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Well-nourished babies grow up to be healthy, happy humans. As new parents, our primary job is to ensure that the little humans we bought into this world eat well and sleep well. Ironically, this also seems to be the toughest part of parenting a baby.
Amongst all the struggles we face day in and day out, one major concern is what to feed the baby, so he stays well nourished. The menu of the baby changes every few months as he grows and develops taste and texture preferences.
A few things we need to take care of once we start to familiarise the baby with foods apart from milk. A baby's tummy is very vulnerable and prone to infections.
• Introduce 1-2 foods at a time. Introducing too many foods together might trigger a reaction that we might not be able to isolate.
• Start with one meal a day for the first two weeks and gradually move up to 2-3 meals a day.
• While on breast milk, the baby doesn't need water. Once you start semi-solids or solids, introduce water as well to the baby's diet.
• Make sure you never leave the baby alone with food to avoid any chance of the baby choking.
• Always prepare the food fresh and serve it. Do not store it for a long time; do not reheat and serve.
• Stay away from plastic cookware. Use steel or ceramic/glassware.
• Babies should be given home-made foods with fresh ingredients made from scratch.
We should feed our babies to give them nutrition, food that makes them happy, food that makes them satiated. Do not focus on making babies fat and chubby by feeding excessive fats. Please add the required quantity of fat but not in excess.
Including excessive fats in their meals have two major drawbacks:
• Excessive Fats makes the meal calorie dense and are very hard to digest. It takes a longer time to digest a meal higher in fat content. This might lead to the baby not feeling hungry for the next mealtime.
• They develop taste buds for eating food with higher fat content and might not like usual foods later on.
Listed below are a few foods that a baby needs and will also enjoy in all probability.
Up to 6 months:
A baby needs exclusive breastfeeding till six months. They get all the nutrition they need at this stage.
6 - 8 Months:
Shifting them to solids at this time marks a big milestone. Some babies might readily eat solids at this time, while others might start after 2-3 months. Parents should not worry and give the children their own time to start solid foods.
The best foods to introduce at this time are purees, soups and curries. Make sure you do not give the child excessive spicy food at this time. Stick to salt and sugar for additives and avoid all other spices.
Listed below are a few foods that help the child in the weaning journey:
1. Milk and Ragi kheer - Ragi is extremely rich in calcium and iron. The two nutrients essential for the growth of the baby. Milk is known for the calcium and protein content.
2. Lentil soup - When you prepare your lentils, keep the boiled lentil portion before you temper it. Mash it and add water for soup consistency. Add salt and a little ghee and serve warm. Being rich in proteins, this makes for a wholesome meal.
3. Soups - This is a great way to add vegetables to a baby's diet. Do not add leafy greens as they can stimulate the gut and lead to loose motions. The best vegetables for soups are carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, beetroot. You can make one at a time or mix two and prepare. Make sure to add a few drops of ghee if you are not tempering in oil. Adding a fat source to the food ensures that all nutrients are well absorbed.
4. Broken wheat and milk daliya with jaggery
5. Rice porridge with jaggery - Make sure to not include high fibre brown rice. A baby's stomach is delicate, and they need foods that are easy to digest.
6. Smooth purees of fruits like Banana and apple
8 to 10 months:
By now, your baby must be accustomed to the new foods. So the thickness or consistency of the food can be reduced by reducing the water or liquid content. You can gradually make it thick.
1. You can now introduce khichdi with a few vegetables
2. Soft idli mashed in sambhar
3. A thicker consistency of ragi/rice / broken wheat porridge
10 - 12 months:
By now the baby is ready to try eating on their own. They like experimenting, holding foods, the cutlery and try to feed themselves. This helps improve their gross motor skills as well.
1. You can make them eat the same food that you eat as a family as long as its freshly prepared and is low on spice.
2. Introduce finger foods like soft dosa using millets for greater nutrition, vegetable idlis, lentil cheelas, steamed carrot pieces, cucumber sticks, fruit pieces and more such foods. Ensure you are always around when a baby is eating. They are still very small, and we need to avoid any chances of an accident.
12 months and beyond:
By now you can mash and give small chunks of roti with cooked vegetables and lentils.
By the time the baby is a year old, they will develop a taste for the same foods you eat, and it will get simpler to feed him.
On A Final Note...
All the hard work you put in will eventually pay off, and you will be proud that you instilled some great eating habits in a baby.