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Your little one is no more a tiny infant as she crosses the 4-month milestone, she’s growing up fast – and her needs are changing too. Babies can generally start on their first solid foods between 4 and 6 months. Up to 12 months of age, breast milk (or formula) will continue to provide most of the baby's nutritional requirements, with solids as complementary foods. Cereal, vegetables, and fruits are all suitable for starting your baby off on solids. All food should be well-cooked, mashed, thinly diluted, and fed in tiny quantities in the introductory stage, progressing to thicker consistencies and increased portions as the baby grows older and more proficient at eating.
Baby should be fed exclusively on breast milk for the first 6 months of her life. While 6 months is ideal, but some babies start semi solids between 4 and 6 months (but not before 4 months). Your baby’s level of growth and development will determine when she can start on solid foods. Some babies are ready to start solid foods as soon as 4 months; others will refuse all foods but milk until they are around 8 months old.
Factors to understand when their baby is ready to transition from breast milk or formula to solid foods:
Even if you introduce foods to her diet around 4 months, continue with formula or breastfeeding until she is at least 12 months old. Because even as you gradually introduce her to a variety of first foods, giving her breast milk will ensure she gets all its nutrients and protective components that are required for normal growth. Babies who have transitioned successfully to solid foods can continue to be breastfed even after 12 months.
Allergies: - Some foods are known widely to trigger off allergic reactions such as eggs, peanuts, and fish. Also it’s recommended to give a particular food like rice, oats, and pulses for continuous 2-3 days to notice any allergy and introduce semi solid one at a time to get babies stomach used to digest. At any time, while getting your baby started on solid foods, if she develops a rash, vomits, or has diarrhea, consult her doctor immediately to plan out a diet that will suit her. Nutrition experts also caution against feeding honey to babies under 12 months of age as these foods could lead to botulism, a rare but potentially life-threatening illness.
Choosing First Foods at 4 to 6 Months
When introducing complementary foods between 4 and 6 months, try out single-ingredient, pureed or mashed foods, one at a time. A puree will allow you to dilute a food to the consistency suited for your baby’s age. With just one ingredient at a time, you’ll be able to quickly identify the cause of an upset stomach.
Traditionally, cereals like rice and oatmeal are preferred options to kick start your baby’s solid food journey. You could start with soft-cooked rice to help your baby learn how to move food to the back of her mouth and swallow it safely. Later, you can add other cereals like oatmeal and barley.
Introduce single-grain product to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction when you are first trying out solid food. Make a diluted preparation with expressed breast milk or water (or formula if your baby is already having it) for the initial feedings. Once your baby has accepted this new food and learned how to eat it, gradually thicken the consistency and offer more cereal at each feeding.
Veggies and Fruits
After trying cereals for a month, you can begin on vegetables and fruits. The rule about trying one food at a time still applies and food still needs to have a smooth texture. Buy fresh vegetables as far as possible. Fruits should be ripe, washed well, and peeled before being stewed or eaten raw.
Some fruit and veggie suggestions:
In a pot of boiling water, immerse the chopped fruit or vegetable (washes and peeled) for just under 1 minute. Drain out the water and plunge them into ice-cold water. Place cubes in a blender and puree with a little water.
Dilute all these foods with water, breast milk or formula in the early stages and offer thicker consistencies as your baby gets more proficient at eating.
6 Months Onward
At 6 months and going ahead, your baby can eat a wide variety of well-cooked vegetables and fruits – potato, parsnip, peas, beans, carrot, pear, apple, to name a few! Remember to cool them before feeding. Peach and melon are also soft and easy to eat. When your baby is fully accustomed to these foods, you can move from purees to mashed foods. Soft-cooked lentils and rice can all be a part of exciting meal times for your baby. Try porridge, kheer and dalia as well.
Important Note: Stools may also contain bits of undigested food like vegetable skins. If her stools appear watery, very loose, or mucus-filled, it means her still immature digestive system is irritated. Cut back on solid foods and reintroduce them in reduced quantities once her stomach settles down. Consult her doctor if the loose stools persist.
Between 8 and 9 months, a baby will typically be on three meals a day. Now you can move from puree to mashed food. Her diet will include the major food groups: carbohydrates (rice, wheat chapatti, bread, potatoes), protein (eggs, beans, peas, cheese, and yogurt), vitamins and minerals (fruits and vegetables) and, of course, breast milk or formula
Finger foods: - Around 9 months, when you can see 1 or 2 teeth your baby will be more adept at eating harder foods, she may show signs of wanting to feed himself. Encourage her by offering finger foods. This is going to be a messy stage, but a good step toward her learning to eat independently.
By 12 months, your baby’s three meals would consist of more chopped foods and nutritious snacks like fruit pieces and cooked vegetable sticks. This is also a good time to get baby on whole milk as she needs the additional fat and vitamins found in full-fat dairy.
The transition from breastfeeding (or formula) to solid foods is a learning process for both baby and parent. If you’ve systematically introduced one new food at a time in the early stages, you would have developed a good understanding of what your baby likes and equally important, what doesn’t suit her. It’s a slow process and a lesson in patience. Go with the flow and give her plenty of loving encouragement!
Encourage family meals when you can, as the whole family should eat together. It is important for your baby to get used to the process of eating—sitting up, taking food from a spoon, resting between bites, and stopping when full. These early experiences will help your child learn good eating habits throughout life.