I’ve gotten questions from a couple of moms asking when it’s safe to add herbs and spices to their infant’s foods, which ones are baby-friendly, and if/how adding herbs and spices can make a positive influence on their babys’ food preferences down the line. I was actually pretty curious about this myself, since it’s challenging (at least for me) to be super creative when I cook Jia’s meals and have been tempted to toss in some seasonings. It can be especially hard if you’re not really skilled in the kitchen, to stray away from the norm, the routine, your repertoire.
As I was conducting my research for this topic, I actually couldn’t find any resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics or any empirical research saying that incorporating herbs and spices weren’t recommended for babies and at what definitive age to begin introducing them. I am taking this to mean that since there’s no formal policy or recommendation against herbs and spices being introduced, then it’s not of great concern. What I did find was encouraging – the AAP recommended that in place of salt, parents should be encouraged to cook with herbs, spices, and lemon juice. So there ya go, the AAP says herbs and spices should be used!
In researching, what I found interesting is that many other cultures actually start adding spices to infants’ diets as soon as they begin solid foods (South Asian, South American, East Asian, etc). This includes spicy seasonings, too.
In the US; however, we are so overly conservative about adding herbs and spices into baby’s diet, that our babies are often stuck eating bland foods until they are toddlers. Get creative, mom (& dad!)
Though it’s up for debate on whether or not spicy seasonings should be added to baby’s diet (see first bullet below), one thing is pretty clear – parents are introducing a variety of flavors into their babies’ diets so that they are exposed to a wide range of tastes, which can positively influence preferences down the line. This translates to a less picky eater!
Through my research on this topic, I found some main pointers for when you are beginning to spice up your baby’s food:
- Wait until your baby has reached about 6-8 months old to introduce herbs and spices. This is actually more or less up to you, mainly because you want to sort out any intolerances, sensitivities, and preferences in foods. In an article from Live Science, Dr. Anca Safta, a Pediatric Gastroenterologist recommends that the aromatic spices (cinnamon, cardamom, dill, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger) should be introduced first. She says that this is because the flavor of “hot” is not necessarily a taste, but an activation of pain receptors. This can lead to intestinal upset, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Because of a baby’s maturing gastric system, she recommends these be delayed a bit longer. Conversely, Dr. Stephen Borowitz, University of Virginia’s Professor of Pediatrics says that a baby’s digestive system is normal at birth and that spicy foods needn’t be avoided and that using such spices is both “reasonable and appropriate.” Pediatric and Adolescent Dietitian for the Children’s Hospital in Boston, Vanessa Kane-Alves RD says, “there is no list of spices to avoid.” However you interpret the many views on the use of herbs and spices for your baby’s food, remember to:
- Keep with the 4-day rule! After introducing one type of spice, continue to do so for 4 days before introducing a new spice, so that an herb or spice can more easily be identified as the culprit of a sensitivity.
- Breastfeeding (and pumping) mamas rest assured! Herbs and spices are transmitted through breastmilk, so your little one is already being exposed to a variety of flavors as long as you are. And, if you are still breastfeeding by 6 months, good for you! Keep going! Remember, the World Health Organization recommends to breastfeed up to 2 years old and continue as long as possible.
Fresh or dried, here’s a list of some baby-friendly herbs and spices to get started: Continue reading