Baby Food Around the World

Baby Food Around the World

Global Baby Food

While the majority of Western countries tend to start their children on a bland diet of pureed carrots and mash, many other cultures introduce their babies to a wide range of flavours and ingredients from an early age, while others are limited by what food is available. So sit down, make your baby a cup of tea, and read on!



Japanese babies are often given water in addition to breast milk from an early age, and mothers may also bottle feed their babies miso soup and non-caffeinated teas before they reach one. When starting solids, the baby is fed a thin rice porridge, which is gradually made thicker and topped with small dried fish, tuna, tofu, vegetables and mashed pumpkin. One of the most popular baby foods is ‘nattō’, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans, which is eaten by adults and children alike. Raw fish is also fed to children under two, usually ‘maguro’ (tuna) or ‘ikura’ (salmon roe). Babies use spoons and forks to begin with, but by the age of two, most children much prefer chopsticks.



The most common baby food fed to Nigerian babies is ‘gari’, which is similar to potato flour and made from cassava roots, which have been cleaned and grated before being left to ferment. It’s then made into a dough or porridge or added to soups. Babies are also fed yams and okra as well as tripe for protein, when available. Across Western Africa, food is often introduced by ‘premastication’, where the parents first chew adult food before offering it to the baby. This makes the food soft enough to swallow and it’s thought that enzymes from the mother’s saliva help to make the food more easily digestible.


Inuit (Alaska)

An Inuit (Eskimo) baby’s first introduction to food is normally seaweed and ‘nuk-tuk’ (seal blubber). Caribou and whale meat is introduced (often served raw), as well as wild herbs, roots and berries once the baby reaches around nine months old.



Indian babies are introduced to aromatic spices and flavours from around 6 months, with hot spices being added from around 2-3 years. Spices like turmeric and cinnamon have long been known to have positive health and digestive benefits and are added to many baby foods, as well as herbs like coriander and mint. Try this recipe to spice up your baby’s tastebuds!




Amy Tinker on 08 August 2012 12:49
So interesting! From reading though it seems every culture gives what is a normal meal for them. NZ is a very much meat and vege nation and has only just started branching out more in recent decades. We just feed what our mothers fed to us, I am sure it is the same in all these other cultures. Humans are creature of habit.


Rachelle Kershaw on 14 June 2012 08:32
Well that was informative. It is always interesting to see how other coultures/countries differ in the way of food they will feed babies and at what ages :)


Liz Milner on 15 June 2012 08:30
Wow amazing how the "normal" changes so much in each country. I definitely found that introducing as much variety as possible from early on made for less fussy eaters - maybe it is time that NZ took a leaf out of the big book of international baby feeding and opened our babes mouths to more exciting foods (maybe not the seal blubber though!)


Natalie Stewart on 22 June 2012 11:29
Nadiya, I have the same 'issue' with my son. After being given such a diverse diet, he gets quite bored with certain foods. I might take a leaf out of India's book and start mixing spices into his food :)


Ngatasha Lawton on 13 June 2012 18:58
Wow, what an interesting article, thanks for the insight into what other babies are fed as first foods. It really shows how different the rules are for different cultures/countries.


Nadiya Ilalio on 13 June 2012 15:33
My daughter is a New Zealand born, Samoan made, Fiji residing 16month old who will try anything from Kokoda (raw fish in coconut milk, to curry to 'normal' new zealand style baby/finger foods. Its great to have a child with such diverse tastebuds, only downfall is she is easily bored if not given enough selection of flavours. Interesting read!!


Katrina Leigh Bain on 13 June 2012 16:11
Its amazing that they give babies foods that in nz would be considered a big no,no for a baby, such as raw fish. My daughter is 13 months and I really struggle to give her food I think is appropriate, but after reading this I'm inclined to try her on more "grown up" food


Josephine Yeo on 25 June 2012 22:51
Reading this article makes me see that what I had fed my daughter from young and what I introduce to her at a young age is normal. Being Chinese, the diet is slightly similar to the Japanese with the rice and the style it has been roughly introduced to my daughter. (all instinct) And coming from Singapore where it is multiculture, we eat different sort of food in our household, and therefore different sort of food is introduced to our child at different age.

Great to have the multi-culture in my life as this allows me to bring up my daughter in a multi-culture eating environment. She enjoys helping me prepare meals and eating them, especially her rice and baked potatoes. I always feel, never stop them from trying the food that they are interested in trying. You just never know. Also, it "educates" them about food and taste. =)
Thanks again.


Michelle Ainley on 13 June 2012 16:27
Thank you! As a mother who will be living in Japan when it is time to start my baby on solids this is very interesting! Have been wondering what I will be recommended by the doctors over here. Thank goodness for the internet and websites like these for me to check what we do as kiwis. Glad I won't be trying to introduce solids in Alaska! Very interesting, thanks!

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