Japan baby food
Baby Food in Japan • Just One Cookbook
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Japanese children are introduced at an early age to foods such as rice, dashi, tofu, and fish. Learn all about baby food milestones in Japan and what the Japanese feed their very hungry little ones.
Have you wondered what Japanese parents feed their tiny tots? Hint: it’s not 🍣 or 🍤 or 🍜! Then what are some of the first foods that Japanese babies eat?
Hello there, I’m Kayoko. I’m a contributing writer for Just One Cookbook based in Tokyo and a mother to an almost 2-year-old daughter.
Like many new parents, when the time came to start the transition to solid food, I searched high and low for information regarding the bewildering new world of baby food.
My Own Baby Food Experience
You might be reading this because you’re about to start the solid food journey with your baby, and is interested in introducing Japanese food to her/him. Or just a curious reader! You’re not alone, we have received so many requests on Japanese baby food in the past like this:
I have a hungry toddler and I’ve been wondering what babies and children in Japan eat on a day-to-day basis. I adore Japanese food and your homestyle dishes but when I offered them to my child, he wasn’t too thrilled with the new foods.
I’d love to find out more about what Japanese parents feed their children and if I can incorporate some dishes to his meals. Thanks!-L.L. (a JOC reader)
Through my research and findings, I found it fascinating that the information regarding baby food in Japanese and in English (primarily U.S. based) was starkly different. This includes cultural practices, messaging, and the varieties of food offered.
For instance, many baby food sources in the west list avocado, mango, nut butters, and fortified cereals as introductory foods for babies. Baby-led weaning (BLW) is well-known and there are lots of resources about this topic. However, as you’ll soon learn, Japanese babies are fed Japanese foods like rice, tofu, and dashi from an early stage. Most Japanese parents spoon-feed their babies these foods until they are able to use utensils much later.
Although I cannot compare with parents living outside of Japan, I’d like to share my personal experience on introducing solids to my daughter and baby food in Japan. Keep in mind this is just one parent sharing her observations and discoveries, and so I hope you enjoy learning about the different cultural aspects.
💁🏻♀️ Please note that I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or expert in the field of baby food. For those who wish to introduce Japanese foods to your baby/child, please do your own research, vet your sources and consult your pediatricians.
In this post, I’ll cover:
- Japanese Baby Food Guidelines
- Basic Japanese Food Given to Babies
- Japanese Baby Food Stages
- Japanese Foods Not Suitable for Babies
There is a big world full of mothers and fathers out there that feed their babies and children differently. It is impossible to do a fair comparison of baby foods around the world; however, through my research, there are several aspects I found interesting and perhaps unique to Japan.
1. Clear guidelines from the government
Baby food in Japanese is called Rinyushoku (離乳食; literally “food separated from milk,” refers to food given to a baby between 5/6mo to 18mo). In Japan, babies typically begin eating solids after the 5-6 month checkup.
Information regarding Rinyushoku is largely based on the guidelines by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW). It is established by a board of doctors, healthcare providers, and registered dieticians. The guidelines range from the size and softness of the cooked vegetables, the thickness of the rice porridge when certain foods can be given to the baby… it’s quite specific!
For the most part, regardless of what baby food recipe book you pick up, you won’t find conflicting information regarding types of food and the stages given. Because of this consistency, most parents and childcare facilities follow these guidelines (MHLW 2019 info in Japanese).
Other non-MHLW approved baby food practices have slowly gained traction in Japan among some parents and pediatricians. Notably baby-led weaning (BLW), the practice of babies self-feeding finger foods rather than being spoon-fed (I personally did a mix of purees and BLW). There are some books and resources in Japanese, but most babies are spoon-fed initially until they move on to more solid foods and are able to use utensils.
2. Emphasis on introducing Japanese food
Similar to other countries, babies are exposed to the traditional/native cuisine of their culture at an early age to ultimately build an appreciation for their cuisine later in life.The chart shows what type of foods can be consumed at each stage.
In Japan, babies are given rice, tofu, natto, seaweed, dashi, and other Japanese ingredients at an early stage. Parents then gradually incorporate more foods and dishes to a simplified Ichiju Sansai meal around 2 years old.
3. Pressure to make baby food from scratch
Perhaps this is a universal headache felt by parents around the world, but there is tremendous pressure to prepare baby food from scratch! While there is a diverse and affordable selection of ready-made baby foods, most Japanese baby food cookbooks feature labor-intensive recipes of pureeing, straining, mashing, and grinding meats and vegetables by hand.
Many cookbooks emphasize that preparing baby food from scratch is an act of love during a relatively short period of a child’s life. This may be true, but it is quite the hurdle for any parent whether s/he is additionally balancing work or not. In fact, a 2016 poll to Japanese guardians by the MHLW found that 33.5% of responders said that their top concern regarding baby food is preparing it. Talking to friends with children, many said that they struggle to feed their children nutritious, homemade food without overburdening themselves with all the cooking.The chart shows how to feed solid food at different stages.
As for Japanese pre-made baby foods, the food companies must align with the guidelines by the MHLW. They undergo rigorous screening and must label their products according to the appropriate months. These baby foods are available powdered, freeze-dried, retort pouches, and containers for easy prep.
Despite its wide availability, I felt a slight twinge of guilt picking up a few pre-made meals for convenience. There are many cookbooks that help you meal prep for the week. However, I found that a mix of store-bought baby foods and foods prepared from scratch was a healthy balance for both myself and my baby.
