In an ideal world, our babies would eat everything that we give them – from pumpkin to bottle gourd – with zero tantrums. Sounds like a dream? Not really! What if we say you can turn this dream into a reality? All parents want their kids to eat healthy food. But healthy food is less about preaching lessons and more about ‘leading by example’. As parents, we must offer healthy food choices only to the kids. A kid cannot order a large french fries or pizza for himself until you (parents) actually order it for him. So if you want your kids to develop healthy eating habits, you need to “catch them young”.  

According to researchers, kids’ early taste preferences (for fruits & veggies or sugary treats) are lasting. This means, in terms of diet quality, the die must be cast in the first year itself. The weaning foods should be your aim as well as a medium to introduce your kids to a variety of fruits and vegetables. Set the high chair, grab the bib, buy some kids-friendly cutlery and sit with a diet plan for your baby. It requires a little patience and time but the result, in the long run, are highly rewarding. Your child will develop an emotionally strong relationship with food. As an adult, s/he would be able to appreciate the nourishing aspect of food and is also less likely to fall into the trap of fad diets and food disorders. 

The first encounter of babies with food plays a crucial role. They may turn down your spoonful of pumpkin puree or mashed potato for the first time but you must stay determined. Research has shown that after a first few negative feedbacks, these young food critics will open their mouth for another spoonful if parents persisted. Good nutrition plays a significant role in infancy. It aids in an infant’s overall development as well as sets his/her (healthy) food preferences for life. They are more likely to make healthy food choices as adults if they are encouraged to eat their greens as infants. By the time your baby turns six months old, it is the right time to introduce him/her to healthy weaning foods. 

Once solid foods are introduced, health professionals recommend continuing breastfeeding through 12 months of age and, after that, as desired by mother and baby. Begin by offering a few spoonfuls each day, and introducing one new food at a time, every several days, to monitor for allergic reactions such as diarrhoea, rash or vomiting, before moving on to a new food. Parents with food allergies should discuss concerns with their paediatrician. As foods are tolerated, continue to expose your baby to a variety of foods. Some children may need multiple exposures to a new taste before enjoying it. Here we answer a few of the common concerns of mothers regarding weaning foods and diet plan for your baby. 

 

Is Baby Ready?

Check with a paediatrician before starting solid foods. Most child nutrition experts agree the best time to start your baby on solid foods is around 6 months old. Signs a baby may be ready to start solid foods include:

  • Able to sit with back support.
  • Head & neck is stable.
  • Open and close the mouth around a spoon.
  • Curious and tries to grab & put food in the mouth.
  • Still hungry after breastfeeding/formula feeding & shows interest in food.

Precautions while you are introducing first solid food to baby

  1. Start with fruit pureed, as it’s easy to digest.
  2. Always follow 3 days-wait-rule that means one must keep a gap of 3 days between two new foods to check food allergies in babies.
  3. Stop feeding that particular food in case of food allergy.
  4. Always feed solid food to the baby when he is sitting and don’t feed solids when the baby is lying on his back. This makes swallowing easier and choking less likely.
  5. Don’t add breast milk or formula milk during cooking, it should not be heated directly on the flame.Add breast milk or formula milk once the food is ready to eat for your baby.
  6. Baby food must be soft, properly cooked and easy to chew.
  7. Start with a very small quantity and slowly increase the portion.
  8. Weaning food must be single grain food.
  9. Always feed freshly cooked food for baby.
  10. Do not add salt, sugar, honey to your baby’s food.
  11. Introduce new food when a baby is at home only.
  12. Introducing solid foods can cause constipation in a few babies.
  13. Don’t feed forcefully.
  14. Talk in a quiet, encouraging voice while you feed. There’s no need to be entertaining. Babies easily are overwhelmed and distracted by games.
  15. Never feed baby solid foods from a bottle. It can be a choking hazard, cause a delay in learning feeding skills or may encourage baby to eat too much.
  16. Always spoon-feed from a bowl, not from the jar of food unless your baby will finish it during that feeding. Feeding directly from the jar may introduce bacteria from your baby’s mouth to the spoon and back into the food, creating a food safety issue. If your baby is still hungry, use a clean spoon to take more food from the jar.

Should I offer whole grains to the baby?

Be cautious about introducing too many wholegrain foods and pulses for baby. These tend to be bulky and can fill up a small tummy, leaving little space for other higher energy foods. So give your baby a mixture of white and wholegrain cereals and bread.

How much is too much? 

Apart from the type of food, the quantity of food for babies  while weaning is another question that keeps popping up in every mother’s mind. One may follow the following recommendation for quantity of weaning food to be offered to the infant; as suggested by Paediatric Dietetics Department at AIIMS Hospital New Delhi:

AGE IN MONTHS QUANTITY OF WEANING FOOD
5 – 6 Months Few spoons to 30ml at a time
6 – 7 months 50-75 ml/g at a time
7 – 8 months 75 -100 ml/g at a time
9 – 12 months 100 – 150 ml/g at a time

 

Meal Frequency vis-a-vis Energy Density

The appropriate number of feedings depends on the energy density of the local foods and the usual amounts consumed at each feeding. For the average healthy infant, meals should be provided 4-5 times per day, with additional nutritious snacks (such as a piece of fruit or bread or chapatti with nut paste) offered 1-2 times per day, as desired. Snacks are defined as foods eaten between meals – usually self-fed, convenient and easy to prepare. Meals include milk-only feeds, other foods, and combinations of milk feeds and other foods. If energy density or amount of food per meal is low, more frequent meals may be required. 

