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Banana For Babies: When To Introduce, Benefits And Recipes

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Banana is a carbohydrate-rich, all-season fruit with several varieties available in different sizes and colors (1). It is common for parents to feed ripe bananas to babies due to the fruit’s sweet taste, soft texture, and easy digestibility. Besides, they offer essential nutrients and bioactive compounds that could provide health benefits in the long run.

First-time parents may be apprehensive about feeding a banana since it may cause constipation in sensitive babies.

This post tells you about the right time to feed banana to babies, its nutritional value, possible benefits for babies, and some healthy banana recipes to try.

When To Introduce Banana To Babies?

Babies can consume ripe bananas as part of a balanced diet from the age of six months (2). You can introduce bananas as a lump-free puree or mash (3). As the baby grows older, you can add bananas to other foods, such as porridge.

Babies from nine months of age can consume thinly sliced bananas as snacks. Once the baby turns a year old, you can feed banana bread, banana pancake, and baked banana chips made with banana flour. Banana flour can also be used as a thickener in stews, smoothies, shakes, and soups.

Nutritional Value Of A Banana

Bananas contain significant amounts of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, bioactive phytochemicals, and certain micronutrients.

The nutritional value of bananas can vary depending on its variety. An average ripe banana (115g) provides the following nutrients to the baby (4) (5)(6) (7).

            NutrientsAmountRDA (7-12months)
          Water86.6g
          Energy112Kcal
      Carbohydrate, by difference26.4g
      Fiber, total dietary1.96g
          Calcium, Ca5.75mg270mg
          Magnesium, Mg32.2mg60mg
          Phosphorus, P25.3mg        275mg (AI*)
          Potassium, K375mg700mg
          Vitamin C14.1mg35mg
          Folate16.1µg      80µg (AI*)

*AI = Adequate intake – nutrient level assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, World Health Organization and Oregon State University

Many people confuse plantain with banana due to their similar appearance. However, their culinary uses are different due to their taste and texture. Plantains, also known as cooking bananas, are tougher and starchier, and thus, shouldn’t be fed raw to babies. They are best to feed after cooking, baking, roasting, or grilling.

Possible Health Benefits Of Banana For Babies

Adding bananas to your baby’s well-balanced weaning diet could provide the following benefits (8) (9).

  1. Provide essential nutrients: Ripe bananas are rich in carbohydrates that could meet a baby’s energy needs. It also contains folate and potassium, which are important for the overall healthy growth of the body.
  1. Support digestive health: Bananas are rich in fiber, which can be good for the digestive system in the long run. The soft pulp of a ripe banana is almost 75% water, making it easy-to-digest and gentle on the baby’s stomach.
  1. Promote bone health: Bananas contain fair amounts of calcium and phosphorus. These nutrients could contribute to your baby’s bone growth and development in the long run.
  1. Boost immunity: Bananas have small amounts of vitamin C and bioactive compounds, such as carotenoids, which have antioxidant effects. These compounds could play a role in supporting immune health. Research shows that banana lectin, a protein found in bananas, may act as an immunomodulator, thus benefitting the immune system and improving immunity (10) (11).

In addition to macro and micronutrients, bananas contain carotenoids, biogenic amines, and phytosterols that benefit health in the long run. Also, banana’s oral and topical use in traditional medicine is prevalent to treat heartburn, mosquito bites, and ulcers (12).

Precautions To Take While Feeding Banana To Babies

Below are some precautions to follow while feeding bananas to babies across ages.

  1. Prefer feeding ripe bananas as they are easy-to-digest and more palatable than an unripe green banana.
  1. If you buy raw bananas (unripe green bananas), store them until they ripen and turn yellow at room temperature. If you wish to ripen them fast, store them in a paper bag with a ripe apple.
  1. Add breast milk or formula milk to banana mash and puree to ensure babies can swallow them easily.
  1. Prepare baby food with well-mashed ripe bananas to avoid lumps that can be a potential choking hazard.
  1. Do not worry if a banana turns brown a couple of minutes after peeling, chopping, or pureeing. It happens due to the oxidation of polyphenols in bananas, a process known as enzymatic browning (13).
  1. Introduce banana mash or puree without adding any other food. Follow a “three-day wait” rule and do not feed new food during this period. It could help identify intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy caused by bananas.
  1. Begin by feeding a teaspoon in a meal and gradually increase the intake to a tablespoon and then two.
  1. Keep the intake moderate as bananas can fill your little one’s tummy, curbing their appetite for breast milk or formula milk and other foods.
  1. If the baby looks uncomfortable, cries, or behaves cranky after ingesting banana, discontinue feeding, and try after some time.
  1. Feeding bananas at night time in winters isn’t advisable in alternative medicine, such as Ayurveda. Bananas may increase mucus formation and worsen cold and cough.
  1. True banana allergy is rare but possible. Usually, banana allergy happens due to cross-reactivity with tree pollens and latex. The symptoms of cross-reactivity with tree pollen are itching and inflammation in the mouth and throat, known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS).
  1. Cross-reactivity of banana with latex can cause symptoms such as hives, abdominal pain, and vomiting. It is known as the latex-fruit syndrome (14). If the baby has a family history of allergies, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician before feeding bananas to babies.

