By Sangeetha Menon
The transition from breastmilk to food is a big milestone in an infant’s life. By around 6 months, babies can hold their heads straight, can sit with support, and will lose their tongue-thrust reflex. These signs are the indicators that your baby is ready for weaning. While some babies easily accept real food, for others the transition may be a struggle.
Many newbie parents get confused during weaning, especially if the baby is hesitant to accept complementary food. What is the right kind of food to start weaning? Which type of food will be safe for the baby’s delicate tummy? Is it ok to feed this and will something happen if I feed that? - All these are questions that confuse young parents. Choosing age-appropriate healthy food isn’t that difficult if you consider certain factors when selecting baby food.
5 things to keep in mind while choosing your baby's first food
What kind of food a 6-month-old will be eating is the most confusing question that every parent faces. Here are the key points to keep in mind when starting the weaning process.
1. Start single then mingle
When starting the weaning process, always introduce one thing at a time. It can be vegetables, grains, or fruits. Don’t go for recipes that call for multiple ingredients. This is to ensure that the baby’s tummy takes the new food easily and without any allergies. Preparing a 6-month feeding schedule chart will help track the foods and also clear any confusion that the parent has while weaning.
The first foods can be pureed apple, avocado puree, Kerala banana powder porridge, pureed veggies, or single grain porridges like sprouted ragi porridge, rice cereals, etc. The consistency can be watery at the beginning and slowly thickened according to your baby’s preference. When I started weaning Anshika, I first introduced traditional dal ka paani, rice water, etc, before moving to pureed dal and rice.
The single ingredient foods that a baby gets introduced to at the beginning of weaning is called Stage 1 food. Once the baby gets familiar with stage 1 foods, the transition to stage 2 food can be initiated. Stage 2 foods contain multiple ingredients and can be dal khichdi, soups, or homemade Cerelac/multigrain porridge mixes.
2. Bland is not bad
As adults, we may find it difficult to consume bland food, but for babies who are getting introduced to new tastes bland food is not a problem. The best practice when starting solids is to avoid sugar and salt until the baby turns one. This is because salt and sugar can be harsh on the developing kidneys of infants. Also, seasoning the purees or mashes with salt or sugar overpowers the taste of the veggies and fruits and stops the infant from appreciating and getting familiar with the actual tastes.
Let the first food be bland, however, you can add small quantities of spices and herbs to your baby’s food starting from 7 months. Spices and herbs not only add flavor to the food but also acts as good immunity boosters. Here is a complete guide on how and when to add spices in baby food.
3. Variety is the key
Many newbie parents while introducing baby food complain that the baby is interested in only one type of food. But sticking to only one type of food at the early weaning stages makes kids picky eaters. The best practice is to introduce a variety of food in the baby’s diet. Introduce fruits, vegetables, and also grains, super millets, and cereals. This widens their taste palate and develops a liking to all types of foods. Introducing a variety of food also ensures that the baby gets all the required nutrients and minerals.
Even if the baby rejects a new food at the first try, we should not give up. Try again and again till the baby gets used to the new taste and texture. Getting familiar with different tastes, colors, and textures during the initial weaning period is a must.
4. Packaged baby food?- Choose wisely
While homemade food is the safest and the best, there are times when we have to depend on packaged food. Packaged baby food or ready to cook baby cereals should be chosen wisely to make sure we are giving only the best to the baby.
Packaged baby foods that are best will be certified by concerned food authorities and will be devoid of salt, sugar, added flavors, preservatives, maida, and milk powder. Always look for the ingredients list in the packaging to confirm what is good for the baby. Look for baby food that has real fruits and not just added flavors.
5. Avoid Allergens
While introducing baby to the first foods, keep an eye on allergies and stomach discomforts especially if food allergy runs in your family. Common allergy-causing foods should be avoided during the early stages and can be introduced in small quantities once the baby is comfortable with normal foods. Eggs, peanuts, shellfishes, milk, wheat, etc are some common allergy-causing foods.
Wait till the baby completes 8 months to introduce eggs, wheat, etc. Also no honey till the baby’s first birthday. For infants, curd, butter, and cheese are fine to consume, but no milk till baby turns one is a universal rule that goes without saying. Strictly stick to the 3-days-rule when introducing common allergy foods.
So these are the 5 points to keep in mind while choosing your baby’s first foods. As parents, it is normal to worry about how to go with the weaning process. Start with single-ingredient foods, then introduce multiple ingredient foods slowly, bring in variety, and look for allergies. Also, start with pureed food and slowly progress to finger food and chunks of food. If you follow this process, majority of the babies will be ready to enjoy table food on his/her first birthday. Keeping these points in mind will help in a smooth transition from breastmilk to real foods.
Wishing healthy stress-free weaning. :-)
About the author: Sangeetha Menon is the founder of India's leading parenting blog, Bumps n Baby. She found her passion for blogging when motherhood came calling. As the tagline of her blog goes, " Simplifying your parenting phase", Sangeetha and her team are all about making parenting a joyful ride. From baby food recipes and charts, home remedies, pregnancy care, postnatal care tips to product recommendations and reviews, Sangeetha has made a point to include in her blog everything necessary for a stress-free parenting phase.