Baby's First Food - World Edition
February 6, 2017 10:29 AM   Subscribe

In your country, what is the first food fed to a baby?

Here in the States a pediatrician recommended baby cereal to me as first foods. My mom, who is from Mexico, recommends (more like keeps pushing hard, but that's another post) broth from boiled pinto beans (not the beans just the broth). In your country/family, what is customary to feed a baby as their first food?
posted by xicana63 to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I tried rice cereal as her first food, but it made her really gassy and upset her stomach. Typically in my family Ive ground up (very fine) oatmeal and added breast milk or forumla, and mashed avocado with a little breast milk/formula.
posted by MamaBee223 at 10:37 AM on February 6, 2017

US: Cereal, usually rice but sometimes oatmeal. Typically, the Gerber baby version.
posted by shoesietart at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2017

In Hawaii (and I would presume other Polynesian islands), the traditional first baby food is poi (taro).
posted by vunder at 10:47 AM on February 6, 2017

My kid's first food was a slice of tomato, followed by chewing on an onion slice. (US - followed baby led weaning guidelines, no cereal until 8 months where we did oatmeal due to being more nutrient rich than rice cereal)
posted by jillithd at 10:48 AM on February 6, 2017

The cereal recommendations are kinda out-dated IMO. If there's no history of food allergies in your family then you can be much more relaxed. My 1st kid had rice cereal because I followed the US recommendations. My 2nd kid had mashed banana instead.
posted by Joh at 10:51 AM on February 6, 2017

My Israeli mom never gave us rice cereal, started us with stuff like butternut squash and banana and carrots (mashed and cooked obviously.) I learned later from my ped that carrots aren't really recommended as first food because of... nitrates maybe? But anyway I (US) never fed my kids rice cereal either, went straight to mashed banana, applesauce, pears, butternut squash, avocado.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:57 AM on February 6, 2017

My pediatrician recommended baby cereal for the firstborn (this is in the U.S.). But he hated it. And he kept lunging for our food. So I just started giving him mashed up versions of whatever vegetable we were eating and if he didn't have any reactions, we'd move on to something else the next day or the day after. Couple months in, we started fruit, same thing.

After doing some reading about this very subject when my second born was ready for solids, and realizing that kids from other cultures often get their parents' meals as their first, and learning that a lot of pediatricians were moving away from the cereal recommendation, we went baby-led (which is what we actually did with the first). We probably did get very lucky in that neither kid has any food allergies; everything went very smoothly.

You'll find lots of variance in the U.S. but most peds are probably still recommending cereal. Maybe if you focus on what pediatricians in other countries recommend, you'll find something that makes sense to you.
posted by cooker girl at 10:57 AM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

In Puerto Rico - mashed plaintains or mangoes.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:58 AM on February 6, 2017

I was surprised to hear my mother-in-law say that when her children were babies (in the US, in the 1940s mainly) the usual first food was some kind of meat puree.
posted by lakeroon at 11:10 AM on February 6, 2017

At three months I started supplementing breast milk with powdered baby formula. Then at some point after that we moved to "people food" so banana mashed with a fork, cooked squash mashed with a fork, basically anything we were eating that could be mashed with a fork, homemade apple sauce with nothing in it but apples.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:18 AM on February 6, 2017

In Chinese families from the south, it's rice cooked until super soft in homemade chicken broth.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:23 AM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

In Japan, rice cooked in a lot of extra water until it's really think and gooey. Similar to what joyceanmachine said, just not necessarily in broth.

We (US/Japanese living in US) started with something like mashed sweet potatoes and worked our way through a few vegetables, then some fruits. After the first couple of months we started adding full fat yogurt to things to beef up the calories. When we started adding texture we mixed in ground beef chopped into powder.
posted by telepanda at 11:28 AM on February 6, 2017

My children are adult now, so I had to look it up, but if anything, the official advice is more radical than it was when my kids were babies: give the babies whatever you are eating. Beans (not bean broth) are specifically included in the recommendation. Mash or puree food if you are worried they might choke, but from 6 months on they should also be given stuff to practice chewing on: slices of apple or cucumber, rusks, lightly cooked broccoli. NO ADDED SUGAR EVER!!
No. 2 was not good at eating to begin with, so the nurse suggested formula, but she didn't want that either.
Apart from that brief experiment, I don't think we ever used any form of baby food. I did go against the rules and gave them warm milk with honey as a treat, but that was later, when they were about three.
With both babies, the nurses reminded us to use butter or olive oil in the mashes we made, because babies and small children need more fat for neural development.
This is Denmark.
(Both babies are now incredibly tall and slender and omnivorous, so something must have been right. Even as I was really worried when no. 2 didn't eat).
posted by mumimor at 11:33 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

In Togo, West Africa babies around me were given pâte (kind of like a cross between polenta and grits) made from cornmeal and water (and the base of what everyone else is eating) and manioc or cassava (boiled or boiled and then pounded into fufu).
posted by raccoon409 at 11:47 AM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sri Lanka: watered down lentil soup whizzed in the blender to make a smooth puree. It's basically lentils cooked in water and a small amount of very thin coconut milk. No salt or pepper, but a little bit of butter or ghee might be used. This meal quickly graduates to being served over very soft cooked rice. Many people will add a tiny bit of Marmite for nutrition and umami.