4. Resources for baby food
When researching baby food in the U.S., I noticed that there are lots of amazing resources by registered dieticians and feeding specialists. This information is shared on their websites, Instagram accounts, or paid seminars (I personally relied on @feedinglittles, @solidstarts, and @newwaysnutrition).
While these extremely qualified and tech-savvy individuals provide a tremendous amount of quality research-based information, I found it curious that U. S. government agencies weren’t actively promoting their resources on baby food (there are some, as this page by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). It seemed like most parents were off on their own to find reliable information. Of course, as a multicultural and diverse country like the U.S., a blanket guideline that considers all the various food cultures and observances would be near impossible. It makes sense that parents go seek information that suits their family’s and babies’ needs.The chart shows how much food the baby should consume for each stage.
In Japan, it’s a stark contrast with an abundance of books on baby food, most following the MHLW guidelines. Plus, many pediatrician clinics, local municipal offices/wards, and NPOs offer seminars and workshops for new parents (in person or online, and most are free!) to learn more about baby foods.
When my daughter had her 5/6 month checkup at our ward office, the pediatrician gave us a booklet of baby food recipes and directed me to a link to online classes if I was interested. I ended up picking a baby food cookbook at the bookstore and mostly followed along.
So, what do we feed babies in Japan? I’ll be sticking to the 5 months – 18 months period when babies experience their first taste of Rinyushoku. Once the baby graduates from Rinyushoku, the next step is called Youjishoku (幼児食; literally “toddler food,” refers to foods post-Rinyushoku up until around 5 years old).
Babies are exposed to a variety of Japanese and non-Japanese foods through their baby food journey. In this article, I’ll be focusing only on Japanese food.
No price for guessing this right: a Japanese baby’s very first food is white rice. It is our number one staple food after all. Rice is easily digestible, versatile, affordable, and rice allergens are relatively uncommon. Babies are first given a very watery rice porridge called Jubai Gayu (10倍粥; literally “ten times rice porridge,” which is white rice cooked with 10 times the amount of water). Then gradually given less watery porridge over the next several months.
This porridge can be made by adding extra water when cooking rice in the rice cooker. Or microwaving cooked rice with water, then ground up to a somewhat smooth paste. It’s also available in powdered form, which just needs to be reconstituted.
To add some flavor to purees and rice porridge, babies are given small amounts of dashi (Japanese soup stock). Made with water steeped in kombu seaweed and sometimes bonito flakes, dashi is a favored choice over salt, soy sauce, or miso because of its low sodium content. A little bit of dashi adds a boost of taste to the food, especially for babies learning new flavors. It’s also used to thin out purees.
As powdered dashi tends to have additives and a lot of salt, homemade dashi is recommended, whether fish-based, mixed, or vegan (kombu or shiitake). You can also find low sodium dashi packets suitable for babies. Leftover dashi can be frozen in ice cube trays for easy use next time.
Dashi can be given to babies in the early 5-6 month period.
3. Soybean Products (Tofu, Natto, etc)
Tofu, natto, koyadofu, and other soy ingredients such as kinako, soy milk, and yuba (dried tofu skins) are excellent sources of plant-based protein. Silken tofu can easily be crumbled up for easy spoon-feeding. Once the baby is able to eat more solid foods, s/he can transition to firm tofu cut into cubes, which can be picked up with a fork or fingers.
Ground-up koyadofu and kinako can be sprinkled on top of purees, yogurt, and rice porridge. If the powders are mixed into wet foods, they can be served in the early 5-6 month period.
Natto (fermented soybeans) is a Japanese superfood, which provides a good source of probiotics. And yes, it is known for its sticky, slimy texture and pungent smell that many foreigners describe as smelly cheese. Since it requires an acquired taste, the Japanese know it’s best to introduce natto to babies as early as possible. Natto can be served as is or chopped up and snuck into rice porridge or purees. There is also finely chopped natto called Hikiwari Natto (ひき割り納豆), which is available wherever natto is sold.
We leave out the soy sauce-based seasoning and mustard as they are high in sodium. If the smell puts your baby (or you) off, pour hot water over the natto and drain well. That should remove some of that funkiness.
My daughter loves natto from the first day we served it to her and she prefers to eat it as is, which was picking up the beans with her fingers and smearing it all over her face (cue in the eye-rolling and the messy clean up afterward).
For older babies, we also serve fried tofu such as atsuage and aburaage by first draining the oil out with hot water and chopping it into manageable pieces.
4. Japanese Noodles
The Japanese love noodles just as much as rice, so naturally, we start serving wheat-based noodles such as udon and somen noodles to our babies in the early 5-6 month period. For easy digestion, we would cook the noodles until soften and chop them up into tiny pieces.
Dried noodles have salt added to extend their shelf life, so make sure to wash and drain the cooked noodles very well. I personally found somen noodles tricky to serve as the thin noodles clung to everything: the bowl, clothes, hair, basically everywhere! Udon was much more manageable and my daughter was able to pick up the cut noodles with her fingers for BLW.
Soba noodles are made with buckwheat, which is a known food allergen. Just be cautious when serving.
5. Non-Caffeinated Tea
Not a food, but non-caffeinated tea such as mugicha (麦茶; barley tea) is a popular drink often served to babies, usually when they start solids. There are mugicha tea bags and drink packets especially for babies and little children.
