Infant Food Confusion

Updated on May 09, 2008
C.M. asks from Westwood, MA
31 answers

Hopefully someone out there in cyberspace can clear some of this up for me. It seems like some of the information I've read in parenting books and magazines is contradictory to what is available out there in the stores for feeding infants.

(1) The books tell you that strawberries are one of the "highly allergic" foods and that you shouldn't be giving them to kids under the age of 1. Right there on the shelf at the supermarket is a container of stage 2 food that has bananas and strawberries, with no warning on the label. Gerber makes a version of puffs that has strawberries, and two versions of the yogurt melts that have strawberries. The packages don't claim to use artificial strawberry flavoring. AAAACCCKK!!!

(2) I've read that you aren't supposed to give milk to babies under 1 as well because the protein is too hard for them to digest. The formula that we have been supplementing with says right on the package that is is "milk-based infant formula." The YoBaby yogurt says "made with whole milk."

Soooooo, is it ok to give this stuff to a baby under 1, is it not OK. How did this all get so complicated????

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J.H.

answers from Boston on

I've asked myself this very same question, so I'll have to read the responses you get... Thanks for asking! My understanding with the strawberries (and others) are actually the seeds? Who knows!

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A.O.

answers from Boston on

My sons pediatrician said that although there are products with berries and products with milk for children under the age of 1 we should avoid them.

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C.D.

answers from Boston on

It does all seem confusing. I believe all the baby food from Gerber and formulas are soooo mild and safe first foods. With all new foods, you should introduce them one at a time, watch for allergic reactions (even mild ones) and then after a week, introduce another one.

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L.P.

answers from Boston on

Having had 3 kids with food allergies/sensitivities I can tell you that it's not worth rushing it on the iffy foods.

It's true that many babies can't digest casein, the protein found in cow's milk, especially during the first year of life. This is the most common dietary issue with infants, even those that are exclusively breastfed, as the protein passes into the mother's milk and it's in practically everything.

If your child is on a milk-based formula and nursing while *you* eat dairy products and has not shown any signs of discomfort (regular constipation or diarhhea, pronounced fussiness, vomitting, eczema, etc) they're probably handling the partially broken-down casein proteins they're ingesting. Even so, there's no real reason to challenge their systems with other milk or milk products prior to 1 year. Since formula/breastmilk at this age should be the primary source of calories and nutrients, and solid food introduced mainly for the experience of eating as opposed to true sustainance, it's easy enough to offer fruits and vaggies that are less risky until the digestive system is more mature.

So yes, strawberries are risky, as is kiwi (in case you're making some of your own foods). Better chioces are things like banana, avocado, sweet potato etc. Also worth knowing is the fact that gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye products) is one of the *most* common problem foods in humans. Estimates are now up to 1 in every 100 people has a gluten intollerence and most are unaware of it. This is a really important thing to keep in mind since this is one food that can actually damage the body's ability to digest and process other foods leading to malnutritian.

Hope that helps a little. It can get confusing, I know! FWIW, because milk is one of the top 8 allergens it chould be clearly marked on all labels per the FDAs guidelines. Soon (I've read as soon as August of this year) gluten will be added to the list on ingredients that must be declared on labels.

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B.S.

answers from Boston on

it got so complicated because there are so many different personalities, from the very laid back to the very strict:)

In my experience, you can give your child under 1 these things, but you have to watch for signs of allergic reactions. With my first (I have 3) her doc was way old school and not like the "newer" doctors. He told me to go ahead and give her whole milk at six months in small ammounts at first and watch for a rash or other signs of allergies. She was great and I never gave her formula--just organic whole milk. I ended up doing this with all three and I loved it. (but some people thought I was crazy!) They LOVED the yobaby's and still do! (Thier grampy still buys them for himself - leftover from when he would steal them out of our fridge:)

I had never heard about the strawberry thing and gave my daughter strawberries when she was maybe 7 months old (they were so juicy and good and she loved them), but she got this rash covering her body and I freaked out and called the doctor and they told me that it was an allergic reaction and that I shouldn't give them to her for a while, maybe a year or so and then try it again in small amounts. I gave her some benedril and she was fine and she loves strawberries to this day.

Not every child will have a bad reaction to these foods, but some will, so my take is that they warn you to wait just in case.

