"The most common first food (the one recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) is baby rice cereal. However, there are several other foods which are also commonly given, including bananas," says Peggy O'Shea, a Boston-based registered dietitian and president of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association. "A mashed, ripe banana is easy to digest for the baby and is a nutritious choice."
Some experts argue that fruits are not the best first foods for babies because they can aid in the development of a "sweet tooth." Although O'Shea says this has not been scientifically proven, some pediatricians and nutrition experts may advise parents against introducing fruits first. "However, many experts also point to certain fruits—including the banana—as a good first food especially for breastfed babies because breast milk is quite sweet and the fruit may aid in the transition to solid foods because it is a taste that is somewhat more familiar," O'Shea says.
What's Under That Peel?
Bananas contain many important nutrients for babies or anyone, for that matter. "Bananas are relatively low in water content and therefore their carbohydrate content, by weight, is quite high," O'Shea says. "They also contain a significant amount of potassium, a mineral that has several functions in the body including control of fluid balance, regulation of heartbeat, and blood pressure. Bananas also contain several other nutrients including vitamin C and are also a source of dietary fiber."
Many babies can be hesitant to try any new foods, but bananas may be one of the easiest because of their sweetness and texture. "The sweet taste of a banana is something that is easily accepted by a baby, as babies are born with a natural affinity for sweet foods," O'Shea says. "To encourage a baby to taste the banana if there seems to be a hesitance, you can also try mashing it with either breast milk or formula in order to incorporate a taste the baby is already familiar with."
For first eaters, select very ripe bananas and mash them into a very soft consistency. Even though bananas are soft and many parents don't consider them to be a choking hazard, they are. "Bananas can also be somewhat 'paste-like' in consistency, which can contribute to [the] choking hazard," O'Shea says. "Therefore, it may also be helpful to stir in some breast milk or baby formula (whichever the baby is used to) in order to make the consistency more easily tolerated. It is important to remember that for the first several months of life a baby has only had a 'liquid' diet, and this shift in mouth and swallowing function can also take some development."
As Baby grows, bananas are a wonderful "finger food," but O'Shea reminds parents that banana slices should not be given whole. "For a toddler, it is important to make sure that bananas are not cut simply in slices [circles] but that they are then cut in half and even in half again so that they are not likely to get lodged in the esophagus, as they are swallowed if not chewed properly," she says.
Here are some easy banana recipes to try on your baby or toddler!
(For older toddlers)