Should I be worried about heavy metals?

Parenting is one worrisome thing after another, mama. Are they eating the right foods in the right way?

Dear Is This Normal,

My pediatrician just told me my daughter can move to cereals and even puréed veggies. She is 5 months old and with the whole baby food having metals and arsenic I’m so afraid to buy baby food although I’ve read making your own baby food will cause the same issues. I’m told to try one veggie at a time for a week to make sure there are no allergies. First time mom and I don’t want anything to hinder my child’s development. Any advice on what’s best?

Worried Feeder

Dear Worried,

Oh, do I ever hear you on this. There are plenty of things to worry about when you have a baby, but when that report showing heavy metals in many of the most popular brands of baby foods came out, it’s like our worries and concerns got turned up to 11. And for good reason! We all want to do what’s best for our babes, and to find out that what we’ve been doing is potentially harmful? This whole parenting journey can be so hard to navigate, especially with all of these roadblocks and speed bumps.

Starting solids is such a fun milestone, and you should be excited about this! But I 100% understand your concerns and hesitation. There’s so much information out there about solids and infant feeding, and a lot of it is contradictory, so it’s hard to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it … you get the idea. My biggest piece of advice is to follow your gut and do what FEELS right for your baby. And work closely with your pediatrician when it comes to figuring out your plan! You know your baby best, and your doc has probably been in her life since she was born. You’ve got the go-ahead to start solids, so now it’s time to formulate a plan that you’re comfortable with.

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: heavy metals in baby food. Obviously, a cause of major concern (and hopefully a catalyst for changes in the industry!). I want to acknowledge that it’s really not feasible to achieve a zero level when it comes to some heavy metals like inorganic arsenic and cadmium; these elements occur naturally in air, water, and soil, and generations of pesticide use means that the heavy metals have been absorbed into the soil and groundwater and remain even decades after they were banned from use in pesticides. Additionally, some fruits and vegetables are naturally higher in some heavy metals, like sweet potatoes and carrots. These root crops tend to absorb more heavy metals from soil and water. However, the biggest culprit in the heavy metals study was found to be rice; nearly all the baby foods that contained rice tested positive for heavy metal contamination. Rice is particularly susceptible to contamination because of how it’s grown and processed.

So what are worried parents to do with this troubling information? Our babies have to eat, right? Even though there is no perfect solution that’s going to eliminate 100% of all heavy metals from the foods we eat and the foods we feed our kids, we can definitely take precautions and make choices that significantly lower our exposure. For starters, I’d skip the rice cereals and avoid any baby foods that contain rice – opt instead for organic oats, chia, hemp, or buckwheat. Companies that mimic what you’d do at home, with fresh, organic ingredients and minimal processing like Little Spoon is a great way to go. Little Spoon’s Babyblends are made in small batches, using 100% certified organic and non-GMO ingredients. Their foods are not subjected to extreme heat, lengthy commercial sterilization or processing on heavy machinery. Plus, because they only partner with local farms that perform regular testing on their ingredients and crops, there’s a level of traceability and accountability with Little Spoon that you won’t find with other companies.

Another way you can minimize exposure is by feeding your girl a varied diet! Carrots and sweet potatoes have a lot of nutritional value, and experts aren’t suggesting eliminating them completely from your baby’s diet. But, they shouldn’t be a staple, or all she eats. Introducing her to a wide variety of foods at the beginning of her solids journey can decrease the risk of heavy metal exposure. Plus, it helps her develop a more adventurous palate! I totally understand your concern about allergies – I think all parents share those concerns when their babies start solids, food allergies are no joke. But unless you have a family history of allergies, experts say there’s no reason to introduce one food at a time, even in the beginning. If the foods she’s eating are easy to isolate (say, zucchini in the morning and pears at lunch), you would still be able to narrow down the culprit in the event of a reaction. Incorporate foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin C, and iron – these nutrients can actually help block the absorption of heavy metals. Broccoli, bell peppers, chia, spinach, and blueberries can all be amazing first foods for your little one.

Parenting is one worrisome thing after another, mama. Are they eating the right foods in the right way? Are they sleeping enough? Hitting the milestones they should be hitting? Our worries never really shut off. But our gut, our maternal instinct, our intuition can be such a force in guiding us to do what’s best for our kids. You’re asking the right questions, Worried, and hopefully I’ve been able to give you some answers that can help ease your worries, just for a bit.

Here to Ease Your Worries,

Is This Normal


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