Hope that helps:)

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C.K.

answers from Pittsfield on

It is very hard when parenting books tell you one thing and what you see in stores, or what you are experiencing as a parent is something completely different. I think that if your child and your family has a history of food allergies than you need to be more careful. My 10 month old daughter eats strawberries, she also drinks whole milk once or twice a day, at the pediatrician's ok. On the other hand, when I had my son, who is now near 3 years old, I was more careful about strawberries. I do believe that parenting books say that yogurt and cheese are ok to have at 9 months of age. If your baby has been getting this stuff; strawberries, formula, yogurt, and is doing fine, keep giving it. Also ask your baby's ped. about these things. I don't know how old your baby is, but once they get close to age 1 it is easier to break the 'rules' you read in the parenting books. Also easier with the second child. Happy feeding.

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J.M.

answers from Boston on

Milk-based infant formula is very different than regular milk because it has been modified a great deal to make it much more like breastmilk. Unless your child has an allergy (which in all likelihood he doesn't), giving stuff with milk in it (like yogurt, cheese, etc) is perfectly fine. It is strongly advisable to avoid giving plain milk because a) it is relatively hard to digest (which the foods aren't, because the milk proteins change form) and b) the temptation is great to stop giving formula or breastmilk and just switch to cows milk because it is so much cheaper. That is where the real danger lies - babies need breastmilk or formula because they are human babies, and not baby cows.

As for strawberries, just be careful at first. If you have a family history of allergies you might want to stay away, but otherwise, try some apple strawberry, wait a day, try again, and if there's no reaction (upset tummy, rash, itchy mouth - although how could you tell?) you're good to go.

Again, unless you have a family history of allergies, in all likelihood, your kid will be fine with eating everything.

Good luck!

D.B.

answers from Boston on

It's so confusing, isn't it??? I once heard someone say on TV that the purpose of cow's milk is to turn a 100 pound calf into a 600 pound steer in 6 months! You can consider switching to a soy-based formula - soy is nature's protein and is eaten by millions all over the world. The trick is to get the highest quality so that there are no allergic reactions to the alcohol it is sometimes processed in, or other things that may contaminate it. ProSoBee is a well known soy based formula which has been around for a long time. It was developed by Mead & Johnson, with Dr. Carl Hastings as part of the nutritional team. Dr. Hastings, for the past 20 years, has been the Science Director for Reliv International, which makes top quality nutritional products. He developed a children's nutritional supplement with the highest quality soy and all other ingredients in the proper balance. It is synergistic that way, and it is bioavailable which means it is almost completely absorbed (95-99%) by the body's cells. (No waste like in most other supplements.) Of the only 12 food products patented in the US, Reliv owns 6! All ingredients are tested multiple times before being put together into the formula, and then tested again by an independent lab. It is completely safe as a pre-natal, so it's obviously great for infants. It's food, not drugs or artificial chemicals.

Reliv is available through distributors, many of them stay-at-home moms who supplement their income just by sharing with friends. There is a great network of people who share their stories and their phenomenal results - kids get over asthma, allergies, eczema and more, just by getting top nutrition so their bodies do the work!

You could then introduce fresh foods, in season, one at a time, to be sure there is no allergic reaction - but Reliv really works in the digestive system to ensure there are relatively few, if any, reactions to other foods. Let me know if you want more info - happy to share!

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M.B.

answers from Hartford on

I must agree with Leah. Talk with your ped., read labels, etc. We have NO HISTORY of food allergies and yet our son is allergic to dairy, egg, peanut & treenuts! And any items containing any kind of dairy protien causes reactions for him - even though they are "made" to be more digestable.
If you decide to try, watch for reactions on the skin and if your child refuses to eat what you are trying. And keep benedryl on hand!! It has helped to save our sons life! Good luck!

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E.P.

answers from Boston on

Hi C.,

I have two children. One a 4 yo daughter and a 9 mo son. I've learned to just avoid strawberries, peanuts and honey for the first year.
However I also just BF so I don't have the problem of formula but I have heard there are formulas out there that are soy-based.
You might want to consider making baby food which is really easy to do and you can control what you want to feed them. As for the yogurt Yo Baby! I love it but I also waited till they were one. There's a reason with them waiting. Since most babies are weaned by 1 year in the USA from BF, they still need to get the fat from somewhere so they get whole milk for their second year from other sources.

