What Baby Food Rules Should You Follow And Which Ones Should You Break?

Start baby on cereal and try only one new cereal each week. Give baby vegetables first, then fruits to prevent a sweet tooth. Wait until baby’s first birthday to introduc

By Michele Thompson

Start baby on cereal and try only one new cereal each week. Give baby vegetables first, then fruits to prevent a sweet tooth. Wait until baby’s first birthday to introduce egg whites. Avoid honey until 12 months to prevent botulism poisoning. These are rules every new parent faces when their babies are ready for more than breast milk or formula. But are these guidelines set in stone? Can we break the baby food rules without harming our little ones? Read on to find out.

When I had my son Tanner nine months ago, I was confident in my breastfeeding abilities and figured I would have no problems nourishing him until he was six months old and, at that time, introducing soft solids would be problem-free.


Then I opened the baby feeding guide given to me by the pediatrician. Was I in for a surprise! Instead of feeling confident about transitioning from breast milk to solids, I felt like I was part of a life or death feeding mission. One false move and my son would be negatively affected forever. How do other moms feel about the rules?


Following the rules on feeding babies


Following the rules for some parents can actually reduce stress and ensure parents they are taking the best care of their kids.


Dawn P., a Staten Island, NY mom of a 4-year-old son says, “I wasn’t much of a rule breaker because J.J. was my first and I was a little paranoid.” However, Dawn did end up introducing her son to solids when he was three months old but it was on the advice of her pediatrician because her son was a hungry little guy.


Though some of the rules may seem overly restrictive, they can alert parents to food issues.


Amanda R., a Sound Beach, NY mom of two says, “I followed the food rules with both of my kids because I wanted to do everything right.” She adds, “I dutifully followed the ‘stages’ of foods, making sure to try each one before moving onto the next stage or flavor, patiently introducing solids.” Turns out Amanda’s daughter has food allergies so following the rules was helpful in determining the foods her daughter should avoid.


Gina S., Staten Island, NY mom of two girls followed the rules and adds, “I think when you're a nursing mommy, you have a possessiveness about you in which you don't want to ‘pollute’ your baby's body with anything not 100 percent natural or advisable!”


Despite the comfort and guide the baby feeding rules give some parents, the rules actually create stress and seem too extreme to others.


Breaking the rules on feeding babies


In a recent article on MSNBC, experts say the advice on feeding babies is more myth than science. Experts say that six month olds can eat many of the same foods their parents eat.


Further, research suggests that a child’s first experiences with food shape their eating habits and that following the rules (based on the American diet) has implications in childhood obesity and obesity-related diseases.


Exposing infants to a wider range of healthier foods may be helpful in getting children to eat healthier later in life. Healthier for some parents means unprocessed foods, including jarred baby foods.


Pattie W., mother of four and grandmother of 19, from Hysham, MT says, “When I was raising my kids, we didn’t have all the rules governing parents today. We lived on a farm and our kids as well as our grandkids ate what we raised.”


She adds, “I fed my kids milk and meat from our cows when they were under a year old and the fruits, vegetables and other foods I made were fresh, unprocessed and healthier than the foods you buy in jars.”


Shelly B., mother of one from Fresno, CA says, “I started feeding my son soft solids at four months but did not follow the one a week recommendations. He ate and still eats what I am eating. If I’m eating vegetables, I feed him vegetables. If I’m eating curry, he eats small bites of curry.”


She adds, “I know the rules say no honey, peanut butter, egg whites or dairy before 12 months, but my son has eaten them and has had no ill-effects. I am more concerned with avoiding processed foods and feeding him wholesome foods than with worrying about singling out his foods every week.”

What is a new parent to do?


The best advice is to do your research and feel comfortable with your baby feeding decisions. Your pediatrician may suggest following the rules while your mother may recommend being less restrictive (or vice versa).


Your family and mom-friends may feed their infants foods you find utterly inappropriate while they may criticize your way of feeding your baby. Whether you are following the rules or not.


For me, I realized that after a few weeks of mommy stress trying to adamantly follow the rules, I wasn’t doing my family any good and decided to stop being fanatic. I have followed some rules and broken others and my son continues to hungrily thrive on the foods we give him.


The rules work for some parents and not for others. If they aren’t working for you, use the “rules” as “guidelines” and make adjustments with which you feel comfortable and confident. Talk to you pediatrician and, if you aren’t satisfied with her recommendations, get a second opinion.


recommended for you