Baby food around the world – what do babies in Italy eat?

Baby food is usually introduced at the age of about six months in Sweden. But what about other countries? Bettina Gamba tells us about baby food in Italy.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – Baby eating baby food
Baby's first Italian food: a broth made from zucchini, potato and carrot. Add olive oil.
Photo: Johnér

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.

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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?

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.

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It is common to breastfeed for a long time?

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.

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Typical first baby foods in Italy?

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.”

Solid foods no-no’s in the first year?

Mushrooms, which are difficult to digest, and strawberries because of the allergy risk.

Homemade or ready-made baby food?

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