If breast milk has now been the manna of your child’s life for the last few months, and you think that now would be the best time to initiate the switch to solid foods? Then here are a few things you need to be aware of as you commence this undertaking.
When to initiate solid foods
First pediatricians advise that the child should be at least six months before you introduce solid food. But research shows that anywhere between the age of four to six months suffices. If the child shows any discomfort or disinclination, or if there is any cause for alarm, then switch back to breast milk and wait for a few more weeks. Consult your doctor before trying solid food again as each child has unique bodily functions and requires a different sensitivity.
Most children around this age begin to show an interest in the food eaten by others around them. They also begin to sit up and can use their necks to support their heads comfortably. The latter is very crucial to avoid choking and no child should be fed while they are in the reclining position, more so in the case of solid food. Seated on the mothers lap, or in an appropriate baby seat is the best way for them to begin. They also have more control over their tongues and can move food around in their mouth, which is always a good sign that they are ready. The introduction should be gradual and in small amounts as per your baby’s comfort. This will go far to help the digestive system adjust and is also useful to identify allergies if any. Breast milk should not be stopped completely but be continued parallelly till the child has completely adapted to solid food.
What foods work best
Infant fortified cereal mixed with breast milk or water is often one of the first foods a baby is introduced to. Rice, barley and oat cereals are the best to start with because of their fortifying nature even in small quantities. You can also start with pureed vegetables and fruits that are both nutritious and naturally sweet and therefore tasty. Keep in mind that it is important to alternate between sweet and bland flavors so that he can get used to both. Bananas, apples, pears and potatoes work best initially, and it is advisable to avoid foods with high citrus levels till the child and his body becomes accustomed to the new tastes.
Non-vegetarian food is more difficult to digest even though it is very nutritious and high in protein. If recommended by the doctor, using tofu and other vegetarian protein substitutes can help. Rich fatty products should be avoided at the initial stages so that the child does not suffer from indigestion. Foods like eggs, cheese, yogurt and nuts can be fed to the child once he has crossed eight months and by then has a stronger digestive system that can process more complex foods.
While a large number of baby food products are available in stores locally, you can also make healthy purees at home using a food processor. You should make sure that these are made to a very smooth consistency initially, as this is the easiest for the baby to swallow and digest. As he grows older introduce different textures so he can get accustomed to chunks and grains.
Your baby’s input in the first few months goes a long way to influence his heath, growth and energy levels. And though breast milk is one of the best foods to give him, it would also be a good idea to allow him to get accustomed to as many new foods as possible once he has crossed four months. This will play an important role in brokering a smooth transition to adult food and the establishment of a healthy, balanced intake.