'Special' food for babies isn't a thing there, and once it's been established that there's no constipation or other issues from the initial start of solids, they're fed whatever the household eats (within reason.) Sri Lankan cuisine involves a lot of veggies cooked in coconut milk, rice, fish and chicken, so this is easily adaptable to baby palates, with considerations being made like using less spice, salt, etc.
posted by Everydayville at 12:09 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here in Australia, traditionally baby rice or Farex (wheat based baby cereal). Lots of people just do baby led weaning now though.
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 12:23 PM on February 6, 2017

I used to enjoy looking this stuff up -- try Googling for baby advice in different countries and hitting 'translate.' If needed. Here's -- in English. Notable:

This traditional meal is a good source of protein, vitamins, calcium and starch

1 tbsp of split yellow or green moong dal
2 tbsps rice
A pinch of turmeric (haldi)
2 cups filtered water (use vegetable stock as a variation)

...spice! 'A pinch,' but, actual spice!

(Am in Canada, was doctrinaire about baby-led weaning and did not offer mushy stuff until the kid was ready to use a spoon herself and then went with bowls of refried beans, regular oatmeal, etc.) The most common first food was asparagus, since it was easy to grab and gnaw on, and I like asparagus a lot, so. And cheese curds -- perfect for baby fists. But that was just at the very start when motor skills were an issue; I went in no order, delayed nothing, and she ate what I ate. Very convenient, as you can go out and get a salad and give the kid a tomato wedge to gnaw on. (Actually, you can politely ask if you could pay a little extra for a separate plate with a few tomato wedges and cucumber slices, explaining why, and they will fawn all over how cute it is, and give you this for free pretty much everywhere...)

(IIRC meat is one of the Health Canada-recommended first foods here now)

This page thinks Italian babies like potatoes and carrots and then pasta, but they can't have mushroom or strawberries. Norwegian babies like fish and crispbread (as for cereals there, "The Norwegian Directorate of Health does not even mention gruel in its nutritional recommendations for infants" {via}), and apparently Japanese babies will even eat natto.

The recommendations about delaying potentially allergenic foods were just starting to change when we were starting solids, so we ate (straw)berries aplenty and I gave her a baby-size ice cream cone with a flavour with peanuts in it c. 7mo.

I read really extensively on this (the ne plus ultra of texts on this is "Breasts, Bottles and Babies: A History of Infant Feeding" by Valerie Fildes, a very long scholarly text with absolutely bizarre snippets of history: wine with honey!) and determined that the only thing that had ever been consistent over the centuries was inconsistency.

There are all sorts of recommendations against cereal gruels now; I would fearlessly ignore the doctor. Americans, I think, discuss non-medical issues about children with their doctors a lot more than other cultures -- I had all of one discussion with a visiting resident about food. I then heard her slightly hysterical in the hall with the family doc: "She's not feeding cereal!" Yes, that's fine! "Also, they're vegetarians!" Yes, that's fine! Doctor came in: "She's enjoying her food?" Oh yes. "Excellent." And that was the end of it. Doctors are not terribly well-trained in nutrition but they do get a lot of absolute bollocks from baby food companies sent to them, so...Rima Apple has also written a couple of really first-rate books about the history of doctors' advice to new mothers. Reading through those and everything else I could get my hands on at the time, it was difficult to not come to the conclusion that doctors are not really great people to listen to on this.

(If this is some sort of big huge deal and Grandma will be present for the first meal or something, I'd just go ahead and let her feed -- ick -- bean broth, and then never mention it again. The other lesson I learned from all my interest in the history and culture of this is that it really doesn't matter much so long as the food is reasonably healthy, not too early, and, um, probably not wine with honey.)
posted by kmennie at 12:32 PM on February 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

American, and we gave sweet potatoes. Most of my friends did something similar - sweet potato, avocado, banana, something like that, hardly anyone I know started with rice cereal. I agree that's outdated.
posted by john_snow at 12:42 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

LOL kmennie. When no. 1 was still in a basket, I had a job as a clerk in a very important government office [they said]. And no. 1 came with me in that basket and was generally a peaceful and friendly baby. But single every time my baby made a sound, the office manager suggested we wetted a cloth with brandy and gave her that as a pacifier. Because that was how it was done where she came from.
posted by mumimor at 12:46 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I apologize for not directly answering this question, but if you're interested in (and somehow have time to read) an excellent book-length treatment of how we learn to eat, how tastes are formed in infancy/childhood, babies' first foods, etc., I can highly recommend First Bite by Bee Wilson.
posted by andrewesque at 1:29 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I started with rice cereal then moved to a combination of mashed vegetable and baby led weaning. Oh, and I'm Australian.
posted by Jubey at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2017

UK: Farley's rusks. I don't know what is in them, but you buy them from the chemist like you do with formula milk. And then you move on to these disgusting Heinz baby food jars that smell of sick.

