Written by Pradeep
Breast milk and formula satisfy a baby’s initial requirement for essential nutrients. However, after some time, as the baby’s tummy grows, they need actual, solid foods to meet their growing needs. Every kid is unique and has different growth patterns and food needs. When your baby gives indications of being quickly hungry between full milk feeds, shows interest in food, and swallows it when placed on the tongue, the time is right for your baby to progress to solids.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended till your baby is about 6 months old. Solid foods can be introduced to a baby sometime between 4 and 6 months if your baby shows signs of readiness. Feeding babies and toddlers solid food is not difficult but requires creativity and patience. You must keep trying every day. Your baby may not accept solids on their very first day.
Most experts and pediatricians recommend introducing solids to babies in their sixth month. Babies experience their first major growth spurt between the 4th and 6th months and need increased feeds to help them meet their nutritional needs. However, the sixth month is an ideal period to introduce solids.
By this point, babies also lose the extrusion reflex that helps them when they suck on a breast or a bottle nipple. They will also be able to push the food back with the tongue. Most babies become ready for taking up solid foods by this time. By the time the baby hits six months, the natural stores of iron start to go down, and hence this is the right time to introduce solids.
Breast milk does not contain as much iron as a formula. However, the baby absorbs iron in breast milk more readily than iron in the formula. Hence, it becomes essential to substantiate your baby’s diet with other foods that can help her develop properly.
Ideally, you must introduce solid foods to your baby when the baby’s digestive system has developed. This way, the baby will not be as prone to allergies as the immune system also develops gradually. The below signs will signal that your little one is ready to take on solids:
Never try to feed a lying-down baby as they may not be able to make the connection of eating while sitting straight up. Also, this might cause problems with swallowing and cause choking.
Always offer the baby food when the baby is not full but has had some milk. In essence, your baby must not be completely hungry or completely full. Your baby may or may not like the new food – if she rejects it, offer her some the next day, or wait for a few days and then try again.
In the context of Indian foods, you have a lot of first foods that you can introduce to your baby. Homemade Cerelac is a popular and healthy option. Apart from this, porridge made from sprouted ragi is also excellent for babies. It is extremely easy to digest and provides multiple health benefits.
Stewed and mashed fruit also can be introduced as the first solid food for babies. Always start with a single fruit and slowly introduce fruits one after the other. Look out for any signs of allergies to be on the safe side. You can also slowly introduce your child to well-cooked grains such as cooked and mashed rice and wheat depending on how quickly your child is accepting and digesting these foods.
Next in line are cooked lentils. You can start with easily digestible dals such as red lentils or masoor dal and slowly progress to the other types. You can supplement solids with liquids such as rice water, dal water, clear broths from boiled vegetables, etc.
Following tips will help mothers, especially new mothers while introducing solids for their babies.
When your baby shifts her head or starts to play with the spoon, lets out a wail or two when offered food, that means that she is full and doesn’t want to eat anymore. This is when you should stop feeding your little one.
Pureed form of solid foods, fed with soft spoons is a general preference. To avoid causing discomfort to the baby’s soft gums, use a very soft spoon or use your finger. Always feed your baby the bottle or nurse them first, and then make them taste a pureed banana, peach, or potato. See that they are able to take the food from the tongue to the back of the mouth.
Your little one is now ready for solids and finger foods. At this point, you can introduce water to your baby. Drinking water helps with digestion and keeps constipation in check. Refrain from adding cereal to your baby’s bottle, as she may not relate to sitting and eating later and this can cause problems.
Once the baby gets used to the solids’ routine, they will move on to more exciting options – mashed, chopped, cut etc., exposing them to various textures of food. Until then, you can try the following:
The day your baby tastes something other than breast or formula milk is a big day. To make your baby accept solids as their food now, feed them with a little bottle or nurse them. After that offer a taste of the new food, starting off with a teaspoon or two.
If it is bedtime or the baby is about to nap, many parents offer milk to provide the comfort factor. As with anything new, never introduce solids if your baby is cranky, tired, sick, or throwing tantrums. If the baby rejects the new food, do not worry, try again after a few days.
Start by giving solids to your baby just once a day. You can slowly increase solid feeds to twice a day. By the time your baby is one year old, they must have solids at least three times a day.
A healthy combination of breast or formula milk, iron-fortified baby cereal, pureed fruits and vegetables, and some proteins like lentils, and cottage cheese would be good for the baby. Do not feed your baby honey until he is a year old.
The first thing is that your baby should be able to sit upright before being introduced to solids. The baby should be seated in a comfortable place, preferably in a high chair. The baby can also sit in a bouncy seat if he cannot sit by himself as yet.
Ensure the baby is able to swallow easily and is uprightly seated. Invest in soft spoons and baby cups and bowls. Tying a bib is a good idea as well. If you are making your own baby food, buy a good tool like a hand blender, food processor, or baby food grinder.
Also, invest in some baby food storage containers. The baby starts picking up on your eating habits, so make sure that you stick to a schedule and have many varieties for meals! There will be cute moments of your baby’s face smeared in food, more on the face than he would have eaten, make sure you capture these loving moments.
Avoid dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, wheat, honey, etc. while introducing solid food. These can cause allergic reactions in a baby. The digestive system is still in the development phase.
Diarrhea, vomiting, wheezing, a swollen face, etc are indications of an allergic reaction. Talk to your doctor. Always introduce a new food after at least 3 days so that you can notice any reactions that the new food may cause in your baby.
Absolutely. You must nurse or formula feed your baby till she is a year old, at least. The intake of milk might come down as your baby starts to taste different flavors and textures. Yet, your little one must continue with breast or formula milk since solid foods alone cannot provide all the nutrients that your baby needs in the first year.
When it comes to feeding solids to babies, patience is the key. The baby may not show a regular consumption pattern or interest. They may not want to eat one day and show interest after three or four days. It is also possible that anything which they ate with interest a few days back will not attract them on the next try.
In the beginning, the quantity of intake might be very low, slowly it will increase. Once a baby completes the first year and moves towards the second year, their gut would have matured enough to handle solid foods safely.
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