Healthy Banana Recipes For Babies

Here are some healthy and delectable banana recipes that you can feed your baby and toddlers.

1. Banana and apple puree (6 months)

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You will need:

  • ½ banana (peeled)
  • ½ apple (peeled and steamed)
  • ¼ tsp jaggery powder (optional)

How to prepare:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mash banana and apple into a lump-free, smooth paste using a fork.
  2. Add some breast milk or formula to adjust consistency. If the puree looks chunky, use a blender or grinder to smoothen the puree.
  3. Pour the puree into a small bowl and add jaggery powder to enhance the taste and nutritional value. Feed as a healthy breakfast or midday meal.
  4. You can add this puree to porridge to make the porridge nutritionally wholesome.

2. Baby banana Cerelac (6 months)

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You will need:

  • 3tbsp homemade Cerelac
  • ½ banana (peeled and mashed)
  • 1tsp raisin puree
  • 1 cup water

How to prepare:

  1. In a mixing bowl, mix homemade Cerelac, raisins puree, and water to form a smooth, lump-free mixture.
  2. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook for ten minutes on low flame, until the cereal begins to thicken. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.
  3. Add mashed banana to the mixture and ensure no lumps are present. The Cerelac is ready to feed.
  4. You can add various seasonal fruits and vegetables to this recipe for preparing sweet or savory Cerelac dishes for babies.

3. Banana and yogurt mix (8 months)

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

How to prepare:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well to form a lump-free, smooth mixture.
  2. Pour into a serving bowl and feed immediately.
  3. You can add cooked rice or quinoa to this recipe for babies older than eight months.

4. Ragi and banana porridge (10 months)

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You will need:

  • 2tbsp ragi flour
  • ½ banana (peeled and mashed)
  • 1tsp date puree
  • 1tsp dry fruit powder

How to prepare:

  1. Mix ragi flour and a cup of water in a mixing bowl to prepare a smooth-flowing mixture.
  2. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring it to boil over low heat.
  3. As the mixture begins to thicken, add dry fruit powder and date puree. Mix everything well, and ensure no lumps are present.
  4. Turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside to let the mixture cool.
  5. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl, add mashed banana, and feed immediately.
  6. You can add other seasonal fruits to this recipe for additional flavor and enhanced nutritional value.

5. Banana custard (12 months)

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You will need:

  • 1 banana (peeled and pureed)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1tbsp custard powder
  • 1tbsp raisin puree
  • 1tbsp dry fruit powder
  • Pinch of cinnamon

How to prepare:

  1. Mix custard powder, raisin puree, and one-fourth cup of whole milk in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. Pour the remaining milk into a saucepan and bring it to boil over medium heat.
  3. Once the milk begins to boil, lower the heat, and let the milk simmer for five minutes.
  4. Add custard powder mix and dry fruit powder to the milk slowly, while stirring continuously.
  5. Let the mixture boil until it thickens. Stir occasionally and turn off the flame once you get the desired consistency.
  6. Set the saucepan aside to let the custard cool. Add banana puree and cinnamon and refrigerate the custard mixture for 20 minutes before serving.

6. Banana cookies (12 months)

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 cup rolled oats powder
  • 1 cup banana puree
  • 2tbsp almonds and walnuts (finely chopped)
  • 2tbsp jaggery powder
  • ½tsp cinnamon powder

How to prepare:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176.6°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl to form a batter.
  3. Scoop the batter using a spoon and put it onto the parchment paper. Flatten the batter with the spoon to give it a cookie’s shape.
  4. Put the cookie tray in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until the cookies turn brown.
  5. Take the cookie tray out of the oven and put it on the wire rack to cool.
  6. Serve one or two cookies with a cup of warm milk and store the remaining in an airtight container. Refrigerate the cookies and use them within two weeks.

Banana is a sweet-tasting, nutrient-rich fruit that can be a healthy addition to a baby’s weaning diet. Once the baby is comfortable with the taste and digestion, you can add it to different sweet and savory recipes. Consuming bananas as a part of a well-balanced diet can offer several benefits to babies over time.

References:

1. Banana facts and figures; FAO
2. Do’s and Don’ts for Baby’s First Foods; Eat Right; Academy of Nutrition And Dietetics
3. Starting Solid Foods; American Academy of Pedaitrics
4. Bananas, ripe and slightly ripe, raw; Fooddata Central; USDA
5. Feeding and nutrition of infants and young children; WHO
6. Phosphorus; Oregon State University
7. Folate; Oregon State University
8. Balwinder Singh et al., Bioactive compounds in banana and their associated health benefits – A review; NCBI
9. Bananas; Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
10. Ana Claudia Miranda Brito Sansone et al., Oral administration of banana lectin modulates cytokine profile and abundance of T-cell populations in mice; NCBI
11. Senjam Sunil Singh et al., Banana Lectin: A Brief Review; NCBI
12. K. P. Sampath Kumar et al.; Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Banana; Researchgate
13. H.E. Molme et al.; Prevention Of Browning Of Banana Slices Using Natural Products And Their Derivatives; Online Wiley
14. Allergy information for: Banana (Musa acuminata; Musa balbisiana(hybrid)); University of Manchester