After growing exclusively on mother’s milk for the first six months, your baby is ready to taste the food you eat. Albeit, the food needs to be ‘baby-friendly’!
With regards to nutrition, we can divide our life into four stages: infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It is necessary to treat the diet of a child separately from the adults because although the nutritional needs of children are similar to those of adults they differ in terms of quantity, the type of food required to match the growth of the child, and the food that are suitable for the digestive capacities of the child.
Children’s food isn’t special, it needs special attention
For the first six months in the world, your baby needs nothing more than the mother's milk to take care of all its food and water needs. It is sufficient to take care of the baby's energy, nutritional and immunity needs. Fortified foods or supplements are not required in the first six months unless your baby is born prematurely or you observe any deficiencies in the baby. After the first six months, however, the deficit is observed between the nutrition provided by the breast-milk and the baby’s requirement nutrition considering the rapid growth. The correct age for the introduction of any food other than breast-milk is after the baby has completed six months; until then the intestines of the babies are not developed enough to assimilate semi-solid or solid foods. Waiting until the baby completes six months of age thus reduces the chances of infection that may occur earlier due to underdeveloped digestive systems.
Complement the breast-milk, not replace it
Especially the first-time parents receive plenty of advice from the elders in the family about weaning foods. Take the advice with a pinch of salt and focus on what your baby needs for a healthy start in the tasty world of food. Please understand that the food given after the six months of age is supposed to complement the breast milk and not replace it. That’s why it is called complementary feed.
Pack nutrition, not just fill the tummy
Just like us, the adults, the taste, the consistency and the texture of the food play an essential role in complementary feeding. The food must be tasty but also mashed to a thick consistency. Such food is easy to feed, as it stays in the spoon. It also effectively packs more nutrition than the thin food. The thin food just fills baby’s tiny tummy, not delivering much nutrition leaving baby hungry in some time. Thick foods help in addressing the crucial nutritional gap between the breast-milk and baby’s requirement.Keep an eye on your child’s development and well-being. If your child is often tired or loses weight, or often falls sick, then please consult your doctor. A well-cooked khichadi composed of three parts rice, one part dal, and half part vegetables well cooked in water and served with one tsp ghee is an adequate complementary food for across India.
Experiment, but stay relevant
As the baby gets used to the soft and mashed food, experiment with different tastes. Gradually introduce the baby to different textures – a grainy porridge made from rice or ragi or smaller pieces of well-ripened fruits such as mashed banana, skinned grapes, orange segments, guava etc. Staying away from commercially available foods is important. The complimentary food must be culturally acceptable, affordable and locally available, and prepared at home for the best results. The food must be easily digestible by the baby's smaller digestive system.
Tricks to tackle the teething tantrums
Nobody accepts change and new things readily, the babies are no exception. Introduce only one new food item, in small quantities, and preferably in the morning meals. Introduce new foods when your baby is the hungriest. The real key to developing baby's taste-acceptance is how patiently you introduce different foods to the baby at this early age. Patience is the key to success; be gentle but don't give up. Don't force newer foods on your baby. Follow your baby's hunger signals and food preferences; just like us, the babies genuinely don't like or detest specific food items. Respect baby's choice while you add a variety of foods and structure mealtimes for your baby.