Introducing a healthy solid start to life !
For the first four to six months of your baby’s life, breast or bottled milk will offer all the nutrition that is needed and will remain the most important food, until around nine months. There are no rules as to when exactly you should introduce your baby to solids, but do bear in mind that under four months of age, a baby’s stomach is still far too immature to deal with different foods, and by six months, milk alone won’t supply enough of the nutrients needed. Between four to five months, is probably the best time to start, but that depends entirely on you as the mother to judge whether you think your baby is still happy and thriving on just her milk feeds.
Your baby should have doubled her/his birth mass by the fifth or six month and should be consuming approximately a liter of milk in 24 hours, if you find that this is not satisfying her hunger, then it is probably a good idea to start her/him off on a small amount of pureed food, gradually increasing the amount as time goes by.
0-4 months :
Breast milk or formula only.
4-6 months :
Rice cereal mixed with breast/formula milk.
Pureed fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, apples,
bananas, pears – introducing one taste at a time.
6-8 months :
Rice cereal mixed with breast/formula milk.
Mashed fruit and vegetables.
Pureed meat, chicken and fish.
Egg yolk, cottage cheese and yoghurt.
Finger foods: bread, biltong, banana and apple.
Breast/formula milk, boiled water and fruit juices served in a spouted cup.
Start adding lumpier foods.
Bite-sized pieces of food.
Introduce full-cream cow’s milk (no need to boil).
Most babies are on a normal mixed diet at this stage and can join in on family meals.
The ideal foods to start with are those with a thin, smooth consistency, puréed banana, pear, potato, carrots and infant rice cereal, mixed with a little milk (breast milk can also be used), are all suitable. It is best to use nothing other than rice cereal at this stage, in case your baby happens to have an allergic reaction to the protein in wheat (gluten), that is found in most other cereals.
All baby foods, whether bought or made, need not have any salt or sugar added to them, as these won’t have any beneficial effects and are tastes that are better not acquired.
Being a totally new experience for your baby, it is best to first introduce solids when she is relaxed and happy, normally after she has had a bottle feed. This can be done the other way around when she has become accustomed to her new feeding routine. These first few feeds can be quite time consuming, so it is best to find a comfortable place to sit, holding her on your lap, with an arm around her back for support, this will carry over the bonding techniques you developed with her while breast or bottle feeding. Begin with a very small amount of food, preferably of one kind for the first few days, and then gradually introduce a new taste. This way you can be on the look out for any allergic reactions that she may have to one particular food, and if there is a prominent strong dislike to that specific type of food. It is natural for a baby to have food preferences, and therefore you should never force her to eat anything she resists, rather try a different flavour. As your baby gets older it is a good idea to vary or combine her food to ensure she is getting the nutrition that is required for a healthy body.
It is not necessary to sterilize any of your baby’s eating utensils, but it is of the utmost importance that they be spotlessly clean and free of any left over food.
Commercially prepared baby foods can be quite useful at times, especially if you are a working mother, or one with limited ‘kitchen time’, but do be sure to read the labels first, as many baby foods on the market contain large quantities of needless ingredients such as sugar, wheat starch and thickeners, which in the long run is a waste of your money. So it may be a good idea to save these foods for the odd occasion, and prepare your own healthy alternatives. If you find it difficult to make up a meal for each feed, try and cook in bulk and freeze individually packed meal portions, which will be quick and easy to defrost whenever you need them. It is suggested though, that you serve only one of these meals a day, and fresh food for the rest of the meals, as a certain amount of nutritional value is lost during the freezing and re-heating process.
Cereals provide heat and energy, and at a later stage when unrefined products are used they supply vitamins, minerals and fibre, which is very important in a baby’s diet. Oats, mealie meal and creamed wheat are fine to give to your baby, (preferably after six months of age) provided it is sieved or has a very smooth consistency, and care is taken when introducing wheat to your baby’s menu. Cereal is inclined to be very filling and when giving too much you could be spoiling your child’s appetite for other foods as well as causing unnecessary weight gain.
Pre-cooked commercial baby cereals:
These cereals may only need the addition of milk or water, and are often fortified with added iron and vitamins. They are inclined to be fattening and should be avoided if your baby is already overweight.
