In Sweden, where Bettina Gamba Radano lives, babies usually start with tasting portions or “flavor sensations” sometime between four and six months old. Swedish babies often get their first introduction to food through vegetable and fruit purées, which are then extended to larger servings of mixed food of various kinds.
What are first baby foods like in other countries? When do they begin introducing solid foods and what do their kids eat? We asked Bettina Gamba Radano, who lives in Sweden but has an Italian husband and family.
Eating good food and socializing around the dinner table are things Italian children learn early on.
Roughly when do you start introducing first baby foods in Italy? It is common to breastfeed for a long time?
“Just like in Sweden, there are different trends. But from 4-6 months you usually say that it’s time to introduce food. As far as breastfeeding goes, from what I understand when I talk to friends and people I know, mothers seem to really want to breastfeed for a long time but their employers often expect them to be back at work around 3-5 months after they give birth. So mothers are forced to leave their children with grandparents or in day care and give formula. But I also have female friends who’ve been stay-at-home moms and have been able to breastfeed for a long time. The short answer is that mothers want to breastfeed for a long time, but certain work-related circumstances can sometimes foil their plans.”
What do Italian babies usually have as their first baby foods?
“Easy vegetables like potatoes and carrots. After that, vegetarian broth with small “semolino” pasta grains. The broth is made from zucchini, potato and carrot. The fat you add to baby food is olive oil. You often give babies fish, poultry and even rabbit. The rabbit meat is tender and easy for small stomachs to digest.”
What solid foods don’t you offer in the first year?
“Mushrooms, which can be indigestible, and strawberries, because of allergy risks.”
Do most people make their own baby food or is ready-made food common?
“In my experience, most people make their own food. They do use ready-made food in Italy, of course, but maybe mainly to speed things up when time is tight.”
Do children usually eat their first baby foods at the table?
“Yes, as soon as children can sit they sit at the dinner table. Eating good food and socializing around the dinner table are things Italian children learn early on.”
Bettina Gamba Radano
Lives in: Älvsjö, Sweden
Works as: Legal assistant at a Stockholm law firm
Family: Married to Francesco with daughters Lidia (born 2012) and Elisa (born 2015)