With a new baby and infinite unsolicited advice, mothers are overwhelmed about what and when to feed their babies. This article has you covered and provides all the information you need about introducing solids to baby the traditional way i.e. starting with thin purees and helping babies gradually make their way up the food ladder.
When to Start – The Right Age for Weaning
Once a baby turns 6 months, only then is the right age to start the baby on solids and not before that. Till 6 months, breast or formula milk is enough to meet all the nutritional requirements of the baby. If started on solids before that age, the baby’s young digestive system will be taxed with unnecessary nutrients that he will neither be able to break down and process nor will it be any good for making him a good eater. In addition to increasing the likelihood of causing diarrhea at the least, it can also put the baby at risk of obesity later in life and the kid is very likely to be a fussy eater. These guidelines are in accordance with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatricians.
In addition to waiting for the 6 month mark before starting, also look for signs of readiness. They can include but are not limited to:
-> Proper neck holding
-> Showing interest in food
-> Making chewing motions on seeing you eat or trying to grab
What to Give – Wonderful First Foods
Here is a list of nutritious items that you can choose from as your baby’s first food:
-> Mashed banana
-> Boiled/steamed/baked and mashed sweet potato
-> Mashed avocado
-> Unsweetened, homemade cereal (rice or oat)
-> Boiled/steamed/baked and mashed butternut squash
-> Boiled/steamed/baked and mashed carrots
Once your baby has started with any of these, you can choose more from the list below to try one at a time between 6-8 months:
-> Zucchini Squash
-> Green Beans
-> Organic Chicken/Mutton Broth
-> White Tapioca Pearls Pudding (Sagudana)
How to Give – The Guidelines
Here are a few basic rules to be followed for baby food:
-> No honey before 1 year
-> No salt/sugar before 1 year
-> No wheat or derivatives (bread or semolina/sooji) before 8 months
-> No egg white before 1 year
-> No raw/half cooked egg yolk
As already mentioned that till 1 year, the main source of nutrition should be milk and food is just for fun so be sure not to try filling up the baby’s tummy with food. For the first day, just make the baby lick whichever runny puree you are offering or give just a baby spoon and wait for 24 hours to see if there is a reaction. Offer the same food for at least 4 days, only once a day, 1-2 spoons preferably in the morning so that you have the time and opportunity to rush to the hospital if need be.
Introduce another food after a week or at least 4 days later and similarly wait to see if there is a reaction. Your sole purpose before 1 is to introduce as many flavors and textures as possible hence when you are done offering all safe foods once, keep a schedule and ensure to offer a different item every single day. This not only keeps them from getting bored but also enables their taste buds to be adventurous and accept anything and everything.
8 Months and Beyond
Gradually increase the portion size and around 8 months, you can start offering food twice a day, again not filling the baby’s tummy fully and also not cutting down on their milk intake. Here is a sample meal plan that I was roughly following when my son was around 9 months with the idea of giving at least one fruit/vegetable and one grain meal:
Some more items make their way into the safe foods list after 8 months and around 10 months, you can start offering 3 meals a day and then gradually add a snack or two. Between 8-10 months you can also start handing over finger foods under supervision depending on the baby’s level of readiness and expertise in nibbling and swallowing. Be sure to offer a fruit or vegetable every single day. They are the most nutritious options you have. Here is a random week from when my son was 11 months old:
At one year of age, the baby should be able to eat table food and for most kids, it is irrespective of the number of teeth they have cut. Babies don’t need teeth to chew food, they can do that very well with their gums only so encourage them and offer everything you eat provided it is not too spicy. Once they cross the one year mark, their milk intake should be limited to 16-20oz a day and they should ideally take 3 meals and 2 snacks. Each kid adapts to this at their own pace so worry not. The key to raising good eaters is persistence. Keep trying and you will be successful in making them gobble up the whole meal one day you strong mama!