Feeding babies and toddlers might be the most controversial of all child-rearing topics. Pediatricians, nutritionists and mother-in-laws all have their opinions on what is best for little ones. Unfortunately, advice often varies greatly from one doctor to the next, one nutrition expert to another, and does anyone trust their mother-in-law?
Google searches are no help at all. Typing "best foods for baby" in the search engine will bring up contradicting advice. Mommy forums contain arguments on just about every nutritional topic from breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding to starting solids at 3 months vs. "virgin gut" (no food but milk or formula) until age 3.
Can't a parent get a break? When will someone come out with a baby food pyramid we can all agree on? Probably never. Parents are left to their own devices when faced with keeping their child fed and happy. After sifting through the never-ending streams of advice pouring in from all sides, it comes down to what a mom or dad feels is best for their offspring.
To help parents feel a little bit better, or possibly get some good ideas, here are 15 shocking foods that people around the world are actually feeding their babies.
Beets are a food that may induce nose wrinkling for many, but little tykes in France gobble them up. French babies are lucky enough to be exposed to a new food every three days. Solid food is introduced between four and six months. One of the most popular choices for French parents is beets.
These bright red beauties are high in vitamin C, perfect for fighting off runny noses and congested coughs that babies often pick up around this age. They also contain potassium which benefits muscle and nerve function and manganese that is great for the liver, kidney and pancreas. Manganese also strengthens bones.
Can't find anything wrong with beets. They're way healthier than French fries (insert sad face emoji here).
14 Shrimp soup
Babies in Vietnam are fed soup that contains shrimp, butternut squash or carrots, and potatoes. The broth is flavored with fish sauce and pork bones. Infants are given this yummy concoction at as young as six months of age.
Shrimp is a wonderful source of protien. It is low in fat and contains calcium and magnesium. However, experts disagree on whether or not feeding babies shellfish is a good idea.
Some doctors recommend waiting until a child is at least a year old before introducing shrimp or lobster, because before this age their immune systems are not fully developed. Many young children have allergies that are unknown until a food is introduced. If a baby is exposed to a food they are found to be allergic to, it can be extremely dangerous.
Other doctors argue that the latest research is showing the sooner little tummies are exposed to allergens such as shrimp, peanuts, eggs and gluten, the better. Exposure to these foods may help tots build up immunity and negate allergies that would possibly otherwise develop if they were not exposed to the foods until a later age.
13 Whale skin and blubber
Another popular food found among the Inuit people is maktak (whale skin and blubber). This delectable dish is served to babies right along with everyone else to ensure it becomes a lifelong favorite. It is prepared in a variety of different ways including dried, boiled, with rancid seal oil or fermented. Maktak is also served raw.
The benefits of consuming whale skin and blubber are plentiful. Blubber contains omega 3 fatty acids which aide in brain development and vitamin D that is essential to consume when many months of the year are spent living with very little sunlight.
Inuit people are known to live long, healthy lives and have very low instances of heart disease among them. The consumption of blubber has been credited with this phenomenon. However, more and more, whales and other sea animals are exposed to toxic waste in the water where they live and eat. These toxins eventually build up as carcinogens in their bodies. The consumption of meat exposed to these chemicals could cause cancer in those who partake of it.
Japanese babies are treated to quite the spread on or around their 100th day of life. This celebration is known as Okuizume (first eating). Parents present a feast to their baby that usually includes pickled vegetables, sticky rice and octopus.
The traditional meal is an attempt to begin weaning babies off of breast milk. It is also a celebration of cuisine that symbolizes wealth and plenty. The hope is that this feast will bring the child a life of abundance and that they will always have good food to eat.
Children are also presented with a rock called a biting stone. The purpose of the stone is to assist the child in developing strong teeth. Babies do not often partake of any of the smorgasbord that has been painstakingly prepared for them. Hopefully being presented with suction-cup-covered tentacles and a rock for their first meal will help these babies sing praises to heaven when they are mercifully offered smashed carrots.
