What you’re about to read is quite unnerving regarding the safety of typical baby foods. Within this post are reference links for new information released in August 2018 about the dangers of top-brand baby foods (including organic brands). And all remedies I discuss here were chosen after carefully and thoroughly researching them. You should consult a physician or become fully informed before following any of the treatments I used.
When my son, Jake Jr, hit four months old I was overjoyed! Like most new moms I was eager for him to reach all of those milestones that come at that age, like sitting up unassisted and eating his first foods. I was ecstatic to find the shelves loaded down with organic pureed baby food, fruit and snacks in every grocery store! The options for baby food were endless it seemed and I couldn’t wait for him to try them all.
But my blissful vision of Jake Jr. eating his first foods would quickly come crashing down—and lead me to skip purees altogether when it came time for my second child, Jolene, to start eating solids. Here is the dangerous truth about typical, pureed baby food and why you should avoid them too!
Heavy Metals in Pureed Baby Food
Recently, a consumer report found alarmingly high levels of heavy metals (cadmium, lead and inorganic arsenic) in 15 baby food products. Consuming high levels of any one of those heavy metals is linked to an interference in cognitive development and associated with behavioral problems. The reporting scientists explained in the consumer report that the effects of heavy metal contamination show up over time, so you won’t be immediately aware of the damage. And, it further explains that infants and younger children are more sensitive to these metals, since their organs are not fully developed. Tunde Akinleye, the chemist who led the food testing, says that these contaminants cause multiple organ damage over time, leading to an increased risk of cancer.
“Regularly consuming even small amounts [of lead, cadmium or inorganic arsenic] over a long period of time may raise the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer; cognitive and reproductive problems; and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions” –Consumer Report, 2018
Here is the list of baby foods containing concerning levels of heavy metals. These include purees, rice cereal, snacks and other products! To be clear, 50 foods were tested and,
“About two-thirds of the products (34) we tested contained concerning levels of cadmium, lead, and/or inorganic arsenic; 15 of them would pose a risk to a child who ate one serving or less per day”—Consumer Report, 2018
The 15 contaminated baby foods are:
• Earth’s Best Organic Chicken & Brown Rice
• Earth’s Best Turkey, Red Beans and Brown Rice
• Gerber Chicken &Rice
• Gerber Turkey & Rice
• Sprout Organic Baby Food Garden Vegetables Brown Rice with Turkey
• Gerber Lil’ Meals White Turkey Stew with Rice & Vegetables
• Gerber Carrot, Pear & Blackberry
• Gerber Carrots Peas & Corn with Lil’ Bits
• Plum Organics Just Sweet Potato Organic Baby Food
• Beech-Nut Classics Sweet Potatoes
• Earth’s Best Organic Sweet Potatoes, 1st Stage
• Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal
• Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars, Strawberry
• Happy Bab Organics Superfood Puffs, Apple & Broccoli
• Happy Baby Organics Superfood Puffs, Purple Carrot & Blueberry
How did heavy metals get into some baby food products and not others? Good question!
Based on the consumer report, water and food processing machinery are suspected to be the major culprits for the high levels of cadmium, lead and inorganic arsenic in baby foods. And apparently, baby food makers know about these contaminants and have their own guidelines for their manufacturing process–some just have stricter regulations set than others.
So since there aren’t existing FDA regulations on this, baby food makers have been able to be as lax as they see fit. I find it appalling that there aren’t basic limits to how much heavy metal contamination is “allowed” in baby food products!
The FDA, in response to this “new information”, has announced it will have guidelines for heavy metal contamination in some baby food products by the end of this year. As a parent who tries to do as much as possible to keep my children safe and healthy, I am in disbelief that the FDA is just now focusing on regulating baby food!
Unfortunately, I had no idea about this when Jake Jr was a baby (2015-2016) and I gave him just about ALL of these foods on a regular basis! ? I feel terrible for possibly exposing him to such harm simply by feeding him food!
That being said, we actually faced different, very troublesome issues from feeding the typical, recommended baby food–problems I never expected could be so scary!
