Few Tips Before You Start Solids to Your Baby
Solid food analogy for infants
A popular proverb in my regional language says 'Amar Sontan Jano Thake Dudhe Bhate'.Though the terms 'Dudh' & 'Bhat' are literally translated as 'Milk' & 'Rice' respectively but they symbolise the state of enjoying a blessed life with happiness & prosperity. And hence the underlying meaning of the proverb states, 'I wish for my children to spend their entire life with happiness & prosperity'. Being a mother I wish the same for my son too & I hope with God's grace he will grow up to be a wonderful human being.
Presently my son is a super active toddler & not only from my own short experienced life, with the facts collected from a ton of successful proud parents I must mention that parenting is never an easy job. Rather it is probably one of the most crucial & difficult tasks to accomplish in life. As your child walks through the phases of life one after another you will find your job as a parent becoming more intense. If your child fumbles in a situation or gets stuck into something serious most of the time it becomes the biggest concern of your life & you chose to leave each of the issues behind for taking care of your child for that moment. And for me the very first concern started with the time my baby was about to start solids. And as I have already overcome few confusing stages successfully I thought it would be helpful for a lot of you if I share my story & some suggestions that worked for me & my baby as well.
Indications for starting solids :
As my pediatrician suggested I kept on breastfeeding my baby exclusively for the first 6 months. During that period I didn't give him even a single drop of water other than breast milk. From my experience what I understood is, not all infants develop in the similar manner with similar symptoms and like so, the components of breast milk don't stay same as long as a mother lactates. Hence the duration of exclusive breastfeeding should be determined according to the individual body needs of a baby & the health condition of the mother of course. The best thing according to my opinion should be checking the baby's height & weight during the time of each vaccination. And then consult your pediatrician accordingly to check whether your baby needs few shots of formula milk along with the breast milk or not.
For the same reason not every infant can start having solids from a specific month. There are few symptoms that must be noticed carefully before you start feeding baby new things other than breast milk & formula milk. Here are few symptoms that I can share with you as these indications were clearly visible to me and helped me a lot to understand my baby's need.
- Baby's sitting position - Babies can swallow the substances thicker than the breastmilk predominantly when they can carry their upper body weight which means they can sit in upright posture. Therefore if you find your baby's head is still trembling without any support or your baby is bending down few moments after you tried to make him sit then he is not ready yet for any solid consumption.
- Baby's eagerness towards adult's foods - This was the symptom that resulted to be very helpful for me. I used to take my baby around me at the time of my lunch as this was the time of day when he preferred to stay awake & share his thoughts with his mommy in his gibberish language :D. Gradually I started to notice he was sharing his interest towards my plate, sometimes streched his fingers as if he wanted to lift some food from my plate & the most noticeable thing I experienced later that he was releasing some sounds with his tongue as if he wanted to lick something while watching me eating my food. These are indications that made me realise my baby was developping interest towards new foods. If you experience the similar symptom it's an indication that you can start giving him solids.
- Baby is crying over & over again even after feeding him quite a few times - That's probably the cleanest indication that your baby needs more food. As his body developes his appetite changes accordingly. Therefore, when you find your baby is crying abnormally even after feeding him in right intervals it might be an indication that your baby is not getting enough food. Best to consult your pediatrician immediately to rule out any other physical discomfort & then if he suggests you can start introducing solids to your baby.
These were few symptoms that I experienced just before I start giving solids to my baby.
What type of food should we introduce first :
As I was a physically fit mother & my baby was a healthy one, no one of us had a troublesome journey during the first 6 months of lactation period. So, introducing the formula milk wasn't felt necessary at that time. After that duration was over the very first contradiction arrived in my whole 6 month old motherhood that, what new food I should start with & how much of it should be harmless for my baby's digestive system.
I belong to the country 'India' & our staple diet is 'Dal' i.e., pulses and 'Chawal' i.e., rice. Most of the time we locals prefer to start giving soup made of pulses or rice as the first solid to our infants. But as we aren't supposed to add any salt or sugar in foods until our babies turn a year old these soups taste so bland. As the breastmilk or formula milk both are in sweeter side if we suddenly introduce any bland food to our babies they should surely spit it out & they do the exact same thing in reality as well. Therefore I had to persue almost a research work on such a serious practical issue. And then few options I came up with that made me breath with a sound of relief.
I realised few things from my research & these I'm going to share with you. At the time of introducing solids to an infant it's digestive system is almost similar to that of someone having upset stomach or of some aged people who are in the stage of loosing their appetite gradually for natural reasons. That is only because the digestive system of an infant is still in developping condition at the time you introduce solids & hence the system should be considered as very very sensitive towards many foods that are hard to digest. Therefore you should keep in mind that you can definitely maintain a foodchart that is similar for an aged one or someone having digestion issues. But as salt & sugar should be avoided, instead of bland soups we can introduce some foods that are naturally sweet. And even if you need to add some additional element to sweeten your baby's food I can share you something that I followed without risking my baby's health.