11 Caribou cud
The Inuit people are found in the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Denmark (Greenland) and the United States. They're known more commonly around the world as Eskimos, which translates to "eaters of raw meat". In recent years, this label has been considered inaccurate and derogatory, and, as a result, Inuit is now the preferred title of these Arctic-dwellers.
The fact remains that the Inuits enjoy raw meat as a central part of their diet. Many Inuits believe that children need to be exposed to raw meat early in their lives in order to stomach it. As a result, babies are fed various forms of raw meat as soon as they are exposed to solid foods of any kind.
One of the more surprising "meats" Inuits feed their babies is caribou cud, known as qisaruaq. Cud is partially digested food that animals often regurgitate back up to their mouths for a second chewing. When Inuit hunters kill a caribou, the stomach is cut open and any remaining cud is removed. This cud is subsequently fed to everyone in the family, including the littlest ones. Pass the ketchup, please!
10 Yak butter
The next stop on our tour of baby food takes us to Tibet. Babies here embark on their first culinary adventure at the ripe old age of four days old.
Newborns are presented with a delicacy known as zamba. The ingredients for this mouth-watering treat include corn, barley, wheat, peas and, the best part, yak butter. For readers not familiar with what the hell yak butter is, learn more about how it is made here. It's really quite fascinating.
Once the food is prepared, it is stuck to the brand new baby's forehead and symbolizes purity. The babies don't actually eat the mixture. The concoction does sound quite delectable. Maybe those little taste buds are missing out on a real treat.
9 Chilli powder
Babies in Mexico are offered solid foods around three months of age. Parents entice their children to eat different foods by sprinkling chilli powder on fruits such as apples, oranges and pears.
Mexican candy often contains chilli powder as well. Babies as young as one year of age enjoy lollipops with a spicy kick.
There is currently a heated debate among experts as to whether or not spicy food is good for babies to ingest. Some say breast milk changes flavor based on what the mother is eating, so if a mom is eating spicy food already, serving it to the child isn't much different.
Others disagree and recommend avoiding spices that are hot until children are older and have a more developed palate. They argue hot spices may trigger pain receptors on baby tongues and in baby tummies, making them uncomfortable after being exposed to spicy food.
8 Goat's milk
Recently, many natural-minded parents have opted to feed their babies goat's milk over mainstream formula. There has been speculation that it more closely resembles breast milk than formula does and is a more natural choice when breast milk isn't an option. There has been little to no evidence found to support these claims.
In fact, feeding goat's milk to babies, especially before one year of age, can cause serious complications and, in severe cases, death. Human milk contains much less protien than goat's milk. Small babies do not have the capability to process the amount of protien found in goat's milk. Feeding it to them in place of formula or breast milk can put unnecessary strain on their tiny kidneys, possibly causing them to fail.
It is also important to note that nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C and iron, found in human milk and formula, are not present in goat's milk.
While goat's milk may be a popular fad and a natural choice, it does not appear to be a safe option for babies.
7 Bone broth formula
Australian chef, Pete Evans, has taken major heat for including a bone broth baby formula recipe in his new Paleo recipe book for babies and toddlers, Bubba Yum Yum:The Paleo Way. Bone broth is made with the bones of any animal. Lamb, chicken, pork or beef are the most common. The bones are simmered for 10-48 hours. This slow cooking process is said to draw many healthy components from the bones, including collagen, marrow, amino acids, minerals, glycine and gelatin. This super-broth is then used in making baby formula the Paleo way.
The formula is being touted by those who support the baby Paleo movement as much healthier and better than traditional store-bought formula. However, many experts claim the bone broth formula recipe contained in the book is highly dangerous.
The main concern of those protesting the recipe is the high content of vitamin A and iron found in Evan's formula recipe. High amounts of vitamin A have been known to cause death in infants and young toddlers. It comes down to the fact that not enough research has been done to show whether or not the formula is safe to feed babies.
