The first year of a baby is marked by many milestones. The first bath they take, the first time they sit, the first time they crawl, their first step, the first food, the first words they speak! The list of ‘the firsts’ for the first year of babies is endless! Amongst the many first, the first food given to babies plays a very crucial role.
When the time came to give solid food to our babies, we are filled with excitement as well as anxiety. Excitement is there to present before them a whole new range of baby food available and allowing them to let develop their taste buds! And anxiety, because of the fear of giving something which may harm them or may not suit them.
With the idea of weaning comes so many questions floating into our mind! The right time to feed solid food, the kind of healthy infant food which we could give, what kind of food chart to follow for a diet of a 6 months old etc.
Right time for weaning…
Six months is usually the right time to start solid baby food. But depending on the baby’s growth in terms of weight and height, the pediatrician could advise to start solid foods even earlier from may be 5 months.
Babies gestures always guide us with their likes and dislike. When they literally jump looking at the food with an open mouth, that of course is a sign of hunger and we can go ahead feeding to their hearts content. While sometimes they push away our hands looking at the spoon with food or turned their head or spit the food out, blatantly indicating that their little tummies are full.
Babies have developed the pinchers grasp by now and are capable of picking up things. Their minds too are becoming inquisitive and they love to explore by touching food and putting it in their mouth.
Advice from the experts…
Experts, be it Pediatricians or Nutritionists, all have an advice in common for baby’s solid food, and that is, it should be free from chemicals and preservatives and have no salt or sugar. Giving babies fresh organic food using whole grains which are free from GMO is one of the best options for a healthy start to solid food.
Babies have a tendency to like sweet food more. But we do not want our children to hook on to the taste of refined white sugar which is not just zero on nutrition but also leads to early dental caries, childhood diabetes and obesity at an early age.
Natural sweeteners like fruit purees, jaggery and dates powder along with certain spices like cinnamon, ajwain, nutmeg and cardamom enhance both taste as well as the nutritious value of the meal. These spices also have medicinal properties as per Ayurveda and hence help increase the immunity as well.
Whole grains are rich in macro and micro nutrients which are imperative for the baby’s development. Soaking and sprouting enhances the nutrition absorption further and aids digestion. The flour made from the soaked and sprouted grains can be kept in air tight containers and can be easily stored for about 2 weeks. Baby food made from these are very light for infants developing tummies and can be easily digested.
Whole grains like amaranth, quinoa, millets, barley, steel-cut oats have been there since ages but got lost somewhere due to the commercialization. Millets which were considered as the king’s food during our ancestor’s era is now considered as merely a bird food.
These grains are a powerhouse of calcium, protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. They not only make the right texture for a 6 month baby, but also help inculcate the healthy eating habits right from the very beginning!
Few things to keep in mind about the weaning process –
- Organic baby food: It promised me that it would be free from chemicals and be least harmful. Besides, organic baby food was made from non GMO grains which ensured no engineered grains went inside my little ones tummy.
- Cereals such as ragi, oats, Amaranth opened a vista of power packed nutritious food to my baby’s menu.
- Colorful and flavorful meals using mashed fruits and steamed vegetables like avocado, broccoli, carrots, peas, peaches, apples and bananas provided a range of fresh vitamins and minerals.
- 3-day rule:
Follow the 3 days rule whenever you introduce a new food to babies. See if they are comfortable with the new food or not, whether they are having some kind of allergy like skin rash or bloating of tummies. In the meanwhile, do not give any new food. Start with a single ingredient and mix the ingredients once you are sure that your baby has no allergy to it.
- Choking Hazards: Never leave babies alone while they are having meals. Provide only mashed or small bite size pieces of soft food to avoid any chances of choking.
- Study the baby’s adaptability to a new food – in terms of digestion, congestion, flatulence.
- Respect the baby’s palate: Introduce them with a range of flavors at different meals and give them proper time to enjoy their food.
- The baby’s tastes will differ. So, we have to understand that. But it does not mean that we do not help the baby like the new things.
- Keep patience and introduce the food differently at different points of time.
- Make the meal-times the fun time so that the babies look forward to it!
Stages of baby food:
First Foods (5-6 months): This is the first time your baby is being introduced to solid food and hence a green signal from your pediatrician is a must. Always begin with either rice or ragi and fruits like banana or sapota and only single ingredient meal should be served to the baby. Also, the food should be very thin in consistency (soup-like) so that the baby is able to adapt it well as she has been used to having only breastmilk so far. But remember that your baby still gets all the nourishment from the breastmilk and will continue to do so.
Stage 1 Baby food (6 to 8 months): This is the time when the mix and match recipes can begin and more grains, fruits and veggies be introduced to the baby. The consistency can be thickened at this stage (puree-like) with the quantity gradually increasing based on baby’s adaptability.
Stage 2 Baby food (8 to 10 months): The texture of the food can be thickened now. Foods like quinoa and broccoli can be introduced. Soft finger foods can be introduced as babies’ fingers are now capable of the pinchers grasp.
Stage 3 Baby food (10 months+): Babies can be now given citric fruits and dry fruits and nuts. By this time, they are getting used to different variety and textures. The food given to them can now be mixed and matched with several cereals, fruits and vegetables.
Transforming baby food as they grow…
As my baby transformed into a toddler, the infant food also transformed! I made the texture a little dense and also started offering finger food, which she could hold herself and chomp off to her delight. With her growth, also grew her immune system which made her stronger than what she was at 6 months. I also made it a point to make her eat along with the family so that she could relate with the meal times and observe others eating. Children mostly learn through observation. Keeping this in practice helped me to help her pick up the eating habits in a smooth manner.
So, go ahead and use your creativity to mix and match various, grains, lentils, fruits and vegetables and give your baby the best possible nutrition in a natural way. From porridge to upma, sheera to smoothies, kichidies to cookies, the options are in superabundance!
Our journey towards taking babies to solid food is not only challenging but also exciting. But at the end of the day when we would think about all the positive changes taking place in them and the expressions they would make while trying the new food, just makes our heart melt making us go ahead the next day preparing healthy Indian baby food all over again with the same excitement!