1. Fruit puree - Most of the fruits are naturally sweet & they contain good amount of fibre which helps in regular bowel movements. But fruits should be avoided for dinner. So fruit purees are good options in lunch or as an evening time snack for your baby. Here are few safe options which are supposed to be good for your baby's stomach.
If you are planning to give banana or avacado just peel the fruit & blitz it into a grinder to make a smooth puree. Of course in case of avocado don't forget to remove the seed before you make a puree out of it. But if you are thinking of apples or pears, after you peel the fruits boil them first in some hot water for few minutes & then grind them into a smooth puree. I hope your baby will enjoy it like the way my little one did.
2. Vegetables - As I already mentioned, rice soup or lentil soup is one of the most preferred option as the first solid to our babies in my country. But I also mentioned this type of soups tastes so bland & therefore it becomes very difficult to feed the baby. Hence I researched a little more to find out the best remedy. There are few vegetables which are either sweet or savoury by nature and if we add them in a dish the flavour of the dish is enhanced to a much better extent. On top of that they are good for your baby's digestive system as well.
- Carrot (sweet)
- Beat root (sweet)
- Sweet potato (sweet)
- Pumpkin (sweet)
- Spinach (savoury)
Sometimes I used to boil a vegetable to make a puree out of it & sometimes I preferred to boil some grains along with some vegetables and then blend everything together to make a porridge. I got a very good response from my baby both in puree or porridge whenever I offered him.
3. Grains - Along with the fruits & vegetables there are some excellent food grains that you can offer to your baby as one of the first row solid food groop. Few of them are readily available & few you can find in any Asian super market if you don't stay in India.
- Broken wheat or cracked wheat (we call it 'Dalia' in our country)
- Finger millets (we call it 'Ragi' in our country)
- Red lentils (we call it 'Masoor ki Dal' in our country)
I used to make a porridge with the above mentioned ingredients mostly in three different ways. In each of the processes keeping the lentils & vegetables in common I used to alternate among the rice, broken wheat & oats. And finally I used to blend the porridge to make it smooth. Another porridge that I offered my baby quite oftenly was the finger millet porridge. I used to buy a good quality finger millet powder from the market & prepared a sweet porridge for my baby along with an alternative sweetener that I'm going to talk about in the next section below. I hope like mine it will be another good option for your baby too.
Few things about some alternatives:
As we all know an infant's kidney can not cope up with additional salt processing in the body until he is 12 months old. So we can't add additional salt into the foods that we prepare for our infants below one. Even after he is a year old it's better to keep the usage of salt as minimal as possible. The best salt till date is considered as the 'Himalayan Salt' or we call it as 'Sendha Namak' in our country. This salt is regarded as the safest among all due to it's natural health benefits. Therefore when you are allowed to start adding salt to your baby's food I will advice to use the 'Himalayan Salt' as long as possible.
Another very important thing I would like to share & that is about alternative sweetner in your baby's food. As I already told, like salt we can't include additional sugar in an infant's food untill he turns a year old. But, a baby's taste buds are naturally accustomed to sweet components from the very beginning of his birth as breastmilk or any formula milk is in little sweeter side. Therefore even after doing all research & making good foods for your baby in his preliminary days of solid consumption you may find it is not comforting enough for your baby. In that case you may use jaggery or 'gur' in our native language to enhance the sweetness of the dish that you are going to prepare for your baby. I actually used this element quite a few times in the finger millet poridge that I mentioned above. Jaggery is full of iron which has a very essential impact on your baby's good health. But before you introduce such a very new ingredient to your infant always take an advice from your pediatrician.
Jaggery mostly comes in a brown coloured rock like slab. I used to break a very small piece out of a slab & boil the piece along with some water. Once the jaggery melts down & the solution is homogeneous I used to strain it to discard any impurities from the solution. And then I used to add the solution in the foods according to the necessity.
Portion of a solid food during your baby's initial stage :
It's better to check with your pediatrician first to determine the portion of the food for your baby at the time you are about to start giving him solids. Most of the time you will be advised to watch your baby's appetite to determine the amount he or she needs. But from my experience I can say start with a table spoon of a smooth puree & even after that if your baby opens his mouth go upto another more table spoon. This is the portion I used to maintain on my baby's initial days to solids.
I hope I could share some useful tips that will be helpful when you are in need & I would be very happy if this article works in your baby's benefit :)