Choosing a baby’s diet during the first couple of years can be rather tricky, especially when you’re trying to figure out when to introduce fish. Fish can be a healthy protein source with lots of excellent nutrients. This is why many parents want to bring fish into their baby’s diet as soon as possible. It’s almost impossible to deliver all of the same nutrients found in fish through a different source, especially the oils and Omega fatty acids that are vital for healthy brain and heart function.
That said, there are some things to consider before bringing fish into your baby’s diet. When you choose to add fish to the menu you are going to hear a wide variety of opinions. The medical opinion is changing, which naturally has some parents on edge when it comes to giving a baby under a year old any kind of fish.
Considering Mercury in Fish
One of the issues that are often hard to contend with is the mercury levels in fish. Understanding the various mercury levels means that you not only have to know which fish are highest in mercury but also have to know the original point where the fish came from. While mercury is a high issue of concern during pregnancy, it is also an issue of concern for all human bodies, especially small ones.
The body is unable to purge mercury consumed in fish in a timely manner. That means that the toxic metal can actually build up in the system. From the first bite, it takes a full 12 months at the minimum for the body to rid itself of the potential poison. Thus, if you’re feeding a baby a high mercury fish on a regular basis you can eventually see the sudden development of health problems.
Adults who have tried to go on the once popular salmon diet became victims of mercury poisoning in 45 days or less. Many developed health problems in the first 30 days. While this was an extreme diet that contained nothing other than salmon and some vegetable varieties, the toll on the health was certainly startling in a short period of time.
Does that mean you should avoid all fish for your baby? No. Just like any other food, moderation and awareness is the key element to providing a well rounded and healthy menu for your child.
There are many parents that are concerned with the potential for choking on fish bones. Even deboned fish and processed fish can have the occasional bone fragment in it that is just the right size for getting caught in a baby’s throat. While there are some potential choking hazards, with care the fish can pose less of a threat than the standard hot dogs and cheese.
Some parents who feed their children fish use the baby bird method to ensure that there are no bones posing a choking hazard. This entails actually putting the fish pieces in your mouth first and determining that there are no fragments that can potentially cause choking. This is not for every parent, as some people find this method to be primitive and not exactly sanitary.
Other parents will place fish in the blender or food processor to chop it finely enough to make sure that there are no bone fragments that can get caught in a baby’s throat. The only problem with this method is that making it small enough to be swallowed without incident doesn’t mean that it will pass all the way through the baby’s system without causing a bit of damage.
Just like strawberries and nuts, fish is a food that is ranked high on the list of food allergies for babies and children. For a long time, this was one of the basic concerns of offering fish to a child less than a year old. Family history and signs of other food allergies can be an indicator as to whether a specific baby would be more prone to developing the allergy.
If a food allergy occurs it is almost always necessary to provide prompt medical attention to an infant. Many of the symptoms of a food allergy are frightening enough to prompt most parents to seek out the emergency room. Many children become swollen, red, and can even stop breathing if the allergy is severe. If you child is already showing signs of distress from a food or other significant allergy it might be wise to hold off past the acceptable age to introduce fish. If there is a family history of shellfish or other sea food allergies it is also wise to wait beyond the first year to bring fish into the picture.
Of course, there are numerous health benefits to introducing fish into your baby’s diet. They receive an excellent source of protein and are loaded up with antioxidants that help improve immune system function as well as brain development. A healthy diet should include all kinds of foods so that the body can receive all kinds of nutrients from these foods. Fish is highly recommended during childhood and adulthood for optimal health.
Most physicians once preferred that parents did not offer fish or fish products to children under the age of a year. That view is now changing and the medical community is endorsing fish as young as 6 months. Any parent that wants to bring fish into their baby’s diet might get a more complete answer by asking their child’s physician or even a pediatric dietician if they are witnessing any ill effects from the earlier introduction of fish.
The essential foods that we all need to eat are available is many different varieties and come from different originating sources. Thus, you may feel that you can provide the high level of nutritional value of fish from a known source that will help reduce the risks associated with sea food. If you have concerns or questions, it’s always best to err on the side of caution or ask your child’s pediatrician for advice.