HTH,

E. P.

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R.T.

answers from Boston on

Strawberries, anything with nuts, chocoalte, and shellfish are all "highly allergic" items. You can however give your baby the baby foods because they are processed...it is not the same as giving them straight strawberries or milk.
My daughter did get little red dots around her mouth after eating "berry" baby food, so I stopped giving anything with berries to her until she was 1.5 years old, and at that point she was fine.
Yes- you can give baby yo-baby yogurt...the milk content is small, and you would know by now if your baby could not tollerate it. The yo-baby yogurt and y-baby drink are very good for them. And as a side note my daughter was drin king milk as of 10 months...with no problems.
She is now almost 2 years old, and ONLY drinks milk and loves water. (I don't believe in juice).
Good Luck, and remember you will know if your baby has an issue with a food or drink. But you should feel safe "trying" anything that is in the baby aisle.

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L.B.

answers from Boston on

I agree that the labeling on infant foods and the choices given can be confusing. Go with your gut. I simply avoid buying and giving my baby the foods that I know he should not have right now. Also, milk...you should wait until your baby is a year or close to a year to give him/her milk. Yes, it can be difficult to digest, but the main reason to wait is that you don't want to replace the nutrient-rich formula with milk. The baby need the nutrients provided in formula or breastmilk. After the baby turns a year, it is assumed that the baby is eating food more often and it is at that point that the baby should be getting most of their nutrition from "solid" foods. I hope this is helpful. I worked as a nutritionist for a WIC (WOMEN INFANTS and CHILDREN nutrition program) for a year and a half before having my children. I also have my BS in nutrition/dietetics. I am a stay at home mom with three kids (4, 2 and 6 1/2 months).

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K.S.

answers from Boston on

I avoided all foods that could possibly cause allergic responses when my little girl was small. She had a very sensitive system and because I nursed her I even had to be careful with what I ate! You are wise to be reading lables and keeping an eye out for adverse reactions.

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J.M.

answers from Providence on

Hi C.!

You should always double check with the doctor on this, but here is my understanding/experience with this:

When you introduce foods to your child, you should hold of on strawberries till they are close to or at age 1. Babies can be potentially allergic to any kind of food, however, so when you do start your baby on jar food, start with one kind of food, I started with fruit (per the doctor), apples to be exact.

I kept with the apples for about a week. When I didn't see any reaction, I moved to Pears, and only used pears for the second week. In other words, never "mix" jar food at the beginning (Ex. One day Pears, the next day Apples, the next day Carrots) this way in the event there's a reaction, you can deduce what fruit/veggie that is causing it. And of course, I supplemented with baby cereal and formula throughout the day.

As for milk, it varies and you should consult with your pedi. My oldest (now 8 years), was growing so much and was such a big baby that at 9 months, the doc said whole milk is fine. Keep in mind he was taking over 8 ounce bottles at 6 weeks old - the boy can eat!!

My youngest, who was a premie (and now 7 years old), I waited the full 12 months before starting on milk, per the doc.

It really varies, so I suggest you go with your gut and the guidance of your pediatrician, to be sure. Good luck and keep us posted!!

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M.G.

answers from Boston on

Good Morning C., I know it's very confusing. I have the book "Super Baby Food Book" and I have to say that is my 'bible'. I do give my baby whole milk infant formula which I belive is easier for them to digest than real cows milk. I do not, however, buy commercial baby food, I make my own using simple recipes from the book. When my daughter started on solids at 6 months I started steaming, pureeing then freezing vegetables (first) then fruits and she loves them. There is nothing more pure for my little one and I know exactly what she is getting. It doesn't take long to make your own food and with good preparation you can make a months supply in a morning. I'm not sure where you are located, but I am starting my own homemade baby food company, so if you want to contact me my e-mail address is: [email protected]____.com. I wish you all the best - as Mothers we have enough to worry about, worrying about what our babies are eating should not be one of them. Have a great weekend.

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M.S.

answers from Hartford on

Check with your ped. but from my understanding whole milk yogurt is okay to give babies under 1 on solids as the milk protein in yogurt is chemically broken down and modified in a different way than milk, allowing for the infant to digest it properly--provided, that s/he is lactose tolerant.

As for strawberries I believe the same concept holds true--baby food that has strawberries most likely contains heated/cooked strawberries which modifies the allergic properties--but check up on that to be sure--I'm not a dr.! good luck!

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T.M.

answers from Boston on

Hi C.-

You can give your child the jarred stuff mixed with strawberries because it is pureed and processed. The reason you can not give a child fresh strawberries under the age of 1 is that they have seeds. Some children can have severe allergic reactions to fresh strawberries. You do not want to take that chance. As far as the milk you are supposed to wait until your child turns a year old. Yogurt, cheese, bread made with whole milk are fine as long as your child is nine months or older. Hope this info helps.