Baby-led weaning is massive here, as you might imagine.
posted by tinkletown at 4:02 PM on February 6, 2017

USA: I have an infant & this has been a major topic of conversation in my baby groups. I'd say about half the people I know are doing baby led weaning - the first food for those groups is usually some kind of fruit or vegetable, but can be just about anything. The other half are doing the more traditional rice cereal (or occasionally oatmeal) as a first food, then moving to purees.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:02 PM on February 6, 2017

Canada. Mini-Mitheral ate whatever we were eating; either mashed with a fork or run through the blender for non fork mashable items. I think the only thing we avoided was peanuts. We had little 1 cup containers that fit on our regular blender which kept the dishwashing down.
posted by Mitheral at 5:17 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

France: the official recommendation is mashed vegetable (any kind) with a small amount of olive oil or butter. Cereal is not recommended.

Also acceptable are puréed meat, low acid fruit, yogurt, scrambled egg.

Source: the official health book they send home with you when you have a baby.
posted by ohio at 10:48 PM on February 6, 2017

Slovenia (EU) - official recommendations: cooked carrot, kohlrabi, celeriac, potato, chicken, first pureed (with a drop or two of olive oil), then gradually going to mashed to cut in small pieces. No added salt or sugar. Introduce new foods one by one and wait a few days for potential allergies to show up. Hold off on fruit (too sweet, don't want them addicted to sugar too soon) and red meat. Introduce grains around 8 months (something to do with potential gluten allergies, it seems like there's a windows of opportunity then). Introduce (cow) dairy products around 12 months. No mushrooms until they're much much older (there's a lot of foraging for mushrooms in the forests around here, which can go terribly wrong if you're not very familiar with local edible and poisonous mushrooms, especially combined with babies' not very strong immune/digestive system, so it makes sense).

We did baby led weaning with an eye on official recommendations/food lists (veg first, followed by meat then fruit) and skipped the pureeing/mashing because ain't nobody got time for that. Luckily, the kid liked gnawing on everything.
posted by gakiko at 11:41 PM on February 6, 2017

In Italy it's usually mashed veggies with broth, like potatoes or carrots. And then pastina (little pasta). My family thinks I'm possibly terminally stupid for giving my infants strawberries.

My US pediatrician said no rice cereal because what's the point? Teach them to eat. Only restrictions were no eggs and no honey for the first year. Started both kids on puréed jars at six months old and soft veggies to go along with them. Yogurt. Pasta. Tofu. Cold cut turkey breast. Avocado. Sausage.

As long as they can chew it and the pieces are not choke-sized, they get to try it.

My daughter is now three and doesn't eat anything (and never has). My son is 11 months old and would steal steak off my plate if he could. Same method, different kids. C'est la vie.
posted by lydhre at 3:54 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mothers from Northern Quebec used to fly down to Quebec City and Montreal when either the mother or the baby needed medical care. (They still do.) I used to see them sometimes with their babies some thirty or thirty-five years ago. At that time they used to mouth feed their babies. They would pause while they were eating and kiss a little of the food into their infant's mouth.

I'm pretty sure they had no received any nutrition counseling. Even if they had it would have been pretty much irrelevant. Imported food in Northern Canada is astronomically expensive due to the cost of flying it in so they lived on a diet that was largely game caught in their area - caribou, seal, Canada goose, and lots of fish etc. supplemented by whatever was sold at the local store (There is only one store in those communities.) In current prices beef can cost 72$ a pound, two litres of orange juice or a single cabbage almost $30. So I am quite sure they ate what they could afford out of the minuscule selection available.

When they were at the hospital they were happy purveyors of the vending machines and would go up and down the hall putting change in and coming back with snacks - peanuts, chocolate, gummies and chips. Any of that would be chewed into a paste and most of it swallowed but a little of it kissed into the baby's happy mouth. They all seemed to be enjoying their snacks very much but the chips were their favourites.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:19 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

US: my pediatrician recommended puréed sweet potatoes.

When I was a baby in the UK, my first solid food was calves' brains. This was in the 1970s. I have no idea how common that was, but given the whole BSE thing, it's almost certainly not common now.
posted by KathrynT at 11:20 AM on February 7, 2017

Cultures that are less into waste and mess are slightly appalled by baby-led weaning/self-feeding. Our Argentinian babysitter commented on how awful it was when the other families insisted on letting their babies make a mess and waste food, and spoon-fed our baby. That was fine with me, as I didn't place great stock in the whole baby led phenomenon. I just let him self-feed appropriately sized bits of food because I was lazy.
posted by yarly at 1:57 PM on February 7, 2017

Northeastern US - we gave Baby Bruno whatever we were eating, which is what people in my community mean when they say Baby Led Weaning (she's 2.5 now). Pretty sure her first real food beyond breastmilk was avocado? Possibly roasted sweet potato. Interestingly these are still in her top five most reliably eaten foods.
posted by hungrybruno at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2017

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