Since mugicha is naturally non-caffeinated, normal mugicha packets will also suffice. I always have a pitcher of mugicha in the fridge year-round and would pour a glass for my daughter during mealtimes or pour it into her water bottle whenever we went outside. Of course, tea should never be served as a replacement for breast milk/formula.
Other types of Japanese tea that can be served to babies and children are green tea and hojicha, although make sure to look for non-caffeinated varieties.
The MHLW guidelines divide the baby food stage into 4 sections, starting at the 5-6 month mark until the baby “graduates” at 18 months.
Stage 1: 5-6 MonthsRice porridge, crumbled silken tofu with tomato and komatsuna puree
- Okayu (Jubai gayu 十倍粥)
- Udon or somen noodles, cooked until soft and chopped up into tiny pieces
- Finely crumbled silken tofu
- White fish such as cod, sea bream, or flounder steam cooked, then mashed up and thinned with dashi
- Vegetable purees such as tomato, pumpkin, carrot, daikon, komatsuna, taro root, and napa cabbage
Like in many cultures, the first stage of baby food is all about purees and soft foods. As mentioned above, a baby’s very first food is white rice, which s/he will continue to eat by the spoonful for the first few days. The portions tend to be small and given once a day, as the main source of nutrition still comes from breast milk/formula.
Other purees such as vegetables, cooked white fish, and crumbled silken tofu are commonly fed to babies during this time. Besides rice, starches mashed or finely chopped such as udon and somen noodles cooked very well, white bread, oatmeal, potatoes, and taro root can also be fed.
I initially served rice porridge and the vegetable/protein dish separately but ended up merging the two dishes for a donburi-style meal for easy prep.Packaged Baby Foods for 5-6 Months
Stage 2: 7-8 MonthsRice porridge with chopped natto, cubed silken tofu, and carrot soup
- Okayu (Nanabai gayu, 七倍粥, literally “seven times rice porridge,” rice that’s cooked with 7 times the amount of water) with chopped natto
- Canned tuna flakes mixed with diced cooked vegetables and dashi
- Cubed silken tofu
- Soup made of pureed kabocha and soy milk
The 7-8 month period is characterized by the baby’s ability to chew with her/his gums, close the lips and swallow, and so the foods transition from purees to diced foods. Parents usually start giving the baby two meals a day to start building a routine of mealtime.
As I did a mix of spoon-feeding and BLW, mealtimes were a messy ordeal. But thanks to the constant cleaning after mealtime, our dining table and floor were always (near) spotless!Packaged Baby Foods for 7-8 Months
Stage 3: 9-11 MonthsYaki udon with vegetables and ground meat
- Lightly seasoned and chopped yaki udon
- Egg omelet with steamed fish flakes
- Ground chicken patties with natto and chopped vegetables
- Boiled unsalted edamame chopped up and mixed with yogurt
By this period, babies are able to chew soft foods similar to a ripened banana texture. Parents usually transition their baby to 3 meals a day, where they get most of their daily nutrition from foods instead of breast milk/formula. They may also be more adventurous to eat with a fork, spoon, or hands.
My daughter was a ravenous eater, so we didn’t have any difficulty feeding her 3 times a day, but some of my friends struggled with uninterested babies, and stuck with 2 meals.Packaged Baby Foods for 9-11 Months
Stage 4: 12-18 MonthsOnigiri, miso soup with tofu, omelette with mackerel and bell peppers
- Small onigiri (rice cooked normally) wrapped with nori
- Miso soup (lightly seasoned with miso)
- Tamagoyaki with diced broccoli and onion (no seasoning)
- Kinpira gobo (very well cooked, lightly seasoned and with no chili peppers)
- Spinach ohitashi
By this time, many mothers have stopped breastfeeding/giving formula and are feeding similar foods that the rest of the family is eating, just with less seasoning. The food should be soft enough that it can be crushed with the back of a spoon.
I enjoyed serving our daughter the same food we were eating (added more spice and flavor in our portions) as not only was it so much easier than prepping food just for her, but because she seemed so much more interested in what we were eating and would try to snatch food off our plates. It seemed like she was learning about the communal aspect of eating!Packaged Baby Foods for 12-18 Months
Babies’ immune system is delicate, their teeth and jaws are still developing, and thus they cannot process many foods that older children and adults can eat with ease. Here are some foods that should never be served to babies.
The sticky chewy texture of mochi is a choking hazard and should never be served to babies and young children. Most parents wait until at least 3 years old when the child has grown all of her/his baby teeth and is able to properly chew and swallow food. Mochi is a hazard that there are unfortunate cases of suffocation from eating mochi by young children and the elderly every Japanese New Years. Even if you cut the mochi into tiny pieces, the stickiness can lodge into their tiny throats, so wait until they are older to safely enjoy.
Similarly, mochigome (glutinous rice) and anything made with it (including Sekihan) should be avoided completely.
While brown rice is nutritious compared to white rice, it is highly fibrous and difficult for babies to digest. Even if cooked into rice porridge, the hard hull will remain. Therefore, it’s best to give white rice.
Sashimi and Raw Seafood
Any raw seafood, even sashimi-grade is not suitable for babies. Not only is the texture difficult for babies to chew (think octopus, squid, shrimp, and shellfish), the risk of parasitic infections and food poisoning is not worth the potential rush to the hospital. While the MHLW and other agencies do not give an exact age when raw seafood can be safely consumed, most parents wait around 3-4 years of age.
Sushi with cooked toppings such as boiled shrimp, unagi, and vegetables can be served to toddlers, but babies should skip it entirely.
