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Introducing solid foods to your baby
A baby's digestive system is not ready for solid food until after the baby is about 4 to 6 months old. Until then it is recommended that the baby is exclusively breast-fed or formula-fed. Breast milk or formula milk has the nourishment and calories required for your baby's development in the first 6 months of her life.
Most mothers want to be sure that they introduce solid food at the right time. There are some signs you can look for in order to know when your baby is ready to include solids in her diet. However, make sure the baby can hold her head up, can lean or sit upright on a highchair.
Signs to watch out for in the baby
- Starts to put things into her mouth
- Opens mouth when you take food close to her mouth
- Asks for more frequent feeds or cries for more after her bottle is empty
- Shows interest in food that others are eating
- Can hold small bits of food in the mouth and push it to the back of the mouth
- Her weight has doubled from her original birth weight
What should I feed my baby the first time?
Babies should ideally be given liquid or semi-solid foods with a spoon to see if they are ready and also to make it easier for them to go through this process. One important thing to remember here is to feed the same kind of food for the first few days just to make sure that your baby is not allergic to a particular food, and also observe if her stools are normal. Move on to a new variant if there are no allergic reactions like vomiting, rashes and diarrhoea. You can try the following options:
- Boiled and pureed vegetables like pumpkin, carrot, potato, avocado, etc.
- Boiled and pureed single-grain cereals like rice, ragi or lentils
- Mashed fruits like banana or apple puree
Things to remember when introducing solids to your baby
- Avoid using vegetables like spinach, beetroot that are high in nitrates. Nitrates can cause a type of anaemia in small children.
- You don't need to enhance the flavour of the food with salt or sugar.
- Start with a few spoons at a time and increase the quantity gradually.
- Make sure that there are no lumps in the food as the baby can choke on it.
- If you are using commercial baby food, ensure you use boiled water while preparing it.
- Avoid giving solids in a bottle so that the baby understands the difference between solids and liquids. This will also help the baby adapt to other solid foods eventually.
Once your baby is about 8 months old and has tried different kinds of pureed foods, you can begin introducing some more solid varieties of food. Your baby will most likely begin to chew at this stage although she doesn't really have any grinding teeth. This is a good time to switch to finger foods . These are small bits of foods that can be easily mashed when in the mouth. Babies will begin grasping the food in their hands
- Soft cheese,
- Small pieces of boiled vegetables,
- Cooked pasta,
- Cut or thinly sliced fruits like banana,
- Minced meat or chicken are good options during this stage.
Feeding a baby can be a messy affair! So make sure you have a bib and some cleaning cloth in place to clean spills. Another essential ingredient is to have lots of patience. It is not necessary that your baby will like and eat the food in the very first attempt. Feed the baby in a place where there aren't many distractions so that feeding time is not just a nutritive but a fun learning process for your baby.
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