10 essential qualities of a good complementary food for your baby
There comes a time in every baby’s life when he or she has to stop depending only on mother’s milk and start embracing solids. This happens usually when the child is around 6 months of age and needs complementary foods to meet nutritional needs in a more holistic manner. However, mothers need to remember that solids won’t be replacing breast milk at this stage, but complementing it. So, the qualities that you must look for in complementary foods for infants are as follows:
Also remember that the transition to complementary feeding happens at a different pace for every baby. So, you need to be a little patient and keep introducing new foods one by one, to watch out for any allergic reaction.
Your baby has a delicate digestive system, which is still developing. Hence, it is important to pick age-appropriate complementary foods. For example, foods like ghee that are considered highly nutritious can be difficult to digest for infants. Cereals and pulses are more suited for a baby’s digestive system.
The right amount of food:
Babies have very small stomachs. And initially, your baby might eat only about 1/2 tsp. of complementary food. To get an idea of how much your baby needs to eat, take a look at his fist. Do not feed your baby anything more than the size of his fist.
Easy to digest:
When introducing solid foods, take care that the food is easy to digest. Purees are often advised, since, such foods reduce the amount of work the baby’s stomach needs to do before it can absorb the nutrients. You can consider well-mashed vegetables, rice gruel, khichdi and dal soup.
Cook food the right way:
When it comes to cooking solid foods for your baby, steaming is often the best option. This retains the maximum nutritional value of the food.
Though your baby has a small stomach, his nutritional needs are high. Hence, it is important to feed your infant foods that are rich in energy and nutrition. Each meal should provide balanced nutrition in terms of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
Avoid foods high in salt, sugar or fat:
Avoid junk foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt, and instead give foods that are energy and nutrient-rich, such as fruits, vegetables, powdered nuts, and whole-grain cereals.
Texture and consistency:
Complementary foods should not be watery. The aim at this stage is to teach your infant how to swallow. Hence, mash or puree the food to a smooth consistency for the first few months. You can then introduce finely chopped foods in small portions. For example, cooked cereals and steamed vegetables are good foods to start with. Avoid foods such as popcorn, nuts, berries and whole grapes, as these are easy to choke on.
Always ensure that your baby’s food is hygienically prepared. Wash your hands and your baby’s face before feeding him, to keep germs at bay. Always use boiled water to cook your baby’s food and wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly before cooking.
Never feed your baby food that has been left over from a previous meal. Food should always be freshly cooked and fed while warm.
Foods with added vitamins and minerals:
As your baby grows older, you might want to introduce foods with added vitamins and minerals, to bridge the gap between his nutritional needs and the food he eats. This will help your baby grow stronger. Spinach, oily fishes, lean chicken cuts, bananas and mangoes are good options.