Among your baby’s many firsts, another milestone is unlocked when your bundle of joy is ready for weaning.
According to the World Health Organization, “weaning is the process by which a baby slowly gets used to eating family or adult foods and relies less and less on breast milk.” The first step towards weaning is the introduction of semisolid and solid foods as your baby’s complementary diet.
Until 6 months, your baby should derive his nutrition exclusively from breast milk. Around this time, your baby’s body is developing and requires extra nutrition to encourage his growth. Beyond 6 months, breast milk as alone food source cannot fulfill his growing nutritional needs anymore as it lacks iron and zinc. Thus, it is imperative to supplement his diet with healthy food choices besides breast milk.
Regarding the introduction of eating solid foods, most pediatricians have zeroed in on the 6-month mark to introduce complementary foods in your baby’s diet.
You can start feeding your child with solid foods once he has good head control, is not satiated even after his feed, and can sit upright with little support.
Your baby will give an indication that he is hungry by putting his fingers in his mouth. Because children this young have a very small appetite, start by giving them just 2-3 spoonfuls of food preparations twice a day.
Ideal First Foods for Your Baby
Healthy wholesome nutrition will be the cornerstone of your baby’s overall growth and development in the coming years. Begin by introducing foods that are soft, easy to chew, and of the desired consistency. Make sure that besides being edible, the nutritional value of the foods is retained.
Although there isn’t any definitive rule as to what foods should be given to a baby as their first foods, some suggestions are listed below.
An apple a day is indeed extremely good for your baby’s health. Apples are a great food that can be introduced as baby food between 6 and 8 months of age.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, apples are the number one fruit liked by kids.
Apples are abundant in fiber, a nutritional component that helps maintain bowel regularity. Aside from the fiber content, apples host nutrients such as vitamin A and E, folate, phosphorus, magnesium, and selenium.
Experts recommend serving applesauce instead of whole apples to babies 6 to 8 months old.
- Just peel an apple and cut it into small pieces.
- Cook the apple pieces with 1 cup of water or apple juice over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Allow it to cool, and then blend it to a thin consistency.
Bananas are rich in potassium and can help control the body’s water balance. Potassium also helps with muscle functioning and is responsible for the relaxation of your baby’s heart muscle and heart rhythm. It also reduces the risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis in the future.
In addition, bananas will give your baby a generous amount of carbohydrates to keep his energy levels up. As an added plus, bananas contain fiber that supports a healthy digestive tract.
- Use a fork to thoroughly mash a ripe banana until it has the consistency of a pudding. Then, serve it to your baby.
- For older babies, chopped bananas are excellent finger food.
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fats and, thus, aid in brain development. This type of fat also gives your baby a boost of much-needed energy. Plus, the dietary fiber in them ensures smooth digestion. It is a rich source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, and zinc.
In addition, avocados have a mild taste and smooth consistency that most babies like.
Avocados are also super easy to prepare.
- Simply mash a very ripe avocado with a fork.
- Add a little breast milk or formula milk to the mashed avocado.
- Mix thoroughly until it reaches a pureed consistency.
Pears are another nutritious fruit that can be introduced into your baby’s diet. The right age for introducing pears is between 6 and 8 months.
This tasty fruit is rich in fiber, copper, and vitamin C. The fiber promotes healthy digestion, and doctors often recommend pears as a remedy to help alleviate a baby’s constipation. Vitamin C and copper protect the body’s cells from damage and support the immune system.
Aside from being a good source of vitamins, minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron), and antioxidants, pears also go gentle on your baby’s sensitive digestive system.
- There is no need to cook pears. When they are ripe, they are very soft and can easily be made into a smooth puree.
The ease of ingestion and digestion and the rich taste make carrots one of the many foods that can be added to a weaning baby’s diet.
Plus, carrots are packed with nutrients including vitamins C, K, and B8, along with calcium, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.
- For babies who have not yet developed teeth, carrots can be boiled, baked, or steamed and then pureed. Mix in formula milk to reach the desired consistency.
- For babies who have started chewing, carrots can be served in soft slices for your baby to enjoy.
- Chilled carrot sticks can be given to babies who have started teething.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another delicious addition to your baby’s diet. Most babies like the creamy, sweet taste of this tuber.
The presence of various biomolecules such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, antioxidants, and minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium. in sweet potatoes add to its nutritional richness.
Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, an essential component for the overall growth and development of the baby, especially healthy vision and skin.
A 2012 study published in Food and Nutrition Bulletin reports that sweet potato-based complementary foods are superior to enriched Weanimix for infants in low-income countries, based on the fructose and phytate levels.
- Cook peeled and washed sweet potatoes in enough water to cover them in a pan. Cook them until they are soft.
- Mash the soft sweet potatoes.
- Add a little water or formula milk to make the mashed sweet potatoes thinner before serving it to your baby.
