Baby’s first foods
Feeding babies is an age old art, yet it often leaves young parents perplexed and anxious. If you’re new to parenting, here’s the low-down on what and how much to feed your precious bundle of joy.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of baby’s life since, during this period, breast milk alone can meet a typical infant’s nutrients needs. Plus, breastfeeding will also strengthen your little one’s immune system, making Junior less vulnerable to food intolerances, allergies and infectious diseases.
When and how to start weaning
Experts agree that babies should not be introduced to solid foods before 4 months and that weaning should not be delayed beyond 6 months of age. Around six months old, baby’s nutrient stores (especially iron) start to run out and need to be replenished. Breast milk alone cannot meet the growing infant’s increasing needs for nutrients and energy after 6 months of age.
If possible, while weaning your baby, keep breastfeeding her at least for the first 24 months of life.
Six to seven months
Since weaning will require initiation to spoon feeding, choose a time when your baby is not ravenous and start with some bland rice puree mixed with breast milk (or your baby’s usual infant formula). This will make your little one’s weaning experience more enjoyable and less messy as she will only have to focus on swallowing this non-fluid food.
Once baby can easily swallow the rice and milk puree, try:
- Soft fruit purees made from bananas, mangos, papayas, honeydew, avocado or peeled ripe pears;
- Vegetable purees prepared using cooked sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, chayote, parsnip or baby beets;
- Homemade plain rice porridge.
Introduce any new single ingredient food on its own for three consecutive days to ensure that baby has no allergic reactions to the new food. These first purees should also have a smooth but runny texture to facilitate the swallowing process.
As your baby’s swallowing skills improve, you can introduce thicker purees made from the following:
- Green vegetables like spinach, pak choi or broccoli;
- Beans or pulses;
- Mixed vegetables.
To minimize nutrient losses, thoroughly blend the vegetables and cook for a few minutes if required.
Introducing cups: Offer sips of water with meals from an open cup.
Seven to nine months
You can now give baby mashed or minced foods with some ‘lumps’ in it — keeping an infant on pureed foods for too long increases the likelihood that the child will become a fussy eater later.
Baby’s diet can now consist of pasta, rice, millet, barley, oats, thoroughly cooked eggs, full fat dairy products, citrus fruits and finger foods such as fruit slices, veggie sticks or cheese strings.
From ten months
As baby’s food now looks more like your own, try to give her:
- Three to four daily servings of starchy foods like potatoes, bread or pasta;
- Three to four daily servings of fruits and vegetables;
- Two daily servings of meat, fish, eggs or pulses.
Foods to avoid:
- Added salt, sugar, honey, artificial sweeteners;
- Fruit juices, teas, regular or diet soft drinks;
- Soft cheeses;
- Processed or fried foods;
- Cow’s/goat’s/sheep’s milk as a main drink below 12 months — these are low in iron.
If you have a strong family history of egg allergy, wait until 24 months before adding eggs to your baby’s diet and 36 months for peanuts/nuts/fish/shellfish.
The critical first year
Baby’s palate will be trained during the first year of life: whatever you decide to feed your little one throughout this challenging period will significantly influence the child’s future food choices.