Are homemade meals enough for your baby?
Feeding your baby right can be a tough task. You might feel that your baby requires more than just homemade meals. This is when the question of whether or not to introduce commercially available first foods comes to mind, especially for first-time mothers.
Why are homemade meals not enough?
Packaged baby foods are fortified with important nutrients such as iron and calcium, which provide important nutrients for the growth of the baby. Homemade foods sometimes lack these nutrients and can result in nutrient gaps. However, homemade foods can be made more nutrient-dense.
Here are a few tips to make your baby’s diet more nutrient-rich:
Increasing nutrient density of homemade meals
- Very often, the child is provided with plain rice porridge, made up of ground rice flour mixed and cooked with water. Instead, you can cook the porridge with milk to make it more nutritious.
- Adding ghee to the meal ensures enough calories and facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
- Ensuring that the child is given iron-containing vegetables on a daily basis helps in the prevention of anaemia and replenishes iron stores in the body. Finger millet (Ragi) porridge can be similarly made for providing additional calcium.
- Similarly, very thick rice porridge can be diluted with expressed breast milk or other appropriate milk to make it more calcium-rich.
- As the child gets older, freshly set curd can also be used to dilute the feed. Or, a mix of rice, moong dal, and vegetables with a dollop of ghee can provide a healthy balanced meal.
- You can use readymade first foods to supplement your homemade foods at times. Certain readymade foods strictly adhere to the nutrient guidelines. Also, if, for any reason, you are not able to provide complete nourishment to your baby using homemade meals, readymade foods can be used as a support to provide all the nutrients to your baby.
Reducing the bulk of homemade foods by adding amylase-rich flours
- Your baby’s tummy is really small and homemade foods can be bulky, especially if they are cereal-based. So, your child might feel satiated after eating a small meal.
- Consumption of amylase rich foods (ARF) is a wonderful way of increasing digestibility and decreasing the bulk of homemade foods. Including ARF rich powders in your homemade food helps in reducing the density of home-cooked meals and in turn helps your child eat more of the feed.
- Flour of germinated cereals contains the enzyme alpha-amylase and this is the enzyme responsible for making food less dense.
- These types of flour can be made at home by washing a cereal, for e.g., wheat, and soaking it in water for 8 hours. Excess water should be drained off and the wheat should be allowed to germinate in the dark for 1-2 days. After germination, it can be sundried for 5-8 hours and then dry roasted gently for removal of excess water. This can then be powdered and converted to flour. A spoon (5g) of this flour can be added to every feed while cooking.
Other important points to consider while giving homemade meals
Initially, start feeding your baby smoothened, pureed fruits and vegetables, mashed pulses, meat and plain yoghurt or curds. When giving green leafy vegetables, initially start with just the juice you get after cooking the vegetables. Once the child gets accustomed to this, even the vegetable can be pureed and fed.
As the child grows older, start giving him textured foods with small lumps like mashed khichdi, mashed carrots and mashed apple.
As dentition progresses, the child can be given the same foods that we eat. Finger foods like cooked vegetable sticks like carrot sticks can be given that will encourage chewing. Some important pointers that you need to remember while feeding your child are:
- Make sure you are with your baby when they are eating and observe any signs of allergies or intolerance towards any foods.
- Do not add any food to your baby’s bottle. Prolonged contact of baby’s teeth with food can cause dental caries and may sometimes lead to choking.
- Do not add salt or sugar to your baby’s food or drinks.
- Cow's milk can be given to your baby after one year of age.
- The same foods that you eat can be given to the baby but with a softer consistency and without sugar or salt.
- Be patient with your baby. This process is new to him. He might reject foods initially, but give him some time to adjust to the new textures and tastes. Do not give up.
- Involve your kids during your mealtimes. As they grow, give them finger foods and encourage them to feed themselves.
- Remove distractions like television, phones, or tablets during meal times.
Importance of homemade meals
Homemade meal needs to be calorie-dense. Babies cannot eat more than a certain amount in one feeding session. So, it is very important that you prepare each feed by including a variety of foods from different food groups. The preparation of homemade complementary foods is quite simple. Some homemade baby food recipes that can help you are:
- Homemade Sattu porridge recipe for a 6-month-old: Sattu traditionally is a mix of Bengal gram, wheat and jaggery. Roast Bengal gram and wheat separately and powder them. Combine powdered Bengal gram and wheat in 1:3 proportions. Dissolve the required amount of jaggery in 220 ml to 250 ml of water and add 30 to 50g of sattu and mix well. The mixture of grams contributes to the protein content and adding jaggery increases the iron content of the feed.
- Homemade banana feed recipe for 1-year-old: Peel a ripe banana and mash it along with rice. You can also cook the pulp along with rice and feed your baby. You can even mix mashed banana and breast milk or other milk and give it to your baby. Adding of milk also improves the protein quality of the feed.
Homemade meals are always best for your baby as you are in control of the ingredients that go into it. However, always adhere to the guidelines and make sure you are able to fulfil all your kid’s requirements. If your child has feeding difficulties, food allergies, or any other food-related issues, and needs additional nutrition, packaged food fortified with micronutrients may be a smart option.
Remember, a healthy balanced diet is critical in the first two years to achieve optimal growth. This also provides a strong foundation for their long-term health. Thus, do not forget to give your baby nutrient-rich homemade baby food.