Shirataki and Konnyaku/konjak
Shirataki noodles and konnyaku/konjac are products made of yam plants. As the texture is rubbery and difficult to chew, they should be avoided during the baby stage, even if cut into manageable pieces.
Seasoned Nori, Tsukudani, and Tsukemono
Seasoned nori, tsukudani, and tsukemono are common rice accompaniments in Japan. However, due to the high sodium content, they should be avoided completely. Unseasoned nori is fine, although it can stick to the roof of the mouth so it should be given with caution. In the early stages, you could serve shredded nori mixed into rice porridge or cooked rice for easy consumption.
I hope this gave you an insight into what Japanese baby food is like. Although I only touched upon one aspect of Japanese baby food, babies here are exposed to lots of non-Japanese foods as well, such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, cheese, and more!
Again, I am not a nutritionist or an expert on baby food, if you do wish to feed your baby Japanese food, please consult your doctor/pediatrician. Ultimately, you as the parent know what’s best for your baby!
In part 2, I will address some of the questions asked by readers that Nami asked on her Instagram a while ago. If you also have questions, please post in the comment box below!
An Overview of Baby Food in Japan
We all love food, so it’s an exciting time when your baby is ready for solids. But if you’re anything like me, there are probably dozens of questions going through your head. What should you feed them first? How should you make it? How will the baby react? What kind of food will they like or dislike? What about allergies?
The answers to these questions become even fuzzier when you’re a foreign mom in Japan, so in this article I’ll give a brief overview of baby food in Japan as well as my experience with introducing solids to my daughter and her food journey. Keep in mind that I am not an authority in any way on this subject so I highly recommend doing your own research as well when it comes to how you want to introduce solids to your baby.
Baby Food Stages in Japan
Baby food in Japanese is called 離乳食（りにゅうしょく/rinyuushoku). In Japan, babies typically begin eating solids from 5 months, which is what we decided to do for our daughter. Of course, we looked for signs that she was ready, such as taking an interest in us eating, having good head control while sitting, and having lost her tongue-thrust reflex.
There are four main baby food stages in Japan:
First Stageゴックン期 or 初期 (しょき/shoki)
This is the initial stage from 5 to 6 months of age and consists of pureed food that’s usually one or two ingredients. It’s usually recommended that babies at this stage start out with about a teaspoon of 10倍がゆ (米がゆ) a day, which is komegayu or rice porridge made using a 10 to 1 water to rice ratio and then blended or strained. After that pureed vegetables, tofu, and fish can be introduced. As babies are still getting most of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula, you don’t need to worry too much about how much they’re eating. Babies are fed about a teaspoon or tablespoon of puree, rice cereal, or porridge only once a day in this stage, usually in the morning. In this stage, as with all of the others, babies should still be given formula or breastmilk after their meal(s).
At 5 months my daughter would only eat if one of us was holding her on our lap and although there were some tears, she generally liked a lot of the food we gave her at this stage, especially the ready-made powdered 米がゆ (rice porridge) we started her out with and だし (she hated carrots, though, just like her father). At 6 months we started giving her rice crackers that were appropriate for her age, but she had some trouble eating until she was 7 months and began to devour her senbei during her afternoon snack time. We only gave her juice, specifically a vegetable and apple juice mix that we watered down, a few times before deciding to stop because although she really liked it, in North America juice is not really recommended for babies until the age of 1 due to the (natural) sugar content and empty calories.
Second Stageモグモグ期 or 中期 (ちゅうき/chuki)
This is the middle stage from 7 to 8 months. The food has a bit more texture but is still soft enough for the baby to mash with their tongue, like tofu, and chew using their gums. Unlike in the West, babies in Japan are usually only fed twice a day at this stage. (Of course, it’s completely up to you and your baby if you want to feed them three times a day.)
The following are approximate recommended serving sizes for babies at this stage according to Japanese books on baby food:
|Rice porridge||50-80 g|
|Fish or Meat||10-15 g|
|Egg yolk||1/3 of a yolk|
I followed recipes to make my daughter’s food so I didn’t worry too much about whether she was getting exactly what’s listed above but I found that the recipes usually incorporated the recommended amounts. I know some moms in Japan weigh the food and keep track of how many grams of what their baby ate but I didn’t do that at this stage and I still don’t. I did try to balance her daily meals in terms of providing a starch, fruits/veggies and some sort of protein; however, she didn’t have much of an appetite so I didn’t force her to finish her food. If she turned away or cried when I was feeding her, then she was done and that was fine.
Food in Japan for an 8 month old baby. 🌸chicken and carrot on rice (にんじんと鶏ささみのあんかけ丼) 🌸apple sauce 🌸Japanese pumpkin and tofu oyaki (カボシャーと豆腐お焼き)
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By this stage she was happily sitting in her Ingenuity Baby Base chair and starting to feed herself (kind of, we put the food in the spoon, put it in the bowl and she grabbed it and fed herself). She started eating little finger foods on her own despite not having any teeth until right before she turned 9 months. We introduced 麦茶 (むぎちゃ/barley tea) to her at the behest of her daycare. This was also the time that her likes and dislikes became quite pronounced. She did not like vegetables, in particular tomatoes, but interestingly she began to tolerate carrots. She loved her morning oatmeal, though, especially with bananas, as well as her strawberry-banana “popsicle” for dessert that I made using a frozen NatureBond fruit feeder, and like her father she would readily eat meat and rice.
