"At six months, breast milk alone is not sufficient to provide all the nutrients needed to maintain your growing baby. Increasing needs of calories and protein of growing children cannot be met by the breast milk itself. Starting solids is one of the many important milestones in your baby's process of development. It is very important for your baby's health and growth," points out Abhilasha V, Senior Clinical Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals.
The WHO Recommendation is to start complementary foods at six months of age in addition to breast milk, initially 2-3 times a day between 6-8 months, increasing to 3-4 times daily between 9-11 months and 12-24 months with additional nutritious snacks offered 1-2 times per day, as desired, suggests the expert.
The child is growing in size and needs more calories as other activities like learning to turn, crawl, standing with support, walking, running / vocabulary/ teething/ learning to eat by himself/ grasp are happening now.
Food contains complex form of nutrients which a child is ready to digest; protein and fats by 6 months of age, as the enzymes to digest complex nutrients are fully activated now.
If you are at this stage and your baby is ready to start solids in the middle of the current pandemic, do not worry, this expert guide keeps it simple and safe for a bay's first bite.
POINTS TO BE CONSIDERED IN INTRODUCING SOLIDS DURING THIS TIME :
Introduce only one food at a time. Allow the infant to become familiar with the food before trying to give another. This allows us to give baby time to accept new foods, avoid allergies and also prevent any indigestion, thus avoiding unnecessary hospital visits at this point.
Choose easily and widely available food like rice, ragi, dals, root vegetables like carrot, potatoes, beetroot, sweet potato etc and opt for fruits like banana which is easily available across even during these times and are a good option as peel acts as a protective layer.
Give very small amounts of any new food at the beginning, just about a tablespoon or two initially. Use a puree flowing consistency when starting solid foods. Gradually the consistency is made more solid as the infant learns to propel the food back with the help of tongue.
3 day Rule: Variety in choice of food is important. Every three days try a new food, and when the tested food is tolerated well it can be moved to second feed of the day, while all new food trials happen in the first morning feed.
Always ensure to give freshly prepared food. This is good for immunity and gut health too of your little baby.
Observe hygienic practices while preparing and feeding the complementary food.
Fresh homemade recipes are most advised for your little one, however due to any need that arises if you opt for baby foods that are packaged, do ensure that you read nutrition label on baby foods carefully. Look for the words "no sugar" "no salt" "organic" "preservative-free" etc for making wise choices. DO not go for sugary, preservative laden baby foods which may not be as nutritious as making fresh baby food at home.
HOW TO FEED A YOUNG INFANT?
Infants cannot eat large quantities of food in one sitting at a given time. So, they should be fed small quantities at frequent intervals (2 to 3 times a day).
Make sure infants are fed seated on a high chair or propped up- not lying down. Seated feeding is one of the most safe and recommended ways of feeding.
In case during this lockdown you find it difficult to buy high chair, worry not, you can use any chair where the baby is propped up straight with cushions for back support or even one parent can hold the child seated on their lap, while the other parent feeds the baby the puree.
Also, the food should be of semi-solid consistency for easy swallowing. When such semi-solid foods are offered initially, the infant tends to spit it out. This should not be mistaken as dislike for that food.
Simple food containers and cutlery made of steel or food grade plastic can be used to feed the baby.
WHAT ARE THE HYGIENIC PRACTICES TO BE ADOPTED?
It is important to ensure that hygienic practices are scrupulously followed, especially during these times. Hand-washing protocol and compliance for parents and baby is a must.
All the raw ingredients should be thoroughly cleaned. You can use salt or vinegar or any safe vegetable washing liquids available in the market for thorough cleaning of ingredients.
Vegetables should be washed well to remove contaminants/ parasites/ pesticides before cutting.
Vegetables should preferably be steam-cooked or pressure cooked to reduce nutrient losses.
At the time of preparation and feeding of the recipes, you should observe proper personal hygiene and the utensils used for cooking should be thoroughly washed or sterilized, wherever possible.
A number of pre-cooked and ready-to-eat foods can be prepared for use as complementary foods. Such foods should be stored in clean bottles or tins or air tight containers to avoid fungal growth and spoilage.