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A gradual introduction of solid food items to the baby’s diet will help her transition from milk or formula to daily foods. However, care should be taken to ensure that the change isn’t overwhelming for the baby.
What are Solid Foods
Solid foods for babies are foods that transition the baby from milk to adult food. After a period of about 4- 6 months, nutrition from milk, either formula or breast milk, is not sufficient for the baby’s nutritional needs and solid foods need to be added to the baby’s diet.
Starting Solid Foods for Babies
Most babies become curious about food only when they become toddlers, but the introduction of solids must happen way before that stage.
1. When Should I Introduce Solid Food to My Baby?
The digestive systems of babies will become ready for solid food by 4 months or so. They will also be able to have the physical skills of swallowing solid foods by that time. Solid foods for infants should start when your baby shows signs of readiness.
2. How Should I Introduce Solid Food to My Baby?
Introducing solid foods to a baby can be done by pureeing, steaming or mashing each item at a time. Start with single grain cereals, and graduate to fruits and vegetables. Give one type of food for 2-3 days to see if the baby has an allergy to that food. Remember not to add any salt or sugar to the food. Start with a small teaspoon, and see how the baby reacts to the feel of the spoon and the texture of food, before giving it to her. If the baby refuses, do not force, but try again after a week or so.
3. How Often and How Much to Feed a Baby
Start with 1 tablespoon once a day at 4-6 months. A 6-month-old baby feeding schedule can be 2 meals of 2-4 tablespoons
Signs My Baby is Ready for Solids
You need to look out for the readiness of your baby to start solid foods. Look for the following signs:
- Your baby can keep his head in an upright position and be steady in that position. Your baby should be to be able to sit upright in an infant feeding seat or highchair so that he can swallow properly.
- Your baby has gained weight significantly and he has nearly doubled his birth weight.
- Your baby is curious about what you are eating and looks at what you are eating or reaches out.
First Foods to Feed Baby
Each baby is unique so your doctor may give the best advice about solids. In fact, The American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests giving meats to replace iron, which starts reducing at 6 months. Most parents start by giving single ingredient food without salt or sugar. You can also give pureed single grain cereal, sweet potatoes, peaches or bananas.
1. What Foods to Eat
Solid food for infants should start by 4-6 months. Introducing solid foods to a baby should be done gradually and carefully. Although it is good to eat a vast variety of foods, as a general rule, transition the baby to solid food with pureed food, then move on to mashed or strained food, and then to small pieces of finger food that the baby can chew. One of the first vegetables suggested is sweet potato.
When your baby is trying a food different from cereal, you can try baby food combinations. Mix some tablespoons of fruit or vegetables along with the cereal and see how the baby reacts. The food should be very soft so that baby can easily press it against the roof of their mouth with their tongue.
2. What Foods to Avoid
Honey is sweet and all natural but could contain spores of Clostridium botulinum bacterium. These spores can multiply in baby’s intestines and infant botulism could develop. Older babies have mature digestive systems which can fight off this type of botulism, but babies up to 1-year-old can have serious consequences. Therefore, honey is not recommended for babies below one year of age.
Cow or soya milk straight from cartons could contain proteins that the baby cannot digest. Some minerals may even have an effect on their kidneys. For the first year, stick to breast milk or formula milk. Some babies may also be intolerant to lactose in such products and which may cause allergic reactions like diarrhoea.
It is known to cause serious allergic reactions. Its thick consistency is also a choking hazard.
Vegetables like spinach, beets, and lettuce contain nitrates which cannot be processed by the baby’s digestive system, even when cooked and pureed should be avoided.
Mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tuna have high levels of mercury that are too high to be consumed by children under a year old. If your family has a history of allergies to shellfish do not introduce them to the baby. Some shellfish like oysters and lobster can cause severe allergic reactions, so wait till the child is three before trying them out.
Berries and citrus
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries contain a protein that infants find hard to digest. Oranges or grapefruit are acidic in nature and can cause stomach upsets. It’s best to cut such citrus or berry fruit into small pieces, dilute with water and before giving it to the baby. Observe any reaction before introducing them into your baby’s diet.
Babies need less than 1 gram a day. The baby’s kidneys are not yet well developed to process large amounts of salt. Processed food that contains sodium is best avoided.
Seeds and nuts
Seeds and nuts are normally highly allergic. The baby’s airway is small and hence it could also be a choking hazard.
Grapes and raisins
They are firm and large and could cause choking. The skin is also difficult to digest for babies.
Babies can have allergic reactions to eggs, especially egg whites. These are unfortunately extremely common.
The caffeine in the chocolate could cause allergies. The dairy component of the chocolate could be difficult to digest. There is also a choking risk. Tea and coffee also contain caffeine, hence they are best avoided.
Foods with choking risks
Raw carrots or any raw vegetables that are firm and hard, popcorn, hard candy and gum are foods associated with choking risks and hence best avoided.
