Baby food guide, Starting Solids

Sometime between 4 – 6 months of age, depending upon your preference, your baby’s readiness and your paediatrician’s advice, semi-solid food will be added to your baby’s diet.

When to start

Traditionally in many families this introduction to cereals is celebrated by a ceremony which is generally held at 6 months. But a baby may be ready for semi-solid food even before this.
Choosing the right time is important as if you start your baby too early she will not be able to swallow the food and if you wait too long she may not accept new foods as easily. Go through this checklist to know when the time is right –

  • Can she support her head? Even if she can’t sit up on her own she needs to hold her head up otherwise there would be danger of choking.
  • Is she showing interest in adult food? If yes, she is giving you a signal that this might be the right time.
  • Is her intake of milk going down?

How to start
The best cereal to start with, is rice, which is easily digested by the child. You could also start foods similar to milk ( such as yoghurt), fruit purées (apple, banana), vegetables etc. Each new food should be introduced separately, (or with foods which have already passed muster), so that if there is a sensitivity or allergy it can be detected at once. Test each food for three to four days before introducing another new food. If you spot what you think is a reaction, wait a week or so and try the food again. If the same reaction two or three reoccurs, it is a good indication that your baby is sensitive to that food. Introduce all other new foods in the same cautious manner. Once the baby is eating his new diet without any ill effects, you can start serving the new foods in different combinations.

If you notice any of the following symptoms report them immediately to your doctor. They could be caused by food allergies –

  • Bloating of the stomach or increased intestinal gas.
  • Rash around the mouth or the anus .
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Runny nose or eyes.
  • Unusual crankiness.
  • Starting
  • Time it right
  • a good time is when he is at his hungriest.
  • Some mothers give the first meal in the evening as a substantial evening meal lets the baby sleep through the night.
  • Never introduce a food when the baby is ill or tired or teething.
  • Whet the baby’s appetite by starting with a small amount of milk but don’t give too much or he will not be hungry enough for the next course. With babies who have small appetites, however, it may be better to start straight away with solids.
  • Be patient and prepared for a long sitting – it is a time consuming process
  • Let the baby participate. Give her a spoon to play with. If she wants to feed herself, guide her hand. Put some food on the table and let her play with it – even if it means a mess.
  • Food tips
  • Egg yolks shouldn’t normally be given until the eight month. Egg whites which are much more likely to provoke an allergic reaction are often not given until the end of the first year.
  • Fish and sea food should be very carefully introduced as they are often allergic.
  • Avoid adding sugar to the yoghurt. The baby may not like the tartness of the yoghurt in the first few feeds but he will soon learn to accept it. If you add sugar however, than he will always want sugar in his yoghurt – an unnecessary addition of sugar in his diet.
  • It is common practice to warm orange juice before giving it to the child. This not only destroys the Vitamin C in it, but, being acidic, can also cause irritation to the stomach.
  • Nutritionally pre-cooked cereals are in no way superior to cereals cooked at home. In terms of convenience they may have an edge for the working or overworked mother.

A child’s palate is a clean slate, the tastes that develop depend on the foods introduced. And how a child will eat will be primarily influenced by the food you give to him when he first starts eating solids.

  • Tips for healthy eating habits
  • Keep white out of sight – in bread, flour etc.
  • Don’t give him mashed food for too long -babies who continue too long on strained foods tend to reject lumpier textures when they are finally offered and become very lazy about chewing. Make the his semi-solid meal coarser as he learns to eat.
  • Serve the milk straight- don’t add additives
  • Babies like variety. Indian babies also tend to like spices – give him a little. Too much bland food and you may end up with a fussy eater.
  • Don’t make food rules a religion. Give a few treats now and then and don’t forbid any food completely.

Never save a bowl of food the baby has eaten from for the next meal, since enzymes and bacteria from the baby’s saliva will begin-“digesting” the food, turning it watery and causing it to spoil more quickly

Safety tips

  • Nuts e.g. Almonds, peanuts, cashewnuts etc. constitute a choking hazard and should not be given to a baby.
  • If you use pre-packed foods always check the expiry date and follow the instructions
  • Hygienic preparation is top priority. Ensure that whoever prepares the food has short, clean nails and washed hands.
  • Raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs all harbour bacteria. If you touch any of these while feeding , always wash your hands with soap.
  • Heating in the microwave- The food inside the container may be much hotter than the container itself . When testing the temperature stir the food, then splash a drop on the inside of your wrist.
  • Never leave the child unsupervised when feeding her biscuits, rusks or bread as choking is a very real hazard.

Never save a bowl of food the baby has eaten from for the next meal, since enzymes and bacteria from the baby’s saliva will begin-“digesting” the food, turning it watery and causing it to spoil more quickly

Self feeding
Encourage rather than discourage. Try giving her a spoon of her own
while you continue to feed her. Provide finger foods such as carrot pieces, small pieces of idli or a rolled up chapati which she can feed herself with, while you spoon feed her.
With your baby participating, mealtimes may be longer and messier at first, but the experience will be good for your child and hasten her ability to eat on her own.. When self feeding degenerates into all play and no eating ( some play is normal), and she does not let you take over the feeding, its time to call it quits until the next meal.
In the first few months of solid feedings, the actual quantity of food consumed is not of great consequence so long as breast or bottle feeding is continued. Eating, at first is less a matter of gaining sustenance than of gaining experience – with eating techniques, with different flavours and varying textures and with the social aspects of dining. But from about the sixth month onwards, milk will not be enough to meet all your baby’s needs and by the end of the year most of the baby’s nutrition will have to come from other sources. Around one year of age the baby is ready for adult meals complete with a little masala

Finally, all babies are different, so what might be right for one baby may be all wrong for another. You are the best judge of what is right for your baby and when. Follow your instincts, watch to see what he likes and don’t be afraid to experiment . In case of doubt ask advice of your paediatrician.

Related Links

Choosing a paediatrician
Semi-solid recipes

Fussy eater
Food facts
Nutrition during pregnancy

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