My son's pediatrician recommended to wait until age one to introduce peanut butter, fish and eggs,” said Lee Rushton, mother of a two-year-old son. “I was always careful about how and when I introduced foods. Imagine my surprise when I was reviewing the note from his daycare provider, and it said he had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch — at nine months old! He was fine, and we kept giving him peanut butter, since it's a great source of protein.”
In the end, we can think of only two “rules” for feeding your baby: Always pay attention to how she reacts to new foods, and always consult your pediatrician before drastically changing her diet.
Jaime Budzienski has contributed to the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine and the Boston Parents Paper. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing, literature and publishing from Emerson College and a master’s degree in education from UMass Boston.