Introducing solid food to a child is an important and exciting milestone for parents. However, it is important to understand a few critical aspects in order to begin the journey on a smooth note. As your baby grows, the nutritional needs also grow with the baby. According to Dr. Prathap Chandra, Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician at Motherhood Hospitals, Indiranagar, Bangalore, the growth of the brain and myelination is highest in the first 2 years of life and therefore, rightly 75 percent of each meal goes to building your baby’s brain. Beyond 6 months, the baby’s brain development would need nutrition more than what breastmilk could offer. Read this article to understand more about giving solid food to your baby.
How To Introduce Solid Food To Babies?
Babies should be exclusively breastfed up to 6 months of age and Introducing solids or fluids during this period can increase the risk of illnesses, such as diarrhea and other infections. Mother’s milk is the safest and healthiest food for the first 6 months as it is a source of nutrition and fulfillment for your baby. According to WHO, “beyond 6 months, the baby’s growth and brain development would need energy and nutrition more than what breastmilk could offer. And therefore, an infant of this age is also developmentally ready for other foods. If complementary foods are not introduced around the age of 6 months, or if they are given inappropriately, an infant’s growth may falter.”
The evidence suggests that every baby is an individual, however, they exhibit common signs when they are ready to accept solid food alongside mothers’ milk. They are:
- Ability to sit with support and hold their head steady.
- Hand-eye-mouth coordination: they should be able to see the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth all by themselves.
- Ability to swallow food: those who are not ready will shoot their food back out.
Paediatrician’s Guide To Complementary Feeding
Here is what Dr. Prathap Chandra is telling about the baby’s first foods. Let us first talk about the consistency of the baby’s food.
- 6-9 Months- Food in puree or paste form
- 9-12 Months- Food in granular form
- More than 12 Months- Family food, depends on teeth as well
At six months, Parents should introduce foods in small amounts of cooked food in a puree form or well-mashed form to enable spoon feed and gradually increase the quantity as the child gets older.
At 9 months your baby will move on from mashed food to granular form. Begin to add in granular foods to allow your baby to experience different tastes and textures in the mouth which also helps in the speech development of the baby.
Above 12 months of age, an infant should be given preferably home-cooked family food depending on the growth of the baby’s teeth.
Food that can be introduced:
- Lentils or Dal (any type)
- Semolina or Sooji or Rava
- Green leafy vegetables
- Chicken and mutton soups
- Chicken boiled and mashed into a puree
Vegetarian Options for Baby's First Foods
All types of vegetables, fruits and green leafy vegetables (eg. Spinach, Cabbage and Kale) can be given. These should be boiled and made into a puree for easy consumption. Softer fruits like papaya, mango, banana can be easily mashed by hand and fed. You can also start Rice, Ragi, wheat, Soji, Dal (any type).
Chicken or mutton soup can be started and mashed boiled chicken can also be given.
NOTE: Avoid seafood and eggs as they are more prone to cause allergy. These foods can be introduced in the later stage of the weaning process in a gradual manner once your child starts tolerating solid foods.
3S in the weaning process
3S: Salt, Sugar and Spice should be given in very small quantities during the weaning period as their kidneys are not yet fully matured. When you’re cooking for the family, save a portion of food before adding salt or spice so that your baby can share family meals similarly. Do not add sugar to the food or drinks that you give your baby. Sugar could encourage a sweet tooth and lead to tooth decay when the first teeth start to come through and adds to unnecessary calories.
Cow’s milk and other dairy products should not be given until 1 year of age as cow’s milk protein could prove heavy for the developing gut of your baby.
How to start weaning?
According to WHO, weaning should be commenced from 6 months onwards. In some babies, where growth is inadequate or faltering weaning can be commenced earlier but only under the supervision of your paediatrician. Babies generally take a quarter of a small cup to start with and the intake will increase up to half a cup by 9 months and a full cup by a year.
Start with one solid food per day and increase gradually to 3-4 solids per day by 2-3 weeks. Always introduce new food during the morning hours so that you have time to observe for any side effects throughout the day. Once the baby starts taking 4 solids per day consistently, breast milk should be given only 3-4 times per day. If more breastfeeds or formula milk are given, it will suppress the baby’s appetite and they may not consume the required amount of solid food.
Cups: you should introduce drinking water from the cup to your child at around the 6th month and offer sips of water with meals. For the betterment of your baby’s teeth, teach them sipping using an open cup or a free-flow cup without a valve.
Disclaimer: Trouble eating can lead to health, learning, and social problems. If you face any difficulty feeding your infant or you can’t see any visible growth signs please visit your trusted paediatric for guidance. They can help you find the problem and troubleshoot it for your ease and your baby’s betterment.
If you are a first-time parent, you should know these small but important tips to introduce solid food to babies. It is necessary that you know what foods you can give to your baby after six months. Also, the paediatrician can best tell about the essential foods and nutrients that you must provide your baby with after he/she enters infanthood.
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