Parents in Sweden usually begin to give baby food in tasting portions between the age of four and six months. Swedish babies usually start off with vegetable and fruit purées, before going on to eat larger portions of different kinds of food.
What about baby food in other countries? When is baby food introduced and what do babies eat? We asked Bettina Gamba Radano, who has an Italian husband and family.
Children learn to eat delicious/wholesome food and socialise at mealtimes from a very young age
When is baby food introduced in Italy? Are babies usually breastfed for longer?
The advice tends to vary over time, just as it does in Sweden, but baby food is usually introduced from the age of 4-6 months in Italy. As far as breastfeeding is concerned, the picture I get from talking to friends and acquaintances is that Italian mums would love to breastfeed for longer, but their employers usually expect them to be back at work about 3-5 months after giving birth. So mums have to leave their babies with grandparents or at nurseries, and switch to baby formula. But I do have friends who are stay-at-home mums who have breastfed their babies for longer. So Italian mums are exactly like Swedish mums – they’d like to breastfeed for longer, but sometimes have to stop breastfeeding for practical, work-related reasons.
What are Italian babies usually given as their first baby food?
Bland vegetables such as potato and carrot. Then vegetable broth with semolino. The broth is made using courgettes, potatoes and carrots. The fat added to baby food is olive oil. Good sources of protein include fish, poultry and rabbit too. The meat is tender and easy for little tummies to digest.”
What is not suitable baby food in the first year?
Mushrooms, which are difficult to digest, and strawberries because of the allergy risk.
Do most parents prepare baby food from scratch or do they buy it ready made?
I get the feeling most parents make baby food from scratch – obviously Italian parents use ready-made baby food as well, but I suspect this would mainly be for convenience to save time.
Do babies usually sit at the table at mealtimes?
Yes, as soon as babies are able to sit, they will eat their baby food at the family table. Children learn to eat delicious/wholesome food and socialise at mealtimes from a very young age.
Bettina Gamba Radano
Lives: Älvsjö, Sweden
Occupation: Paralegal at a law firm in Stockholm
Family: Husband Francesco and daughters Lidia, born in 2012, and Elisa, born in 2015