Baby’s first encounter with the world of food: Five best first foods
Everything about babies is fascinating, from their first eye contact to their first smile. And hence, all milestones in their life are reasons for parents to celebrate. While some milestone achievements may not require much planning, there are others, like starting a baby on solids, which may need some effort and preparation on the part of the parents.
The concept of complementary feeding
The transition from exclusive breastfeeding to the inclusion of solid foods in the baby’s diet is called complementary feeding and must begin around 6 months of age. While breast milk is the first food of the baby and remains so for several months, as he grows and develops, a subsequent increase in the body’s nutrient demands is witnessed. The increased nutritional needs may not be fulfilled by the mother’s milk alone, giving rise to the need for a variety in the diet.
It is around this time that the baby may also show interest in other foods. You’ll find them being able to hold themselves in a sitting position and balancing their heads. Moreover, the earlier reflex where the tongue would push away any solid in the mouth will give way to keeping it in. These signs of developmental readiness will clearly show that the baby is prepared to begin his/her journey in the tantalizing world of food.
Baby’s first foods:
Since the transition is from breast milk, it is best to keep the consistency of the first foods introduced to the baby something similar to that of breast milk.
Here are a few examples –
- Ragi malt: Known for its calcium and iron content, ragi is one of the best choices of cereals as its gluten-free property makes it light on the tummy. When cooking the baby’s first solid food, add 1 tbsp of ragi flour (sprouted, dried, roasted and then powdered) to one cup of water, stir continuously to avoid lumps, and cook over high flame for a minute before simmering it. Make sure that the consistency is such that it is thick enough to stay on a spoon and does not drip off. Remove from flame and cool it before feeding the baby.
- Rice porridge:Since rice is a staple in all homes and cooked frequently for adults, introducing this to the baby is a hassle-free task. Take 3 tsp. of cooked, mashed rice and add half a cup of water. Cook on low flame until the rice is well-blended in the water and a smooth consistency is achieved. Now that the porridge is cooked, pour it in a bowl, cool, and then serve to the baby.
- Mashed pulses, beans, and lentils: When considering what food to introduce to the baby first, porridges made of local staples are best. Once the baby takes a liking towards this, other foods can be added to the porridge. Pulses such as cowpeas, chickpeas, lentils, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, and dals can be the first choice for Pulses add a protein-punch to the baby’s first foods. They need to be soaked well, pressure cooked, mashed, and mixed with the porridge made of the staple. In terms of protein, well-cooked and pureed meat or poultry can also be introduced gradually.
- Mashed fruits: Due to its soft texture, banana is considered to be one of the best first baby foods. Peel one small ripe banana and put it in a bowl and mash it well using a fork or the back of a spoon. Once done, about 1 - 2 tsp. of expressed breast milk can be added to create a porridge-like consistency. And there you go. Your baby’s meal is ready! Other fruits like apple need to be cooked thoroughly, pureed, and then introduced to the baby.
- Cooked and pureed vegetables: Chop carrots, peas, sweet potato or green leafy vegetables, add sufficient water, and pressure cook. Mash well to make a smooth paste that is easy for the baby to swallow and serve at room temperature. Veggies provide vitamins and minerals for the growing baby.
- Ensure the ingredients are thoroughly washed or well-cooked and maintained in hygienic conditions to prevent diseases.
- Foods cooked hot must be brought down to room temperature before feeding them to the baby.
- Do not add food to a bottle, as this may cause choking.
- Honey is not recommended as it can cause botulism (a type of food poisoning).
- Do not force-feed, and if the baby shows repulsion towards a certain food item, drop it for the time being and re-introduce it after a few weeks.
Go with the flow
The introduction of solids is a new milestone for both the parents and the baby. But remember to observe cues from the baby and proceed accordingly. Using local, easily available foods that the family considers its staple is ideal. You can simply customise it to a consistency that is suitable for the baby before feeding. It is the first step for the baby towards sharing the family’s meals and associated culture. And this will prompt him or her to rely on a healthy, nutritious diet!