Strawberry and banana oatmeal
Strawberry and banana “popsicle” using the NatureBond fruit feeder
If you’re looking for a Japanese recipe for your baby at this stage, you may want to check out this recipe for miso soup on my blog (this recipe can also be altered for toddlers).
Third/Final Stageカミカミ期 or 後期 (こうき/kouki)
The third stage is from 9 to 11 months and is considered the final stage before babies turn one. Babies are fed three times a day at this stage and can eat food as hard as a piece of banana, which they chew with their gums or their new little teeth. They are also starting to feed themselves at this stage.
Chicken cream doria and spinach, apple and yogurt puree
Recommended food servings per meal
|Rice porridge||90 g|
|Fish or Meat||15 g|
|Egg yolk||1/2 of a yolk|
Making lunches on top of everything when I was working from home was a challenge at times, especially since she liked to take a nap right before lunchtime and woke up HANGRY.
I’m not sure if it’s because she started daycare about this time but my daughter soon stopped enjoying food at home so much and became quite fussy during mealtime. She also pretty much stopped eating meat so we had to start being creative in trying to find out ways to get protein into her, such as cutting meat into really tiny pieces and mixing it in a dish she liked… And then she would spit it out. Thankfully, she still quite enjoyed tofu, particularly in miso soup, so that was a common side dish for her, as well as tuna.
Whitefish and Japanese mustard spinach（小松菜）udon for lunch
Despite Baby A having become a pickier eater at this stage, making meals at this stage was a lot more fun, though, since she was pretty much eating adult food in smaller portions and without the sugar or salt.
I should also note that although it’s recommended that children start having cow’s milk in the following stage, パクパク期, my daughter’s daycare asked that she start having milk instead of formula during meals. (We continued to give her a bottle of formula before bed, however.)
This stage is from 1 to 1.5 years of age when babies officially become toddlers. Toddlers can eat food as hard as small meatballs and start to get a lot of their nutrition primarily from solid food. From this stage, they no longer need to have formula or breastmilk with every meal and start to transition to whole cow’s milk.
パパごはん This dinner was made by Baby A’s father. She loves his cooking because having been born and raised in Japan, he has far more experience making Japanese food than me. 🌸miso soup 味噌汁 🌸okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) お好み焼き 🌸saba (mackerel) Hamburg 鯖のハンバーグ 🌸 fried rice 炒飯
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As mentioned earlier, my daughter was already drinking cow’s milk when she entered this stage and will easily down two to three cups in the morning (she chants, “にゅう、にゅう!” which is her attempt to say 牛乳 (gyuunyuu or milk). She remains a fussy eater but started to surprise me by eating things like my oatmeal and toast with honey. (I think my daughter’s motto is that food tastes better if it’s not yours.) I also started to make small bits of everything so that she would eat something. Her favorite foods are undeniably soup and rice, as well as banana and kabocha.
For the first time in ages, my daughter ate everything we gave her for dinner! 🥳 I’m so glad she liked the kabocha gyoza, which she had for the first time. It was also super easy to make!
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I am worried about her not getting enough nutrition because we still struggle to get her to eat meat (although she likes wagyu shabu-shabu, because of course we ended up with a gourmet child) but according to her daycare teachers and her pediatrician, she’s doing fine.
Recommended food servings per meal
|Rice porridge||~90 g|
|Steamed ramen (中華蒸しめん）||55-70 g|
|Fish or Meat||15-20 g|
|Egg yolk||1/2 to 2/3 of a yolk|
When to Introduce What
There’s a lot of conflicting information about when to introduce certain foods to babies, such as between Japan and the West. For instance, avocado, bread, mango, and blueberry are generally not recommended as introductory foods for babies in Japan; however, I’ve found differences in okay-food versus not even among Japanese books and apps. It can be confusing but as your child’s mother, you know what’s best for them. Trust your instinct and if there’s a common theme in both countries when it comes to something you should not give your child (like honey), don’t.
Allergies are pretty scary so it’s important to introduce new food gradually starting with very small portions and look for signs that your baby may be allergic, which include redness around their mouth, rashes, swelling (face, tongue, or lips), diarrhea, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.
In Japan, common allergens include:
- milk products
- sesame seeds
- certain fruits like peaches
I don’t want to say too much about allergens because my daughter hasn’t experienced any allergic reactions to food thus far and I am also not an expert in any form so I don’t want to misguide parents. Please take the time to do your own research and consult with your child’s pediatrician if there’s anything you’re unsure about. If your child is having a mild allergic reaction after eating something, such as a rash, take them to their pediatrician. However, if it’s serious (excessive vomiting, difficulty breathing), call 119 immediately for emergency services.
Ready-Made Baby Food in Japan
Bread topped with fish and veggie cream sauce
Although the taste isn’t always quite there, instant baby foods are great for busy working parents, for trips, for emergencies, and when you’re just exhausted and want to prepare something quick and easy.
If you want to know more about Japanese snacks, like senbei, that you can start giving your baby from 6 months and up, then check out this article all about baby and toddler snacks in Japan.
You can also get powders and purees from grocery stores and baby stores in Japan, as well as online grocery delivery services like Oisix.
