You’ve probably been told a million times by healthcare professionals that exclusive breastfeeding is essential up to six months. They probably did this very religiously even in the middle of the night. If you chose not to or were unable to, you may have remembered to sterilize the bottle and have the water ready. Either way, you’re on your feet. Suddenly the day comes when your baby, who has been staring at your plate all these days, rushes onto your plate and grabs a handful. Hooray! He’s ready for solids! Well, baby-led weaning is that simple and from my personal experience I would vouch for it. This way you are not in a hurry to introduce solid food and you risk food allergies. Additionally, the question of when is the right time to wean your baby from solid foods is almost always an open one. So why not just leave it to nature and let your baby decide when to eat rather than just drink. Remember, like adults, every baby is different and will develop on their own schedule, not yours. It’s a lot easier to feed the baby food when he’s done and it’s less stressful for you. It is said that they may not be ready for solid food if the “tongue thrust reflex” is not working, ie the reflex that makes them push anything out of their mouth. Also, they are generally ready when they can sit unaided.
My son started getting interested in food when he was about five months old and when he was two weeks to six months I started offering him solid or semi-solid foods to be more specific. The health visitors said the goal should be to allow him family meals by his first birthday. Goal orientation was very helpful in planning my strategy. I will share some of my knowledge and experience with you.
As a first-time mom, I wanted to be perfect in what I did for him. I used to refer to so many different websites and books about quitting, what should and shouldn’t be given. If you walked past most of them I couldn’t even think about reaching my destination. Based on all of this, here are the top things I’ve done or thought or felt that can help you…
- Try to stick to the four-day rule, especially if there is a history of food allergies in your family. This means if you give your baby potatoes, do so for four consecutive days and do not give any other new food in the same period. This will help you monitor allergies as it sometimes takes a few days for the allergy to show up. If you give too many new things, it will be difficult to find the allergen.
2. Don’t worry too much about how much your baby is eating. It is said that the nutritional requirements for the first year of life come from the milk and the diet is more in line with the habit. Remember, don’t try to reduce milk supply to make your baby eat more at least until a year
3. There are always days when they just refuse to eat, and there are also days when they gobble it all up
4. As your child grows, they will develop the ability to chew food better. This means that you should vary the texture of the food. Start with purees, then move on to puree, then chunks. Call me lazy, but I haven’t mashed any vegetables other than peas and beans. The rest I would boil/steam and make a mush by pureeing with a spoon. I mash each bite of banana in my hand and feed him.
5. Slowly introduce spices. Most spices, especially those used in Indian cooking, are beneficial to the body. Cumin, for example, helps relieve congestion and also aids in digestion.
6. Unlike adults, fat for babies is especially good for their rapid brain development. Use ghee, butter and oil in moderation. Full fat yoghurt, cheese etc.
7. Usually after the 26 week mark you will get a green signal to give almost all foods like fruits, vegetables and meat (we are vegetarians though). Of course, it’s up to you to consider allergies.
8. Start with one meal a day at a time when he is not very tired or sleepy or cranky. Don’t rush or get distracted. Try to explain what he’s eating, the benefits of it, and how it was prepared. That way, you both focus on the food. You eat a spoonful in front of him and say things like “Mmmm”. Gradually increase the meal to two, and then to three.
9. Variety brings spice to life, including the lives of your little ones. Try to add as many flavors, vegetables, fruits, etc. as possible.
10. Some say it might be a good idea to introduce veggies first since babies have a natural sweet tooth as we are born with more taste buds for sweets otherwise they might never like it. I didn’t have this problem and almost alternated new vegetables and fruits. For the same reason, I never added sugar to his diet. I do add a pinch of salt though. They say their kidneys aren’t fully developed, so they avoid salt and sugar. There’s no point in not adding salt and handing him a bag of chips when he’s a toddler as it will only make him want more chips and it’s bad for the body. I want him to develop a taste for a balanced diet.
11. Try not to put too much food in the jar. Processed foods are not good for adults, leave them alone for babies. It also becomes difficult to wean them off these foods and eat home-cooked food. I used to buy a few jars for travel and emergencies. In addition, I used to try vegetables or fruit from a jar for the first time, looked for allergies and then prepared them at home.
12. Your baby is your best advisor. Don’t panic and don’t get frustrated, you will pick this easily
13. You can’t expect your baby/toddler to eat fruit when you eat chips. Lead by example.
As I said, I’ve shared most of the lessons I’ve learned here and hopefully this is a good starting point for you. It’s a long journey, not always a fun ride, but eventually you will get there. Remember, your goal is to give your child a good, healthy start. His quality of life, health and longevity depend quite heavily on how well you manage his eating habits. Childhood obesity is on the rise everywhere and there are also said to be increasing rates of juvenile diabetes. You can help your child, so let’s do it.
Thanks to Veena S