Starting your baby on solids is an important milestone in her development. Most new parents are confused about how and when they should introduce their baby to foods other than breast milk or formula.
My baby seems to be hungry all the time. Is it because breast milk or formula just isn’t enough?
By 3-4 months of age, your baby will be feeding more than usual, and you may feel that she needs something more to satisfy her. However, remember that this frequent feeding is due to a growth spurt, and growth spurts do not mean that it is time to introduce solids. Just keep breastfeeding your baby as often as she demands and within a week or two you will find that your baby has reverted to her usual feeding schedule.
How will I know when my baby is ready for solids?
Here are a few signs which indicate that your baby is ready for solids:
• Baby should be able to sit up with minimal support and hold his head steady.
• He should have lost the extrusion or “tongue thrust” reflex that causes him to push foods out of his mouth.
• Baby should display a good appetite and significant weight gain.
• Does your baby watch curiously when you eat? It is a good indication that your baby is ready to eat too.
• Baby makes chewing motions. As baby’s digestive system matures, their teeth start to appear and they practice chewing motions with their mouth.
What should I feed my baby?
Most pediatricians recommend starting extra food by 6 months of age. Start by introducing cereal. Rice cereal is the best first food for your baby. It is free of sugar and there is less risk of allergy. Besides rice, you can introduce barley or oats. Fruits like apples, banana, pears and avocado are good choices to start with. You can also introduce vegetables like carrots, peas, butternut and green beans too. Vegetables and fruits are a great source of fiber, carbohydrates and proteins.
By 8-10 months, you can try offering your baby a combination of cereals, fruits and vegetables. Foods should be mashed to the consistency that your child prefers so as to avoid choking hazards. You should also be able to give your baby yogurt and mild soft cheeses by this age. By the time your child is one year old, you can start offering him meat, chicken and fish, eggs and stronger cheeses too. These are great sources of protein for your baby.
Homemade foods which are free of preservatives and colorants are better than commercially available baby foods.
How do I know which foods my baby is allergic to?
Eggs, peanuts, shellfish and wheat are the top allergic foods. Introduce such foods only after your child has crossed the one year mark. Give these food items in small quantities and watch out for signs of allergy such as rashes, discomfort, diarrhea and breathing trouble. If you see any of these signs, consult a doctor immediately.
What about giving my baby water or juice?
Studies have shown that up to six months of age, your baby does not need fluid supplements. Breast milk is sufficient to keep them hydrated. Moreover, their kidneys will not be able to process the minerals present in water. You can give water and juice to your baby by the time he is six months old. Dilute juice sufficiently because citric acid present in fruit juices can cause allergic reactions in your child.
Healthy eating habits are formed at an early age and are essential for your baby’s overall health and well being. Introducing a healthy and well balanced diet when your baby is ready to start solids is a great way to ensure that she maintains the habit of healthy eating throughout her life.