Why Bigger Foods Can Be Safer for Young Babies

a baby reaches for a large beet

Have you noticed that the foods marketed to kids (baby carrots, string cheese, hot dogs, etc.) are often choking hazards? Take cheese. In its natural form you’d probably serve it by cutting a slice—a perfectly safe shape for babies and children. But when cheese is formed into firm, rounded logs it becomes a huge choking risk—for children and adults alike.

The same goes for carrots. A regular, big carrot (if cooked to softness) is perfectly acceptable for babies to munch on. (We generally suggest cutting it in half lengthwise so it’s not round.) But a baby carrot? The small size deceives. Even when cooked, its perfectly round ends and slender, cylinder shape lends itself to more easily getting lodged in the trachea.

Cooper, 6 months

This is why you often hear us say that BIGGER is SAFER when it comes to the youngest eaters. When a big hunk of cooked carrot breaks off in Cooper’s mouth here he’s not likely to attempt to swallow it whole: it’s too big. But a piece of a baby carrot or a small, whole baby carrot? I’m not so sure.

When it comes to infant feeding, we have some un-learning to do. Believe it or not, there is no developmental need for spoon-feeding (or any evidence-based research supporting the need for puréed food). We do it because it’s what was been done before. And yet we know that prolonged, exclusive spoonfeeding can delay the oral-motor skills needed to eat safely. And we also know that controlled feeding styles can contribute to unhappiness at the table and picky eating.1

So why is no one in the pediatric research community questioning the “way it’s always been done”? Why is no one talking about the risks of delaying chewing skills? WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THE LONG GAME?

I think it’s because we are short-game beings. But here’s the thing: as a parent who has experienced the agony of losing the long game, I will tell you that nothing—and I mean nothing—is worth compromising it.

  1. Brown, A., & Lee, M. (2010). Maternal Control of Child Feeding During the Weaning Period: Differences Between Mothers Following a Baby-led or Standard Weaning ApproachMaternal and Child Health Journal15(8), 1265–1271.
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