There are various milestones that your baby achieves and every milestone is a very big celebration in a parent’s life. But, the biggest or the more eventful milestone in your child’s life is when he / she starts consuming solid foods. It is a totally different feeling for a parent as this event marks the transition of your baby to the beginning of a way of life which adults follow.
WHO recommends that you exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your child until the age of six months. The baby doesn’t require water also at this time as all the desired nutrition is sufficiently derived from these two sources. It is advised to feed the child every 2 to 3 hours initially and then the feeds can be on demand.
Starting solids at six months is ideal as your baby starts showing readiness to try different types of food items. Breastfeeding or formula milk should be continued as they still remain a major part of your child’s nutrition. This is just an introduction to semi-solids to start developing your baby’s taste buds and to supplement breast milk or formula milk. There are certain signs which you need to look for while introducing semi-solids. They are:
You can feed your baby boiled, mashed or pureed vegetables or fruits, dal water, ragi porridge or any other form of mixed porridge (oats, barley etc). One thing to remember is that when you are pureeing anything always add breast milk or formula to it if you want it in a more liquid consistency. Cow’s milk or any other animal source of milk is a strict no till the child turns one year old. Begin with just one spoon of whatever you are introducing to your baby. Try it out for a few days and then you can increase the quantity to another two to three spoons and maybe you could feed your child twice a day with the new form of food. Always give your child two to three days to get used to it. It is an extremely new thing for the baby and we need to be considerate about it.
Post the 6th month mark, which is from the 8th month to 10 months, you could try offering more variety of food items to your baby. By this time, your baby starts teething as well so you could introduce finger foods like boiled carrot and potato sticks, paneer and unsweetened yogurt, mashed vegetables and fruits, small bits of meat or fish, pulses, iron fortified cereals. Also, by now, your baby should be able to pick up things and transfer them from one hand to another without difficulty and he / she can also make chewing movements.
From the 10th month onwards, in addition to whatever fruits, vegetables and other mini meals that you are giving your child, you could also start a soft boiled egg. Eggs are the highest source of protein and fat and are very beneficial for your baby’s growth and development. Additionally, the fruits and vegetables can now be boiled and cut into cubes instead of mashing them as your baby has more teeth so he / she can easily chew on the food.
This is the time to start introducing proper home cooked meals in small quantities to your child. Grains like rice, whole wheat rotis, dal, vegetables with very less salt, cow’s milk and everything else which isn’t very spicy and has too many flavors can be introduced to your baby. The idea is to get your child used to eating like us adults eventually. You can primarily begin with milk as an important part of your child’s meal. Honey can also be added to fruits and served as a meal.
It is true that once a child starts eating regular food, parents want to provide the best nutrition to their child. But in the course of this, there are some things to keep in mind. Certain food items are not supposed to be given to be a baby before they complete one year.
It is a superfood but, there are chances of it containing a bacteria known as Clostridium Botulinum which can multiply in the baby’s intestine and could cause botulism.
Cow or any other animal source of milk could contain proteins which the baby cannot digest easily.
Spinach, beet and lettuce have mirates which cannot be broken down by the baby’s digestive system even when it is cooked and pureed.
Fish like mackerel, shark, swordfish and tuna contain high levels of mercury in them which could lead to allergic reactions.
A baby needs only less than 1 gram of salt per day. Their kidneys are not developed to process large amounts of salt.
The quantity of food can be your choice and as per your child’s requirement and appetite. Always go slow while starting solids. Do not rush into it as it is a very new experience for your child. Offer one type of food and if your child refuses, wait for around four to five days and offer the same food again. You never know, he might just like it this time. Consult your pediatrician on a regular basis and take tips for infant food ideas. A lot of them have charts or catalogues which has an array of food options. Last but not the least; don’t fret if your baby isn’t eating much initially. They will surely develop a liking or a taste for food and in no time they will be munching away like any one of us.