Ask any parent of the biggest challenges faced in their baby’s early childhood, and ‘feeding’ will definitely come up! Our little ones can be very moody and temperamental when it comes to eating and drinking, especially when they have moved from breastmilk or formula to solid foods. We try our best to keep their meals wholesome, complete and easy to digest. However, there are a few feeding mistakes that can interfere with the baby’s nutrition and MUST be avoided.
We have compiled for you common baby feeding mistakes that parents must avoid. Paediatricians recommend that we keep these pointers in mind to ensure our babies get adequate and wholesome nutrition for their development.
1. Rushing to Introduce Solid Food So The Baby ‘Sleeps Better’
There is a commonly held belief among many parents that solid foods fill up the baby’s tummy properly and help them sleep better. Going by this, we often tend to rush to introduce solid foods – even before 4-6 months of age. However, paediatricians do not recommend this practice. There is no truth to the belief that giving solid food earlier helps babies sleep longer.
It is advised that the baby feeds only on breast milk (or formula) for the first 4-6 months of life. Introduce solid foods only after this time.
2. Introducing Cereal Before 6 Months
Cereal is seen as one of the best baby foods, with many parents introducing it early. Even when we delay in feeding other solids such as daal khichdi, we assume that cereal is safe and nutritious for the baby to consume before six months. However, this too is not recommended by paediatricians. The baby’s digestive tract isn’t mature enough yet. Eating cereal before 6 months might cause constipation and make the baby fussy.
If you feel your baby is still hungry after a feed, consider increasing the frequency of feeding. Discuss with the doctor if you feel you have low milk production and might need to supplement with formula. Please note that paediatricians sometimes recommend feeding cereal in bottles if your baby is suffering a reflux problem. However, this is intended to keep the food down. It is best not to try this without consulting the doctor first.
3. Worrying Too Much About Babies Spitting-Up Food
When you see your baby spit up milk after feeding, it can be worrisome. However, paediatricians advise parents not to worry too much about this as it is normal for babies to spit up their milk or other food. This is a condition called acid reflux and is a fairly common problem. It happens simply because the valve that connects the oesophagus to the stomach is not yet functioning properly. This leads to food from the stomach flowing back into the mouth.
This problem will subside with time without any intervention. Just ensure to burp your baby after every feed so the food goes down properly. If your baby is suffering from a lot of spitting up, consider these home remedies for acid reflux in babies.
4. Introducing Solid Foods Too Late
Just as it is a mistake to introduce solids too early, it is also not recommended to delay introduction beyond 6-9 months at most. Doctors say that not introducing solid foods before nine months can lead to oral aversion in babies. This means your baby might face several problems with food textures, biting, or tastes.
Also remember that during this time, breast milk (or formula) will still continue to be important. However, it is crucial that your baby starts getting a taste and feel of solid food. Refer to this chart on solid foods for babies up to 12 months to understand this better.
5. Not Being Careful Enough About Choking Hazards
Many common and seemingly harmless foods can become choking hazards for babies. As your baby grows older, he will start experimenting with finger foods and start picking up food items to put into his mouth. This is the time when we must be extra cautious with choking hazards. Though the baby may have started chewing, his teeth are not fully formed yet.
Please avoid giving large morsels of food to the baby, or letting your baby lie down while eating. Here are some more choking risks parents must guard against.
6. Feeding Foods That Are ‘Too Healthy’
This is becoming a common mistake in today’s times – we tend to overthink ‘health’ in baby’s food and end up choosing low-fat, organic, or genetically modified (e.g. seedless) foods. However, paediatricians advise that babies need real, natural foods. Please stay away from low-fat foods in particular (e.g. low-fat butter) as babies need wholesome meals while growing up.
It is also not a good practice to restrict baby’s meals to fruits and vegetables only. While these foods are certainly nutritious, they are also filling and can limit your baby’s exposure to other essential items like meat, dairy, or vegetable-protein sources like beans.
7. Spoon-Feeding For Too Long
This is a feeding mistake that has been linked to childhood obesity. As per recent research, babies who are spoon-fed for a long time are at a much higher risk of developing obesity in later life. This is mainly because they fail to understand when they feel full and have eaten enough. When the baby is allowed to handle foods himself, he can control the intake.
Doctors recommend that babies start self-feeding at 8-9 months of age. Please check for signs of readiness that signal your baby is now ready to start using a spoon on his own. These include holding their head steady or grasping foods with his palm/fingers.
8. Feeding Allergy-Triggering Foods
Please be careful of some common and otherwise nutritious foods that can turn out to be an allergy threat for babies. While doctors no longer believe that common ‘allergy’ causing foods such as peanuts, shellfish or egg whites need to be restricted completely, it is best to discuss with the paediatrician before starting them. You might need to limit the consumption of such triggering foods if needed.
If your baby or family has a history of allergy or eczema, you will need to be more careful.
9. Feeding Too Much Fruit Juice
We saved this for the last – why should fruit juice be a feeding mistake? Most parents feed juice to their babies as it is seen as a nutritious, mineral-rich food. However, doctors recommend parents to avoid fruit juice and opt for cut and sliced/mashed fresh fruits instead. Juice (especially the packaged ones) only add extra calories and could lead to problems such as obesity and tooth decay.