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J.H.

answers from Boston on

This is my advice on the whole situation. I myself am a mom that is extremely frustrated in the fact that they sell baby food with strawberries in it. I would not advise you to give it to an infant. My daughter happened to eat a cereal puff that was strawberry banana at 8 months old and got the worst allergic reaction to it. Huge red welts all over her. It looked terrible!! My pedi said that no baby should have berries before the age of 1.

As for the milk thing. Most formulas are milk based. Babies can not have milk because it does not supply enough vitamins and things that babies need to grow in the beginning. Plus some babies are allergic to cow's milk. But if your child does okay with a milk based formula then they can probably have yogurt. Just check with your pedi first I would say.

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C.L.

answers from Hartford on

I guess the answer is "it depends". Check with your pediatrician.

I had no problems with giving my two boys strawberries or yogurt when they were both under 1. (BTW, my little one has food allergies - to dairy and peanuts - but had no problems with the yogurt - dr. said it depends on the severity of the allergy - and if he can eat it without complications - keep letting him eat it).

I need to start growing my own strawberry plants as my two boys eat them like they are going out of style!

Best of luck to you,
C.

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B.G.

answers from Barnstable on

Contact Gerber - ask them about whether or not it is artificial. They are likely to send you coupons as well.

Formulas are made with a broken down milk protein. It isnt the same as giving a baby regular milk. If you ask your local WIC office they will be able to tell you an exact difference but they recommend using Good Start b/c the proteins are broken down so much more (say its the closest to breastmilk).

I dont know about yogurt though. I was told not to give it to dd til she was one - but if she was on antibiotics to give her a teaspoon of the yogurt.

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R.F.

answers from Boston on

Hi C.!
It's been a while since I've looked at baby food but I can certainly understand your frustration!! I do however know first hand about kids and food allergies and would most certainly err on the side of caution when thinking about giving foods containing possible allergens. Maybe you can switch to a non-dairy based formula. As far as the yogurt goes it's a little grey. Yogurt has cultures that are really good for the digestive system so those benefits can sometimes outweigh the allergic responses. I would try a little a first to see if you notice any reactions. If you are really unsure you can always try soy yogurt. Then you get into the whole soy debate but I feel like if you use it in moderation and don't make it a majority part of your child's diet it should be fine.

I really feel like part of the reason we have so many kids with allergies these days is because we are introducing foods to them way too early so for as long as you can keep the allergy producing foods out of their diet I think the better it is for them. Of course this is just all my humble opinion....

Good luck!

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C.W.

answers from Boston on

I have a husband who is allergic to strawberries and was allergic to milk as a child so I avoided everything with Strawberries in them for our daughter but I'm not sure if there is enough real strawberries in the products to be worried about it. As far as the milk goes, I gave her yo baby yogurt when she was about 9 months, and she had no problem. I think "they" are more concerned about actually drinking Whole Milk.

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J.R.

answers from Providence on

Strawberries...
I actually bought something with strawberries in it for my 9 month old, thinking the same thing (why would Gerber make it if it wasn't ok).
Then I read that I should wait until she's a year old. I feel like Gerber has to accommodate a wide range of babies and all babies are different. Maybe some 1yr. olds are only eating Gerber 2nds. Anyway, I am going to wait until she's a 1 yr to give it to her. There are plenty of other food she can try.

Milk...
I've read it's ok to give babies yogurt, (which I actually just started) but not to replace formula with cow's milk. I know that the formula has the nutrients/vitamins babies need and that is one reason they don't want you to give cow's milk, but that is about all I know about the milk situation.

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C.C.

answers from Boston on

Hi,
I completely Ditto Jane M - I think she posted right before me. The reasoning on not giving cows milk until 1 is mostly due to the fear that people will totally switch their babies to cows milk and forget breastfeeding or formula because its so much cheaper - babies need to be on the breast or formula until 1 - cows milk is also WAY harder for them to digest. The risk of milk allergies is fairly low. Check with your pediatrician.
Everything I've read and heard says yogurt is fine after 6 months - check with your pediatrician.
Milk based formulas are VERY different from real milk - MUCH easier to digest. They should be absolutely fine for your little one. Milk based formulas are preferred to soy based ones - check with your pediatrician.
I like the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron.

Best of luck - these things aren't easy!! When in doubt - ask your doctor!

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

I have always began giving my kids mixed formula and milk 1/2 and 1/2 when they turned 8 mths as far as allergies the foods that you shouldnt give to babies till after a year is peanutbutter due to nut allergies honey,seafood. I have always made sure i give them the same thing for a week to find out if they will have any reaction to a food.