Pureed Baby Food and Constipation
It only took a few weeks of eating pureed food before I noticed Jake Jr became quite a fussy baby. I suspected gas, but wasn’t sure the cause. I ended up giving Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water, which helped and at the time I assumed it was probably just his digestive tract adjusting to the new diet changes (he was EBF before this).
But around 6 or 7 months, his stools seem to be getting harder and harder. So, against everything I read about giving water to babies, I started making sure my son drank at least 1 to 2 oz of water with every “meal”. Unfortunately, that didn’t really work. His stools were still larger than what we were used to and becoming painful. He’d strain and whine every bowel movement, which was really worrisome! What was to come would be even more so!
By 8 months every bowel movement was painful and now his stools were so large there was fresh blood spotted in his diaper! I was so sad for my poor baby—experiencing this type of pain every day, knowing it was about to happen with each bowel movement. He’d basically panic and cry and try to run away from his poo, as I’d say.
At one doctor’s appointment I mentioned this and the doctor shrugged it off as normal, nothing I can do about it. And then, it got worse!
Soon after that appointment, Jake Jr started holding in his stools as long as he could. He’d go days and days before finally his body couldn’t hold it in any longer. Now these stools were harder, and a pale gray. He had no idea that by holding in his stools he was actually making it worse for himself! And then, one bowel movement actually brought me to tears. He was crying, straining with everything he had as I bicycled his legs to try to move things along….and the largest stool I have ever seen in my life (adult included) came out. Not quickly though! I will spare you the details, but I had to use coconut oil to lubricate him. I was so mortified that I immediately scheduled a doctor’s appointment with a different pediatrician.
Right before getting to the appointment date it had been 7 days since Jake Jr had had a bowel movement. (Normal for him was 3-4 days) I had read that in severe cases using a glycerin suppository to loosen stools is OK and not harmful. So I had them on hand in case we ever got to this point. Fortunately, using the suppository was easy and within twenty minutes he had a soft bowel movement and I could tell he was so relieved.
Again, even the new pediatrician acted like constipation in babies is no big deal and had no helpful advice for me. But my instincts said it was the baby food, since these issues began with the introduction of baby food. I decided to trust the saying, ‘food before one is just for fun’ and stopped feeding him purees altogether.
And the constipation and painful bowel movements ended!
I re-introduced solids around 12 months as well as a probiotic and although his constipation was resolved, the pureed food posed a new problem…
Baby Foods and Choking Issues
Giving pureed baby food to infants doesn’t allow them to…
- Learn to chew food effectively before swallowing
- Strengthen jaw and tongue muscles through chewing
- Learn appropriate portion size/bite-sizes
Because of these factors, children are more likely to…
- Put too much food in their mouths at once
- Choke from too large a bite
- Choke from inadequate chewing
And Jake Jr struggled with choking at nearly every meal, until he was almost 3! He turned dark red and silent as he choked dozens of times. Almost every time I had to finger-swipe food from the back of his throat or yank him from his chair and turn him upside down, beating his back in terror! Nothing has brought me more fear as a mom than in those moments where I am begging my son to let it loose and breath again! It’s an absolutely unnerving situation and one I have dealt with probably 50 times.
What I learned with Jolene is that purees aren’t necessary and babies seem to do much better all around with whole solids from the start. Of course her meals were cut up quite tiny, but she put her food in her mouth from the beginning and ate at her own pace, learning to chew and swallow effortlessly. She ate what we ate from the start, reasonably chosen foods of course as she barely had teeth at 6 months old! We still had some gagging and a few choking scares with her, but nothing compared to the issues we had with Jake Jr. She also did not have any digestive problems at all! No constipation!
The consumer report alone should make you run the other way from traditional baby foods! Add to that scary factor, the delay pureed food causes in reaching a crucial milestone—learning to chew and swallow whole solids! I will always recommend my friends follow the baby-led-weaning method that allows infants to learn the basic concepts of eating. Because I’m nearly certain my son would have bypassed so much physical discomfort and digestive upset if we had followed that method, allowing him to learn to eat like humans are meant to!