手作り Homemade Baby Food in Japan
Homemade Japanese baby food for my 8 month old. 🌸yogurt and kinako (roasted soybean flour) 🌸Udon with carrot and onions 🌸edamame and sweet potato cakes
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I prefer making my own baby food when I can. The taste is completely different, I feel better about knowing exactly what I’m giving my baby, and it’s much cheaper. However, if ready-made baby food works best for you and your baby, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I know I will have days when it’s just easier to use something ready-made or we will be out traveling and that’s the best option, and Baby A has no complaints.
I initially bought a small set by Combi, pictured below, to make baby food because as a first-time mom, I had no idea what I was doing. This set has various graters to cut your baby’s food to a size appropriate for their age, which I really liked, and is small so it doesn’t take up that much room.
The Combi set wonderful if you want to prepare a bit of fresh baby food on the spot (although at the 初期 stage, mashing the food with a fork would work just fine) but not that ideal if you want to make big batches of baby food to freeze. Instead, I found a hand blender that I already had was perfect for pureeing steamed vegetables. A baby food cutter or scissors are also good to have on hand to cut noodles, meat, or vegetables for your baby into smaller pieces right in the bowl or plate.
Tofu before and after using the Combi strainer
For the 中期 stage where food is harder with more texture, I used either the aforementioned Combi set, a mini food processor (I used a T-Fal one that I already had but you can get a compact manual one for 300 yen from Daiso), or just a good, sharp knife to dice food. I actually liked using the Combi set the best when it came to harder vegetables and fruits like carrots and apples because everything was uniform but it also took ages to prepare a big batch.
How to Make Komegayu (Japanese Rice Porridge) for Babies
One of the most important staples I made and then froze for Baby A was 米がゆ (komegayu or rice porridge). This is prepared with different water to rice ratios depending on your baby’s solid food stage and how you will prepare the porridge. (Note that these are not set in stone — if your baby seems like they’re ready for less strained or harder rice, then by all means go for it! My daughter was eating the same rice as us by the time she was 11 months.)
|Stage||Uncooked Rice||Cooked Rice|
|初期||10 to 1||4 to 1|
|中期||7 to 1||3 to 1|
|後期||5 to 1||5 to 1|
|パクパク期||2 to 1||1 to 1|
There are different ways to make this and it’s especially easy if you have a rice cooker that already has an おかゆ mode. Mine did not so I simply soaked the uncooked rice in water for 30 minutes before turning on the rice cooker. You can also cook the rice as you usually do for yourself and then cook it in a pot on the stove afterward with the appropriate amount of water on low heat for about twenty minutes. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot, and then let it sit for ten more minutes. 米がゆ for babies that are in the 初期 stage should be blended or strained. If you decide to freeze your 米がゆ and it seems chunky or dry after you warm it up, just add a bit of hot water and stir before giving it to your baby.
For those of you that are just starting out, here’s a helpful video by MAMA DAYS on how to make 初期 (first stage or 5-6 months) 米がゆ.
To save time, I prepare batches of baby food and then freeze it. Afterward, all I need to do is pop a cube in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up. Easy-peasy. Frozen baby food will also last for about three months, which makes life a lot easier.
I tried freezing purees using a normal ice cube tray at first as well as one specifically made for freezing baby food from the 100 yen store but it was a struggle involving lots of banging to get the cubes out. This is why I decided to invest in two different baby food freezer trays, リッチェル Richell 調理用品 わけわけフリージング ブロックトレー and Edison mama 使う分だけ簡単に取り出せる, partially to see which one would be easier to use and also because they came in different sizes (25 ml and 15 ml, respectively). Both were pretty easy to use and the frozen baby food cube popped out with ease.
The 100 yen baby food freezer tray from Seria. Dirt cheap but not worth it!
I found the Richell one to be the best, though, because you can just press down on the corner of a frozen cube and it’ll pop out right away. It also closes more securely, is light, and very cheap since you get two trays in one package. I tend to take out the cubes all at once and then keep them in the freezer in a freezer bag to save space and so that I can use the trays again when I need to prep other food.
Red bell pepper, onion and broccoli frozen in the 15 ml Edison mama tray
Rice porridge that was frozen in the 25 ml Richell tray
Keep in mind that some foods freeze better than others. One book I referred to called The Big Book of Organic Baby Food recommended freezing tofu. Big mistake. Tofu just does not freeze well and becomes quite chewy.
So what freezes well and what doesn’t? I found this list online to be the most accurate in terms of my experience.
One very easy way to get single-ingredient frozen baby food without having to make it is to use C0-0p Deli. The cost is very reasonable, especially since you don’t have to go through the trouble of washing, steaming, pureeing and freezing. You’ll also get some freebies when you sign up, like milk and bread, as well as some baby food on your little one’s half- and first birthdays. You can read all about Co-op Deli and their baby-friendly food here.
Helpful Feeding Supplies for Babies in Japan
There’s a lot of gear available at baby stores for feeding your baby, some useful and some you could do without:
High chair or booster seat
During a Babies R Us Black Friday sale, we snagged an Ingenuity Baby Base chair for half-off and couldn’t be happier with our decision. It’s very easy to use and clean as there is no fabric to wash, all you do is wipe it down after meals. It’s also versatile and you can continue using it as a booster seat when your baby becomes a toddler. Japanese homes also don’t have much room so having something that you can strap to a chair at the kitchen table is a space-saver in comparison to buying a high chair.
I read that it’s helpful to practice having the baby sit in the chair for a bit before feeding them solid food, and my daughter seemed fine during those trial runs. However, when it came time to feed her solids, she hated sitting in the chair for whatever reason. After about a month, though, she was perfectly fine and hasn’t had problems since.