If there is a known history in your family to gluten intolerance, it’s better to wait until the baby is a year old before introducing foods containing a significant part of wheat to the baby.
Colas and sodas contain a high concentration of sugar, sodium and artificial flavourings. These ingredients are not good for babies. The gas used to carbonate such type of drinks can also cause upset tummies in babies.
Baby Feeding Schedule
There is no perfect feeding time or schedule. If you are breastfeeding the baby, and you know the time when your milk supply is low, try and give solids at that time. Some babies might like to have solid food for breakfast. The baby will show you if she’s ready for solid food, by either opening the mouth wide or turning away.
You can begin with one meal a day, and then try one in the morning and one in the evening. Gradually increase the frequency try and give three solid meals per day as your baby grows. Experiment till you find a schedule that suits you and your baby.
When the baby is 6-9 months try and start her on a regular feeding schedule of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It will give her time to get used to a schedule of eating.
Here is a chart you may use as a reference to schedule your baby’s meals:
|Age||Food||Number of meals per day||Serving Size||Feeding Tips|
|0-4 months||Breast Milk||On Demand||5 – 10 minutes from each breast||
|Formula – 1 Month||6-8 times||60-100 ml|
|Formula – 1-2 months||5-7 times||90-150 ml|
|Formula – 2-3 months||4-6 times||120 – 200 ml|
|Formula – 3-4 months||4-6 times||150 – 250 ml|
|4-6 months||Breast Milk or Formula||4-6 times||150-250 ml||
|Baby Cereal||1-2 times||1-2 tbsp|
|6-8 months||Breastmilk||3-5 times||150-250 ml||
|Formula||3-5 times||2-4 tbsp|
|Baby Cereal||1-2 times||2-3 tbsp|
|Strained Fruits and vegetables||2-4 times|
|8-12 months||Breast Milk||3-4 times||150ml – 250 ml||
|Formula||3-4 times||2-4 tbsp|
|Yoghurt||3-4 times||150ml – 250 ml|
|Cottage Cheese||Introduce/ offer||¼ to ½ cups|
|Baby cereal||Introduce/ offer||1-2 tbs|
|Bread or crackers||1– 2 times||2-4 tbsp|
|Dry cereal||1– 2 times||A small amt|
|Vegetables and Fruits (Strained and mashed)||3-4 times||3-4 tbs|
|Fruit Juice (Not orange)||Once||120 ml|
|Meat and beans (Pureed and strained)||1-2 times||3-4 tbsp|
What if Your Child Refuses to Eat Food
It’s very common for babies to avoid solid food. They may not like the texture or haven’t developed the skills to push the food into their throat. It is very important not to force the baby to eat. Make sure you feed her plenty of milk.
Encourage your baby to touch and play with the food. It will get them used to the texture and shape of the food. Allow them to interact with the food. The more they do, the more comfortable they get with the food and the closer they are to eating it. Give them time to get acclimatized to the feel of a spoon. Babies will fling food everywhere, it doesn’t mean they dislike the food, It just means they are messy.
When the baby is at least tolerating the food on their hands show them how to take it into their mouth and taste it. Repeat several times. Once they eat from their hands, offer a spoon. Give them time, as eating, chewing, and swallowing is skills they need to learn. It does not come naturally to babies.
The physical coordination required to get the food into the mouth is a challenge for babies. The natural reaction is to push the food out with his tongue. So give your baby time to adjust.
Solid Food Chart for Babies
When do babies start eating baby food, is a question mothers are often confused about.The following chart will clear some of the doubts about baby foods by age.
|Time||Solid food amount|
|0 to 4 months||
|4 to 6 months||
|6 to 7 months||
|7 to 9 months||
|9 to 12 months||
Food should be well mashed and cooked or cut into small bite-size pieces.
Ensure the baby gets her requirement of breast or formula milk. You can reduce the baby’s milk intake gradually to three to four feeds per day along with a gradual increase in solid foods.
Different Food Allergies of Babies
Signs of an allergic reaction to a new food could vary from almost immediate to a few hours. Normally reaction is mild. If severe, like hives, diarrhoea or vomiting contact your doctor immediately.
Extreme reactions could be wheezing, difficulty in breathing or facial swelling. This requires immediate hospitalisation.
What if My Baby is Choking
If you find the baby is unable to breathe, there may be an obstruction in the airway. Assess the situation quickly and you will need to help her remove it. Use back blows and chest thrusts to try and remove the obstruction. Give some blows on the baby’s shoulder blades using the heel of your hand. The blow will most likely dislodge the obstruction.
If any obstruction is visible you can try to remove it. However, it is not advised to probe the child’s mouth blindly in with your finger as this could push the obstruction further into his throat.
Gently tap the child on the shoulder and shout. Begin CPR if the baby does not respond or if you find the baby is not breathing. Compress the chest gently at a rate of 100-120 per min, after laying the baby on the back.
Your baby will take time to get used to each new food’s taste, texture, and sensation. So you need to start the transition keeping all this in mind.