The nutrition of children in the initial years is a cause of disconcert for most new parents. As a new parent often we are perplexed about the introduction of food in the lives of our little one. However our instincts and knowledge undergoes improvement with time as we learn that with each child their is something new to learn and adopt .Each child is inherently built with their own personal tastes and food preferences . All we can do as parents is either build upon it and further try to introduce new foods to their palates in the most desirable way as possible.
I recently visited an event organised by the Darebin community at the Darebin Family Health Services in Northcote, Victoria. The enlightening short session was conducted by a Maternal Health Nurse. I received important information resources that day .
Signs/Cues that baby is ready
- Baby is ready when they can sit with support; has good head control
- watches others eat:
- opens mouth when food is offered and
- reaches out to grab food
- baby starts feeding self; can be offered a spoon so that they may try
According to the World Health Organization , the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods is known as ‘Complementary Feeding’. Also stated is that the phase from 6-24 months is the time when a surge of malnutrition is noted in most children all the more in countries with lower family incomes. Thus the ideal age to start weaning in children is of 6 months, also because the stomach lining in the infant to tolerate the introduction of food takes about 3-4 months to properly develop , further the lining for meat and poultry starts developing from 6-9 months.
Things to remember
Initially the aim of introducing the food is not just nutrition but just to make the newborn familiar with food. It is fine to let the kid be messy and simply get a chance to explore . Further this may help with the speech development of the child. Having said that it is essential that any experiences should be carried out under careful supervision of adults.
The best time to Start
- would be to when the baby is relaxed
- It is important that the baby is sitting upright to eliminate chances of choking.
- Its a good idea to offer food after a milk feed as baby is not hungry
- One can start in the morning, as it is easier to observe any reactions during the day and act upon it
- It is always feasible to start with a single food ideally iron rich
- Start with pureed food and can later move onto add mashed food later
Continuing the process
- Once weaning has started , introduce a new food every couple of days
- The aim should be to cater from all the food groups by the end of 8 months including foods which are prone to cause allergy
- Provide cooled boiled water once baby has started consuming food.
What types of food to give
- Iron-rich foods should be provided to the baby
- Examples fortified cereals, vegetables, fruits , meat, poultry cooked plain tofu.
- A wide range of food ensures good nutrition, move on to include dairy, wheats, other cereals, eggs and nut pastes
- The texture of food should be appropriate for their stage of development, move onto mashed, then lumpy and finger foods around 8 months.
Foods to avoid
- Cows milk should be avoided till 12 months
- Whole nuts and other hard foods eg. whole nuts, seeds, whole carrots, celery sticks and chunks of apple (should all be avoided for those under 3 years of age)
- honey, not before 12 months
- raw eggs
- unpasteurised animal milks, soy or rice milk
- no added salt, sugar, fruit juice/cordial, tea
- food that is too spicy , sweet, salty or bitter.
Baby led weaning- Different approach
- No spoons
- Baby feeds self
- finger foods that are ready to pick up
- eats with family, same food
Food preparation and safety
- store foods safely and hygienically
- clean utensils
- fresh is best
- home made has more taste and texture than ready prepared baby foods, use sometimes only
- discard left overs that have been touched by saliva
- always supervise a baby/toddler eating
- never prop a bottle in a baby’s mouth
- The number of children affected by food allergies has increased
- Introducing solids around 6 months minimises risk of allergy
- Introduce a variety of foods, do not delay certain foods
- continue breast feeding while introducing foods
- most children grow out of it
- does not involve the immune systems
- is not life threatening
- can make baby uncomfortable and is painful as well.
- Be relaxed
- eat as a family
- always sit while eating, don’t rush
- look at their signals
- appetite varies may take many tries before baby eats a certain food-keep trying
- Food should not be used as a ‘reward or punishment’!
Darebin Maternal Health