Bowl and cutlery sets
We got a set by リッチェル Richell, which has been so useful in terms of spoons that Baby A doesn’t hate and microwave-safe bowls. I use this set every day. I tried a few different spoons from brands like Pigeon or Sophie’s Giraffe (the cute factor got me) but silicone Richell ones with plastic handles were the easiest for her to eat from and to hold when she just started to attempt to feed herself. This set also comes with a cooling pack that you can put the bowls into if the food is too hot. When my daughter turned nine months and her portions increased, I started to use a bowl from Afternoon Tea as well as small bowls and plates that I already had around the house. I still used the Richell bowls, though, to heat up frozen baby food.
I also invested in this lovely plate set by the brand 10mois. These cute plates are durable, having survived multiple washes in the dishwasher and being flung to the ground by my daughter; microwave-safe; composed of biomass plastics, such as bamboo; and best of all, look absolutely adorable. The utensils that come with this set are also very easy to use.
We also got the matching silicon placemat, which has helped immensely with messes as it catches food that otherwise would have fallen on the baby or the floor. Keep in mind, though, that your child might find it fun to peel the mat off the table (our daughter usually stops after a few warnings).
I would also recommend getting this spoon and fork set from Richell, which is really ergonomic for babies learning how to feed themselves.
Sippy cups/Straw cups
Sippy cups or straw cups are essential when it comes to weaning your baby off the breast or bottle. There are a lot out there and I imagine different babies have different preferences. We only tried one, which was a Richell sippy cup, and we liked it so much that we ended up buying another one. This Richell sippy cup comes with three different valve/straw attachments for each stage (5, 7 and 8 months). Although she protested at first, by 7 months Baby A was able to drink from it very easily and hold it herself. It’s also very easy to clean and leak-proof, not to mention comes in adorable designs.
Baby food freezer trays
As mentioned earlier, 100 yen store ice cube trays aren’t bad but if you’re planning on freezing baby food, make your life easier by buying one specifically for baby food (like リッチェル Richell, pictured above, or Edison mama).
I tried both soft and hard plastic/silicone bibs and found the latter to be the easiest to clean. I got one hard plastic bib for Baby A from Babies R Us for 100 yen during their Black Friday sale but I also couldn’t help but to also splurge on not one but two BabyBjorn ones because they are not only incredibly cute (little pearls always get me) but also durable and wide. Soft plastic bibs (apron bibs) do have their merits, though, as they are compact and easy to tuck away or take with you when you go out with your baby. These bibs are also good if your baby likes to knock their hard plastic bib around as a friend of mine experienced with her child. When your baby is a bit older and they’re ready to try to start feeding themselves (and you’re ready for the inevitable mess), you may want to invest in a bib with long sleeves so that their clothes don’t get completely ruined.
These are great for feeding babies fruits, whether fresh or frozen. I got one from a brand called NatureBond and have been quite happy with it so far. The box comes with two feeders that have three different sizes of silicone teats each, which you can fill with whatever fruit you think your baby will like. Baby A likes strawberry and banana, so I stick those inside and then freeze it so it’s like a popsicle (I put the feeder inside of a freezer bag to prevent freezer burn). As she’s teething, I think she likes the cool sensation on her gums. It’s also very easy for her to hold and feed herself.
Babies are toddlers are messy when they eat, especially when exploring their food and learning how to feed themselves. This is why it’s essential to have newspapers or flyers on hand to put on the floor and then throw away so that you have less to clean after a meal. You can also get something reusable like a picnic mat and just wipe it down but I just don’t have time for that and since I was getting a bunch of flyers from CO-OP anyway, I decided to put them to use. It was an excellent decision.
Okay, this is partially a joke but I think it’s useful to have something on hand to block bits of food from hitting you in the face if your baby likes to blow raspberries with a mouthful of food or just use the spoon to fling their meal at you 🙂 I use a small plastic cutting board or a magazine I don’t care about anymore but if you have any suggestions, let me know by commenting below!
There are a lot of books on baby food and I started my baby food journey with one Japanese book, one English book, and one app.
I bought the Japanese book,フリージング離乳食, after looking through it briefly at a bookstore because I felt like it was the easiest to follow with lots of illustrations (I’m a visual learner). I wasn’t a fan of the freezing methods listed in the book; however, I liked that it had recipes for each stage that used similar ingredients. This way I could freeze a few things in advance and then make various recipes for my daughter throughout the week. The book also has a lot of helpful information about each stage, allergens, and addresses some common questions and concerns parents may have when it comes to feeding their baby solid food. One thing to note, though, is that the book only provides recipes for one meal a day, which I’m not a fan of now that my daughter is in the 後期 stage and needs to be fed three times a day.
The English book, The Big Book of Organic Baby Food, was a recommendation from moms in my July 2019 Bumper group. As the book is written by a registered dietician, it has a lot of useful information about nutrition and great to refer to when my daughter was starting out with simple purees. However, I didn’t find myself making anything for the 6-8 month combination puree stage. However, I have tried out a few recipes for 9 months and up and there’s also some that I’m eying for when Baby A is older, particularly the family meals. I like how healthy the food is but the main problem with this book is that it’s hard to get some of the ingredients easily at a typical grocery store in Japan, like artichokes, kale, or fruits if they’re out of season.
My favorite resource thus far has been the ninaru ステップ離乳食 app because I can easily look up recipes based on an ingredient I want to use. I go into more detail about this app in my post on helpful Japanese baby apps for parents so if you’re interested, please check it out!
