Babies, weaning

What foods you should avoid

The following foods should not be given to your baby:

  • Salt - it cannot be processed by their immature kidneys, and too much salt can be very dangerous to a baby. Avoid giving salty foods such as bacon, and leave it out of your home-cooked meals (it is healthier for the whole family too).
  • Sugar - this encourages a sweet tooth and causes dental decay.
  • Honey - this can cause the same problems as sugar. Rarely, dangerous bacteria are found in honey that cause serious illness in children under 12 months.
  • Nuts - whole nuts, including peanuts, should not be given to children under five years old as they can choke on them. As long as there's no history of food or other allergies in your family, you can feed peanuts to your baby - as long as they're crushed, or in the form of peanut butter - but not before they are six months old 
  • Low-fat, low-calorie and high-fibre foods - these are not suitable for babies. Babies have small stomachs and are growing quickly, so they need small portions of foods that contain lots of nutrients and calories.
  • Certain types of fish - shark, marlin and swordfish contain high levels of mercury and could harm your baby's growing nervous system.
  • Raw shellfish - this can cause food poisoning.
  • Raw and lightly cooked eggs - make sure eggs are cooked until the yolk and white are solid.

Allergies

Babies are more likely to develop allergies where there is a history of atopy (eczema, asthma, hayfever or food allergies) in the family.

If you have a family history of these conditions, it is strongly recommended that you breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months. If you're not breastfeeding, ask your GP for advice on what kind of formula to give your baby.

Soya-based infant formulas should only be used on the advice of your GP. Some babies who are allergic to cow’s milk may also be allergic to soya. Infant formulas based on goat’s milk protein have not been approved for use in Europe.

When you start introducing solids (weaning), introduce the foods that commonly cause allergies (milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish) one at a time so you can spot any reaction. Don't introduce any of these foods before six months.

Peanut allergy

Serious allergies to nuts, nut products and some seeds affect 1–2% of the population. Your child has a higher risk of developing a peanut allergy if:

  • they already have a known allergy (such as eczema or a diagnosed food allergy), or
  • there is a history of allergy in their immediate family (such as asthma, eczema or hayfever).

If this is the case, talk to your GP or health visitor before you give peanuts or food containing peanuts to your child for the first time.

Avoid giving your child peanuts and foods containing peanuts (including peanut butter, peanut (groundnut) oil and some snacks) before the age of six months. Don't give whole peanuts or nuts to children under five years old because they could choke on them.

Read food labels carefully and avoid foods if you're not sure whether they contain peanuts.

Foods to avoid before six months

If you decide to wean at any time before six months (after talking to your health visitor or GP) there are some foods that should be avoided as they may make your baby ill. These include:

  • wheat-based foods and other foods containing gluten (such as bread, rusks, some breakfast cereals), and 
  • soft and unpasteurised cheeses.

Peanuts, nuts, seeds, milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, or food containing these ingrediants should also be avoided until after six months of age, as they can sometimes trigger development of a food allergy.

Solid foods should never be introduced before four months. Also, do not give cow's milk as a drink until your baby is 12 months old, although you can use it in cooking after six months.

Ask your health visitor for advice, especially if your baby was premature.

Last updated: 04 October 2011