Breastfeeding is essential for newborn babies. However, by the time your baby reaches the age of 6 months, it becomes vital to supplement it with solid food. Introducing solid foods into your baby’s diet is a time of great excitement, as well as anxiety, because babies can be fussy eaters too. The habits your baby develops at this age will last for a lifetime. Hence, it is very important to develop healthy eating habits from an early stage. Here are a few tips and tricks that could help you while introducing solid foods in your baby’s diet:
There is no one answer to ‘when to introduce baby food’. Each baby grows and develops at a different pace. Your baby is ready to eat solid foods when they can sit without support and can control head and neck movements. Around the age of 6 months is usually the answer to the question about when to introduce solid foods to your baby.
‘When to introduce solid food for babies’ is not synonymous with ‘when to stop breastfeeding’. For the first few months after you introduce your baby to solid foods, they will still need to be breastfed. Solid foods are not meant to replace breastfeeding but to fill the nutritional gaps between your child’s growing needs and the nutrition supplied by breastmilk. As your baby grows, they will require more Protein, Iron, Vitamins and Minerals than you can offer in the form of breastmilk.
Most infants do not like new flavors when they are very hungry. Hence, when it comes to introducing new foods, it is best to first breastfeed your baby a little and then introduce new foods to them.
When introducing baby food, it is important to pick the right type of food. At this stage, cereals are the ideal food. These Carbohydrates provide up to 4 Kcals of energy per gram. This is much higher than the energy provided by breastmilk and helps your baby stay active. These cereals are also a good source of Vitamins like Vitamin B.
Khichdi, rice gruel, and kheer are easy ways to introduce your baby to cereals. You may initially blend this khichdi into a puree if needed. Later, when your baby reaches the age of 8-9 months, you can also add pureed fruits and vegetables to the cereal for a different taste and extra nutrition.
Pulses are a great source of energy and Protein. Pulses also contain fibers that help improve digestion and make passing stool easier. While cereals lack an essential Amino Acid known as Lysine, pulses are a rich source of Amino Acids. On the other hand, cereals contain more methionine as compared to pulses. Thus, cereals and pulses go hand in hand to meeting your baby’s nutritional needs. Cereals and pulses should ideally be combined in a 2:1 ratio. Two popular easy to digest meals with cereal and pulses are khichdi and idli.
When you introduce pulses, start with washed pulses. Cook the pulses well so that the baby’s digestive system has less work to do. You can start with a simple rasam or lentil soup. Some pulses may cause excessive flatulence. Avoid pulses like chole, rajma, lobia, and urad dal until your baby’s digestive system has matured. When your baby is older, you can introduce sprouted pulses for extra nutrition. These sprouts can be boiled and mashed into your baby’s khichdi or gruel.
Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of Vitamins and Minerals. Fruits contain a simple form of Carbohydrate known as fructose. This is easy to digest and acts as a source of energy. In addition, they are packed with fiber to help develop your baby’s digestive system. The antioxidants in these foods help the immune system grow stronger and make your baby less vulnerable to flu and infections.
The ideal way to introduce fruits and vegetables is to boil them and mash them. Bananas, potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes are ideal fruits and vegetables, to begin with. You can also give your baby fruits and vegetables in the form of soups, shakes, and smoothies. As your child grows older, increase the portion size and experiment with different textures.
You can also add mashed fruits and vegetables to your baby’s milk, porridge or cereal mix.
Many parents wonder, ‘how much solid food for 6-month-old babies is enough’. In the beginning, your baby may eat just about ½ tsp at each sitting. Gradually, this will increase to 1 tsp to 2 and then to about half a bowl. Do not force your child to eat a certain amount. Forcing your baby to eat something will only make them dislike the food. If your baby pushes the spoon away, leave it aside and try again after a few days.