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K.T.

answers from Boston on

I cant even answer you about the milk, I always wondered that too. I would give my children the yo-baby yogurt before 1 yr old. The thing is, a 1/2 of the container of yogurt is a different story than a 8oz bottle of whole milk.

About strawberries. I dont think this food allergy is as common as other food allergies. As long as you dont have a family history of strawberry allergies, or other excessive allergies, just try her with it a little at a time and keep a good eye on her. Always ask your Dr too, I know they say certain foods like nuts not til the child is older.
p.s. those yogurt melts are great!!
Best of Luck

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D.H.

answers from Boston on

Hi C., I really sympathize with your confusion. I remember making these same discoveries when it came time to give my child solids, and it was very frustrating. What I've found is that, despite clear health recommendations concerning potential allergens, many companies that make baby foods (and other products aimed at babies) make what they think will SELL, period. The burden is on us as parents to figure out what is healthy - and not - for our kids. That's very true about milk and strawberries being allergens (or potential allergens) to many babies, and for that reason I would avoid giving them to your child, especially if there is a history of sensitivity or allergies in your family.

When confronted with the discrepancies between the health recommendations I read in books and the contents of the commercial baby foods I found in most stores, I made the decision to make my baby's food myself. That way, I knew for sure what she was eating, and when, and I made the decision when it was safe to give her certain foods. I made small batches of mushy food and froze them in ice cube trays, to make just the right sized baby serving, and defrosted them as needed.

The bottom line: companies will sell whatever they think people will buy. Your baby's health is not their top priority; getting your money is. There are videos out there that are marketed as "for infants", despite the fact that the American Pediatrics Association recommends against exposing infants to TV until they are 2. And there are formulas and other food products with milk aimed at infants under the age of 1. I held off on giving my daughter any milk until she was 1, because I read in several books that this is recommended, to avoid digestive problems and allergic reactions. I would trust the books over the advertising labels and go with your gut.

You're on the right track, good luck!

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D.M.

answers from Barnstable on

Infant food can be very confusing...
Actually, what i have figured out over the years is that babies less than 1 yr old don't need much "food" at all. They don't really need to supplement breast milk with anything but "table foods" that they are able to hold themselves/ eat without choking, grab out of parents' hands, etc., so that starts when they're somewhere between seven/eight months??, close to a yr old. I tried baby foods mostly with my oldest of 3 girls (now all grown) and it was just trouble. I fussed the least, was the least structured with my youngest and she ended up with the best eating habits.
They will eat table foods when they're ready. As far as formula, figuring that out is tough because it's not natural, like breastfeeding. With breastfeeding, you always know it's the perfect food for them, because it was made just for them...no guessing about food made for baby cows or some other sources, albeit maybe all-natural, trying hard to copy mom's natural milk.

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A.Z.

answers from Boston on

Dear C.,

Here is my opinion on the strawberries and what I have learned about milk:
1) Go with your gut. If there are allergies in your family skip the strawberries until age 1. If there aren't allergies and YOU are comfortable you can try and watch your baby for any reactions like diarrhea, rashes, etc...

2) It's whole milk you should wait on until age 1. In other countries sometimes they will start a bit earlier. You can give them yogurt much earlier and the beneficial bacteria is actually very good for their digestion as long as they don't have a lactose or milk protein sensitivity. You would probably know by now.
Yes, formula is derived from milk but they have treated the protein and the lactose so it is more easily digested.

The other reason to wait on switching to cow's milk is because it is not fortified with iron like formula and doctors really want to make sure babies get their iron intake.

I hope this helps,
A.

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L.K.

answers from Boston on

Hi,

The nurse at our mother's group told us that fresh strawberries and not okay at that age, but strawberries in baby food and yogurt are fine.

As for whole milk. You should probably not give your infant a bottle of whole milk, but the formula and yogurt are fine at that age. Really, it is fairly new to not give infants milk until age 1. Thinks about when we were kids.... I know we got milk a lot earlier.

Good luck,

L.

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K.H.

answers from Boston on

Hi Chistine,
One of the reasons strawberries may be highly allergenic is that they receive high amounts of pesticides. Perhaps organic strawberries would be processed more easily as the body wouldn't have so many chemical toxins to deal with.

Another thing, you may want to check how much actual strawberry is in the packaged foods you mentioned. Generally, even if the flavoring is natural, there is very little real fruit trult in it.

Good luck :-)

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