The natural sugar content that is found in fruit, provides fibre, vitamins and energy, and most babies seem to enjoy them. Cut a peeled apple, pear or guava and simmer in a little water until soft. Mash with a fork or press through a sieve until the desired consistency is obtained. Very ripe mashed banana and pawpaw can also be used, but stay away from very acidic fruits such as pineapple and oranges. Adding a little pureed fruit to her morning cereal will increase the nutrient content of her breakfasts’, but always remember to start with one particular fruit for the first few days, so any allergic reactions can be noticed.
Packed with fibre and vitamins, vegetables are useful for acquainting your baby with new tastes and textures. These can be prepared in the same way as stewed fruit and can be liquidized if necessary. If you find her refusing to eat them, try mixing her vegetable meals with a little pureed fruit or a tiny amount of meat extract for added taste.
Protein, iron and vitamins are all found in meat, and are an essential part of a developing child’s diet. A basic broth can be made by simmering a meat bone in a little water for about an hour, then removing the meat and adding diced vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are soft, then liquidize or mash, depending on your baby’s age and preferences.
Being a good source of protein, fish can be added to your baby’s diet from about seven months in the form of poached or steamed. Not all babies take a liking to it in the beginning, and it is unnecessary to force the issue.
Before the age of one year, only the yolk of the egg should be given to your baby, which is a good source of iron and contains valuable minerals. Start off with half a teaspoon of raw egg yolk mixed in with her cereal or vegetables, gradually increasing it until she has the whole yolk. If you prefer, you could also give her plain egg yolk that has been poached or boiled.
Avoid giving your baby any foods or drinks that are highly sweetened, as this only increases her chances of tooth decay, and could probably spoil her appetite for a more nutritious meal. During her first year, your baby’s digestive system is still too immature to deal with certain foods such as butter, excessive salt and sugar, pork products and egg whites, and in my opinion these are far from needed to satisfy your baby’s tastes, it is only later in life that we develop these so-called bad habits. As your baby gets older, you can try mashing instead of pureeing her food, and offering her finger foods from about six months.
Moving on to Coarser Foods
Nutrition is essential to good health, and by planning your baby’s meals, to ensure she eats food from the four main food groups, and doesn’t fill up on snacks and drinks, you will be giving her a healthy start to life. Breakfast is her most important meal of the day, as it provides the body with the energy that is needed for the day ahead, and should as far as possible be a completely balance meal containing a serving from each of the main food groups. There is an old saying which illustrates this: “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.’
Your growing baby will need to have a protein serving at each meal, and four fruit or vegetable servings a day, which could be served in the form of smaller more frequent snacks or larger meals. At this age it is probably better to offer food in smaller portions, more often, because some younger children may feel overwhelmed when a big plate of food is put down before them, and the other advantage is that frequent snacks will prevent her blood sugar levels from dropping – which is usually the cause of irritability and aggression.
Most babies at the age of about seven months are not only able but are also willing to try out finger foods – if they haven’t already. At first it may take practice to correctly co-ordinate the hand to mouth movement, but once he’s on his way, there’s no looking back!
Foods that qualify for finger feeding are those that develop into a soft consistency after being gummed and are cut into manageable chunks. Good choices include:
- Bought or homemade rusks
- Grated cheddar cheese or cottage cheese
- Fully ripe bananas
- Bone and skinless flaked fish
- Scrambled or hard-boiled egg (It is suggested that you offer only the yolk at this stage.)
Because of choking being a hazard, don’t give your baby:
- Certain uncooked fruit and vegetables
- Chunks of meat
- Or any foods that don’t dissolve in the mouth, or have a high sodium and additive content.
With your baby’s newfound independence at this stage, you may find that feeding becomes a battle-ground, where he insists on spoon-feeding himself, and doesn’t actually complete the task with much efficiency and most of it landing up anywhere but in his mouth. Try giving him a spoon of his own to play with while you feed him, this way you are encouraging the skill of self-feeding and ensuring that your baby eats the right amount. This won’t always work though, so it may be a good idea to invest in a waterproof sheet or some old newspaper which can be placed under his high-chair at mealtimes and whatever you do, don’t make an issue at every session, as you will just be risking future permanent eating problems.