As your baby completes six months of age, you will be gearing up for a big milestone – her first taste of foods other than milk. This milestone is a lot of fun but can also cause a lot of anxiety to parents. Till she’s about 6 months old, your little one has her nutritional needs met by breast milk. It’s in fact just the right kind and amount of food that your baby needs at this point. However, as she grows older her nutritional requirements are going to increase. You need to supplement the breast milk with solid food in her diet.
This is the first time your baby will be exposed to complementary food – and the first few months will be experimental and part of a learning process for your child. These first slow steps will help develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Complementary feeding provides the necessary nutrients.
As she completes her 6 months, she needs to be introduced to more solid food. The right kind of food will help proper growth and development. This is also the time when babies are in their most rapid growth phase and have high nutrient requirements. Developmentally, babies are ready for complementary foods when they can sit without support and have good control of their head and neck.
That is why babies are called sitters at this stage.
The new foods are not meant to replace breast milk in any way. These foods are required to fill the gap between your child’s total nutritional needs and amounts provided by milk. Older babies need a diet relatively high in calories/energy along with good amounts of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Starting with Complementary meals!
The nutritional needs of the baby are big which may not be easy to achieve with their limited stomach capacities. Hence they should receive nutrient dense balanced complementary foods to support their growth.
Cereals are a common and a good way to begin your little one on solid food. Cereals like rice, semolina, sugar etc are easy to digest and should be the first choice when you decide to introduce foods.
Excellent energy source: Cereals are rich in carbohydrates and least expensive source of energy in the body. Your baby has a very high BMR and activity. As a result, she is going to need more energy. Mother’s milk provides for baby’s energy requirements till 6 months post which carbohydrates in the form of cereals account for at least 4Kcals of energy for each gram of intake.
Rich in nutrients: Cereals are a good source of vitamins like B complex. Begin your little one’s first diet with rice. Give her rice in the form of rice gruel or khichdi, kheer etc. semolina is also a great beginner food for your little darling.
How to give cereals: When you feed cereals to your baby, you can provide cereals in the form of blenderized or mashed food. Mix it with pureed fruits and vegetables for added nutrition and taste. Start the combination of ingredients when your baby is 8-9 months old.
Start her on pulses as she begins getting used to cereals. Pulses are a good source of protein and energy. The best way is to provide cereal pulse combination for better protein quality.
An important source of protein: the need for protein and amino acids are different for a baby and an adult. Pulses are a good source of protein which therefore help the babies in fulfilling their protein needs.
Good for gastro intestinal system: Pulses are rich in fibre and help in improving your baby’s gastric motility and in binding her stool. Cook the pulse well initially so that the stress on the gastro intestinal system of the baby is less. You can start off by giving lentil soups, rasam etc to your baby.
Some pulses may cause flatulence: When you are feeding your little one pulses, note that some of pulses can cause flatulence. Introduce her to whole pulses only after her gastric system has completely adjusted to the initial diet of washed pulses. Avoid pulses like rajmah, chole, lobia, urad dal till your baby’s digestive system is mature enough.
Pulses make a great combination with cereals: Cereals lack amino acid lysine, an essential amino acid, fulfilled by pulses. On the other hand, pulses do not sufficiently account for methionine some of which are balanced by cereals. Give your little one a healthy combination of pulses and cereals in the form of dal-rice or idli and each complements the deficiencies of the other, making for a rich, healthy diet. Your baby’’’’s meal should combine cereals and pulses in a ratio of 2:1 to fulfill the requirements of all essential amino acids.
Introduce variety: pulses in the form of sprouts are very nutritious and can be given to your baby. Sprouts are rich various nutrients and minerals due to germination . Mash moong sprouts, or add sprouts to gruel or khichdi to make for a great baby meal.
Introducing Fruits and vegetables
Fruits contain fructose, the simpler form of carbohydrates which are easier to digest. Dry fruits contain a large amount of simpler carbohydrates. Fruits also contain dietary fibre which is beneficial for your baby’s gastro intestinal system. Apart from this fruits and vegetables are a good source of various vitamins and minerals.
Initially start your baby with easy to digest fruits and vegetables like banana, potatoes etc gradually adding more fruits and vegetables to her diet.As they are rich in antioxidants, minerals and fibre, which help boost your baby’s immunity and make her less vulnerable to infections they make a good addition to your baby’s diet.
Provide fruits and vegetables per day: To start off, give your little one 2-3 serving of fruits and vegetables everyday. She can eat them in a puree, mashed or blenderized form. You can also provide her with soups, gruels, shakes or smoothies. Increase the consistency and portion sizes gradually with age.
Combining fruits and vegetables with other food groups: Adding fruits to milk and milk products or cereals and pulses is a good way to introduce fruits and vegetables to your baby’s diet. Addition of fruits and vegetables helps increase the nutritional quality and also makes it more palatable for the baby.
The process to follow.
All mothers want to know the best way to meet their baby’s nutritional requirements and also provide them with the food that they love.
Gradually increase the consistency of her food: It’s important that you work with the consistency of your little one’s food. Start with purees when she is 6 months old , move