Another vegetable that is great for babies is squash, especially butternut and acorn squash. In fact, the bland or savory flavor of squash makes a healthy alternative to sweet fruits. It can be introduced to babies between 6 and 8 months old.
Winter squash (Cucurbita spp.) is a vegetable with an abundance of antioxidants such as carotenoids and vitamin C. This vegetable can rev up your child’s immunity levels and can help your baby counter infections easily.
These vegetables are also rich in carotenoids, namely, beta-carotene and lutein, which are necessary for a healthy vision.
Other nutrients in squash are potassium, calcium, folate, protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber.
- Bake or roast some squash (without the seeds).
- Put the pulp of the baked squash and a little formula milk in the blender.
- Blend them into a smooth consistency. As your baby gets used to eating pureed food, increase the thickness.
8. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, which supports the health of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs as the baby grows. Plus, the fat in Greek yogurt supports proper growth.
Along with its super creamy texture, Greek yogurt has a nice tangy flavor that most babies enjoy.
- Serve plain Greek yogurt to younger babies and do not add any sugar to it.
- For older babies, try mixing blueberry, banana, apple, or pear puree into the yogurt.
Brimming with vitamin C, fiber, and calcium, broccoli is another good first food for your child. Usually, it should be introduced around the age of 8 to 10 months.
Vitamin C gives a boost to your baby’s developing immune system. The calcium in broccoli helps foster good eyesight and ward off cell damage. The fiber in it ensures good digestion. It also contains several B vitamins that aid in improving the functioning of the nervous system.
Other key nutrients in broccoli are iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and folic acid.
Plus, the unique flavor of broccoli can help expand your baby’s taste palate.
- Steamed and pureed broccoli is good for younger babies.
- For older babies, steamed broccoli florets work as great finger food.
10. Rice Cereals
Coming with an added list of perks, rice is a cereal that becomes the first food of choice for many.
Besides being gluten-free, rice is easy to digest and can rarely cause an allergic reaction.
- Add cooked cereals to formula milk or breast milk to a runny consistency. You can gradually add more cereal as he gets used to the runny cereals.
11. Dried Plumps/Prunes
Prune juice is accredited with a slew of benefits on the health of growing children.
It contains dietary fibers, complex sugars, vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin, vitamins K and C, and trace minerals such as manganese, boron, iron, and potassium.
Prune juice can act as a natural laxative and can help relieve your child’s constipation.
Bonus First Food
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, meat can be recommended as a first food, especially red meat and dark poultry meat, owing to its rich nutritional profile that includes scads of protein, zinc, and iron.
Your baby’s iron requirements are more efficiently derived from meats than iron-fortified cereals
- Ensure that the meat is properly cooked and pureed before giving it to your child.
Foods to Avoid During Your Baby’s First Year
It is essential to understand that while you might be curious to explore what your child might like to eat, there might be food products that have side effects or harmful effects on your child’s health.
Listed below are food products you need to avoid giving to your child initially:
- Cow’s milk is difficult to digest for a baby’s developing digestive systems. Do not use it as a substitute for breast milk until your child is 1 year old.
- Honey must not be given to children below 1 year of age. It can cause infant botulism.
- Do not give foods that are hard or sticky. These can cause choking in your baby.
- Avoid giving whole nuts to babies before they are 2 years old.
- Avoid feeding your child unpasteurized cheese to avert the risk of food poisoning.
- Do not give your child shellfish such as shrimp, scallops, lobster, or crab until he is over 1 year of age.
- Fishes that are high in mercury, such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish, should not be considered as a food option for babies.
Tips for Parents
It is emotionally rewarding as a parent to keep track of how your child is shaping up. Additionally, it is of paramount importance to keep in mind some guidelines to steer clear of any mishaps:
- Consult your pediatrician before making any introductions to your child’s diet. The digestive system of an infant is fragile and not developed well enough to absorb nutrition from solid foods
- Make sure to give your child only pureed or strained food preparations. Your child is likely to start proper chewing by the age of 4 years. Until then, give him food items in a form that can be easily chewed.
- Avoid giving chunky food morsels that can cause choking.
- Feed him with a soft plastic spoon. Also, you can also consider adding breast milk to his food to help him eat it.
- Take it slowly; do not overfeed your baby. It will take time for your baby to get accustomed to the process of swallowing food.
- Go slow with new foods. Wait for at least 3 days to make sure your child is not allergic to the food item.
- Do not give him foods that are salted, buttered, sweetened, or spiced up. Try to maintain the natural flavor of food to promote better food habits.
Stating the obvious, as a parent, you want only the best resources for your child and food definitely tops that list.
Make sure to keep a check on your baby’s weight and height in accordance with his growth percentile. This will give you an idea of your child’s growth.
Choose foods that can help meet your baby’s nutritional needs and keep him adequately nourished to aid in his development.
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