Imagine drinking only milk the whole daythe first six months of your life. Then suddenly, you are served foods of vibrant colours, interesting textures, unfamiliar smells and different tastes! Now, this is what your baby sees when he is weaned. Whether it is an exciting adventure or a frustrating phase, weaning or the introduction of solids to babies, is indeed an important milestone for various reasons.
Weaning is not always smooth. Babies may refuse the solids, resent the way they are fed or might even react adversely to the foods. For successful weaning, we share a few important tips here with you.
When to start weaning
Weaning too early exposes your baby to the risk of food allergy as his digestive and immune systems are still immature. On the other hand, weaning too late deprives your baby of additional nutrients needed, thus hampering his growth and development.
Generally, babies are ready for solids when they are six months old. Look out for cues from your baby. If he frets and gnaws hungrily at his fist after a full feeding, if he eyes your food intently when you eat or if he is able to sit upright and can hold food on his tongue without thrusting it out, then you may start weaning.
What to serve baby
Weaning is a “high-risk” period as your baby is exposed to a wide variety of foods. And any food has the potential to cause an allergy, with discomfort like hives, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea or even life-threatening reactions. Furthermore, a food allergy may lead to a series of other allergic diseases in later life. So, a baby’s food must be nutritious and “safe”. The trick is to stay away from allergenic foods that cause problems until the child is over a year old. These include egg white, peanuts, tree nuts (for example, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds) and shellfish.
You may give your baby rice cereals as his first solid food because rice rarely causes an allergy and is easy to digest. Commercial ones have the added advantage of being fortified with iron. By this age, the iron reserve that your baby was born with would have been depleted.
Other “safe” foods suitable for weaning are apples, pears, prunes, carrots, potatoes, spinach, chicken, oats and wheat. From here, slowly expand your baby’s menu.
But whatever you serve, do not season with salt, soy sauce or sugar. It is never too early to establish healthy eating habits.
How to go about weaning
Start by giving your baby one type of solid food, say rice cereal, for three to five days. Then add another new food and test it out for another three to five days. This way, you will be able to isolate any allergy-inducing foods and eliminate them from your baby’s diet. Babies may not show love at first sight for most foods. Thus mothers must show patience and gentle persistence. Do not force the food on your baby but serve it again after several days and let him get accustomed to it.
Always sit a baby upright when giving solids. Offer about a quarter of a small teaspoon at a time. Foods must be finely mashed. Initially, your baby will spit out much of the food as he is learning to swallow. Again, patience pays off. Always keep an eye on the baby during mealtimes to avoid untoward incidents like choking.
More solid advice
Did you know that diarrhoeal diseases peak during the weaning stage of six to 12 months? This is attributed to the increased risk of contamination from a baby’s foods due to unhygienic preparation, handling or storing, eating utensils, the environment (around this time, baby learns to crawl and explores objects with his mouth!) and also due to a drop in the beneficial bacteria in his gut. Diarrhoea saps a child’s energy, depletes his nutrients and may even be fatal.
Boost your baby’s resistance to intestinal infections by introducing probiotic or beneficial bacteria such as Bifido bacteria into his diet. These probiotic bacteria, which are added to some baby cereals, milk and yoghurt, help to build a healthy digestive system. In addition, Bifido bacteria trains and matures your baby’s intestinal immune system for better response against allergy.
To conclude, weaning not only sees to your baby’s growth for now but also influences his health in later years. – Article courtesy of Nestlé