Since then, I have started using another recipe book called はじめてママ&パパの すくすく幼児食 by Babymo. This book is packed with recipes that you can use from when your child is one all the way to age five! It also addresses common eating issues like not liking a particular food such as meat and what kind of meals to make that might help overcome a fussy eating stage. Best of all, you can get this book for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. There’s also a 離乳食 recipe book by Babymo for babies who are just starting out eating solids.
Overall, I prefer using Japanese recipes over Western ones as the ingredients are easily available and I was able to get my daughter accustomed to food that she would eventually need to eat in daycare.
I hope this guide has been useful and please let me know your thoughts or if there’s anything else you would like to see in this article or upcoming ones.
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Baby food in Japan - melon_panda — LiveJournal
Probably, many have lost me a little! In fact, for the first time in a very long time, I had no desire, and then no strength to open my own magazine. I don’t want to go into details, besides, I somehow become limp and aspire when they pity me massively :D but in general, the whole family was ill with a variety of infernal acute respiratory infections, infected a child, ended up in a hospital, from which today with a happy whoop escaped. I haven’t been sick like this for a very long time, and we all felt very bad, but we hold on and don’t lose our fighting spirit, especially since everyone is already practically healthy, and besides that, in general, we don’t care. So forgive everyone who lost me, I'm back on the air and start reading all the 170+ letters that are patiently waiting for me.
Looking at Katya's exotic hospital food today, I decided to stop postponing and write about baby food in Japan.
Both breastfeeding and breastfeeding in Japan are treated lightly and condescendingly - as long as it eats. As for the “nursing mother’s diet”, all recommendations come down to limiting heavy and fatty European food and eating more black foods (algae, shiitake, prunes, black sesame) to improve lactation. As for feeding babies, they start it a little differently than in Russia. The earliest food starts at 5 months, and this is, firstly, okay rice porridge made from boiled soft rice (of course, without salt). In Japan, there is no concept of "baby porridge", there is only rice. And no one, of course, says that it causes constipation (it is checked - it does not happen). If you are guided by factory, not homemade food, then at this age they still give pumpkin, diluted apple juice and a mixture of vegetables, as well as mashed fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, corn and peppers. From 7-8 months - complete expanse: white fish from 6 months and chicken livers from 7, mushroom soup, and also from six months - Japanese dashi broth (which is cooked from kombu seaweed and several types of dried fish).
Here is an example of dry semi-finished food from 7 months - udon with various traditional broth and vegetable additives.
I also saw something called "white sauce" for sale, and of course children's yoghurts and fruit and vegetable juice. Instead of our children's cookies - sembei rice cookies. In general, compared to our zucchini and broccoli, it’s somewhat politically incorrect :))) Very early, from 7-8 months they offer children udon wheat noodles, but in general, in general, the approach to baby food as an adult, the same dishes - curry (English type ), spaghetti, ankake (a tofu dish thickened with starch), various rice dishes, only in a simplified version. In fact, Japanese cuisine is quite suitable for feeding the sick and children, it is enough to remove from it or reduce elements with an intense taste - soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, fatty meat and fatty fish - everything else is more than dietary, especially when you consider that most dishes in Japanese cuisine are boiled and poached.
And one more interesting fact - in Japan there are few fruit juices for children, perhaps because fruits are not a priority at all and due to the high sugar content they are considered a dessert, pampering (in the pyramid of a healthy balanced diet there is a norm something like half an apple a day) while we try to eat fruit as much as possible. But from 3 months, children are given isotonic water (like sports water with salts) and weak hojicha tea (fried).
Here are examples of what Japanese women feed their babies
5 months: white vegetables with rice
6 months: rice porridge, boiled gourd, miso soup
7 months: rice porridge, daikon tofu, tomato with yogurt
noodles vegetables with rice
8 months: something like risotto with cheese and tomatoes
At first I bought Katya food - rice and vegetables - in the form of flakes, which dissolve easily in hot water. Compared to Japanese, Russian baby cereals, like everything else, look very monumental)))
I'm already quite used to tiny packages for one tooth, and it seems to me that one-time bags are more convenient and hygienic than a giant bag of porridge, which you don’t know when you will run out ... We didn’t get canned food - there is no guarantee that the child will like it , and buying a jar to eat one spoon out of it and throw it away, and so five times in a row, does not make much sense. In general, as far as I understand, Japanese women mostly prepare children's food themselves - the quality of vegetables, fruits and meat is stable all year round, and it is easy to cook all this. The only thing is - there is no turkey and buckwheat, but the Japanese, I think, do not suffer about this, because they simply do not know what they are deprived of in life :D
For older children, food is sold in the form of pre-cooked meals in soft packs, Frizz Dry, but I think this is a camping option. Serving a child a fully canned meal while the family is munching on a freshly prepared dinner is kind of a no-brainer!
I am little surprised, but the hospital diet for children amazed me) 7 months ago I showed what they fed me in a Japanese maternity hospital, it was a modest homemade Japanese cuisine (rice and miso soup 3 times a day, poached vegetables, a minimum amount of meat and fish). As food for the little ones in the same hospital, dashi was brought to us, sometimes with a tiny amount of miso - such a light miso soup in the end on water or vegetable broth, of course it was not as salty as adult miso soup, and also boiled to complete homogeneity of rice porridge, or rather even rice paste.