6 Tropical fruit and honey
In Jamaica, babies as young as four months old are offered fresh fruit drizzled with honey to enhance the flavor. Fruits served are those native to the island, including banana, papaya and mango.
Many pediatricians recommend that infants should not have any honey in their diet until they reach one year of age. The main reason is that honey has been known to cause botulism in young babies. This is a serious complication that is potentially fatal.
Other experts disagree with this recommendation and claim that there is no danger in children younger than one year of age eating honey. They claim botulism is highly uncommon and the risk does not outweigh the benefits.
Ever wondered what a rabbit tastes like? The baby food isle in Italian grocery stores contains delicious coniglio (rabbit) flavored baby food . The ingredients include: "homogenized freeze-dried rabbit meat, pre-cooked rice flour and natural flavors".
Before breaking down in sobs, please consider that rabbit meat is a pretty healthy alternative to other popular protein sources. Rabbit is lean and has less than half the calories of pork and half the calories of lamb or beef.
Who knows? Maybe the trend will catch on and next spring children all over the world will be eating the Easter bunny for brunch.
Parents in China offer seaweed to their babies as early as four months of age. This water-born plant is served in rice dishes along with fish, vegetables and eggs. Although the name seaweed isn't necessarily appetizing, and its appearance doesn't rival chocolate cake, seaweed has been proven to contain a plethora of health benefits, especially for young children.
Not only is seaweed a wonderful energy source, it contains calcium to aide in strong bone and teeth development. It can also assist in preventing iron deficiency, which is a problem many babies face. Furthermore, seaweed has antimicrobial properties. This means it can help to fight off infections and sicknesses or prevent them from coming on in the first place.
No arguments here: seaweed is a great baby food. The only challenge parents may face is getting their child to eat it.
Another food babies in China enjoy at the ripe old age of four months is smashed eggplant. Eggplants belong to the nightshade family which also includes potatoes, bell peppers and tomatoes. Eggplants are packed full of nutrients including fiber, vitamin K, potassium and folate.
The beautiful skin of an eggplant can be found in a variety of different colors of purple and white. A powerful antioxidant called nasunin is present in the skin of an eggplant. It has been proven to fight free radicals and aide in brain development. In studies of lab rats, those fed eggplant showed a decrease in cholesterol and improved blood pressure.
Eggplants were first grown agriculturally in China. This may be the reason their babies are privy to this wonderful superfood right from the beginning.
2 Chewed-up food
Parents in Hollywood are known for their unconventional and interesting parenting choices. One of these choices is known as pre-mastication. For those who are not familiar with the practice, it can best be described as what a mother bird does for her babies: chews up worms and spits them into her offspring's grateful mouths.
Don't worry, pre-masticated food doesn't have to be worms. It can be anything, really. A Chipotle burrito, a cookie, some Cheetos; they all work.
Alicia Silverstone famously posted a video feeding her son, Bear Blu chewed-up mochi and vegetables in this creative fashion. After taking heat for the video, she defended herself by saying that people have been using this feeding technique for thousands of years.
Experts disagree, saying this practice may have made sense back in the Stone Age before blenders were invented, but adults in modern times passing food to children by mouth may inadvertently infect the child with viruses such as hepatitis B or HIV. This technique may also increase the risk of the child developing cavities from an excess of bacteria passed along with the food.
1 Horse meat
Sorry, Seabiscuit. People in Italy feed their babies horse meat right along with rabbit. Why? Horse meat contains half the fat present in beef and is much higher in omega 3 fatty acids. It is also an excellent source of iron.
Although many cultures view horses as beloved pets and companions, not everyone feels this way. Studies have also shown that consumption of horse meat can lower cholesterol.
"Neigh"-sayers may disagree, but horse meat isn't the worst thing to feed a bouncing baby. In fact, it might be just what they need to gallop towards healthy future.