What should the baby eat in a day? 

The daily diet of the baby should include Vitamin A-rich foods (e.g. dark coloured fruits and vegetables; vitamin A fortified oil or foods); vitamin C rich foods (e.g. many citrus fruits, vegetables and potatoes) consumed with meals to enhance iron absorption; and foods rich in the B vitamins including riboflavin (e.g. liver, egg, dairy products, green leafy vegetables, soybeans), vitamin B6 (e.g. meat, poultry, fish, banana, green leafy vegetables, potato and other tubers, peanuts) and folate (e.g. legumes, green leafy vegetables, orange juice).

Dairy products are the richest sources of calcium. If dairy products are not consumed in adequate amounts, other foods that contain relatively large amounts of calcium, such as small fish (dried or fresh, with the bones) can fill the gap. Other foods such as sesame seeds, cabbage, carrots, squash, papaya, green leafy vegetables, guava and pumpkin are useful additional sources of calcium. Avoid giving drinks with low nutrient value, such as tea, coffee and sugary drinks such as soda. Limit the amount of juice offered (e.g. < 250 mL/d), to avoid displacing more nutrient-rich foods. 

Fluid Needs

Non-breastfed infants need at least 400-600 mL/d of additional fluids (in addition to water contained in foods) in a temperate climate, and 800-1200 mL/d in a hot climate. Plain, clean (boiled, if necessary) water should be offered several times per day to ensure that the infant’s thirst is satisfied.

 

DIET CHART FOR BABIES (6-12 MONTHS)

At 6 months of age

Only change one meal of a baby and then gradually introduce foods in other meals. It’s good to introduce new foods at lunchtime. Start with rice water. Boil rice for the family. Do not throw away the water. Collect it in a clean bowl and give 2-3 teaspoons to your baby initially. Gradually increase the number of teaspoons. Barley water and thin dals can also be given. Start with single vegetable soups and fruit juices.

At the mid of 6 months

Introduce ground, cooked, single-grain cereal or infant cereal with breast milk or formula. Mashed banana, potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot, spinach, apple and pear are some good options. Cooked and pureed meat or poultry can also be considered. Foods containing allergens (such as peanuts, hens’ eggs, gluten and fish) can be introduced from around 6 months of age, one at a time and in small amounts so that one can spot any reaction. Full-fat dairy products, such as pasteurised cheese and plain yoghurt can be given from around 6 months of age. Choose products with no added sugar. Move on to 2 meals/day and then 3 meals/day. Rice and Moong Dal thin khichdi with 1/2 tsp of ghee is an ideal lunch for your baby.

At 6 – 7 months

When it comes to cereals and pulses do ensure these are in a 3:1 ratio. All fruits and vegetables in thick puree forms can be given now if the baby is adapting well. Remember, babies do not need salt or sugar added to their food (or cooking water).

At 7 – 9 months

Baby will gradually move towards eating 3 meals a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), in addition to their usual milk feeds, which may be around 4- 5 meals a day. As the baby eats more solid foods, they may want less milk at each feed or even drop the milk feed altogether. Gradually increase the amount and variety of food to ensure they get the energy and nutrients they need.

As infants become more confident eaters, remember to offer more finger foods. Providing finger foods as part of each meal helps to encourage infants to feed themselves, develop hand and eye coordination, and learn to bite off, chew and swallow pieces of soft food.

Increase the quantity according to your infant’s interest and appetite – offer foods from all 4 food groups. An infant may need to try many times before learning to like a new food/taste. Always encourage self-feeding and babies to learn by coping: eat with infant and include a family meal. Babies learn wonderfully by watching adults around them. 

 At 9 months of age

High fibre foods can be introduced at this time such as semolina, oats or fruits with peels such as apples or pears. You can also consider sliced and quartered bananas or small pieces of other soft fruits, whole cooked beans and well-cooked, minced or finely chopped meat, poultry or fish. Dalia porridge with or without milk, oats porridge with apple and milk, rajgeera porridge and rawa upama are excellent one meal options that score high on nutrition. 

10-12 months of age

By now, your baby should be enjoying a wide range of tastes and textures. They should be able to manage a wider range of finger foods and will be increasingly able to pick up small pieces of food and move them to their mouth. They will use a cup or glass with more confidence. As the baby grows, eating together as a family encourages them to develop good eating behaviour. Reduce milk feeds one by one to two feeds per day at 11-12 months. You can introduce sugar and salt from 10 months onwards because before that babies don’t need any extra sugar and salt. The invisible salt and sugar in vegetables and fruits are sufficient for them.

 At 12 months 

Small pieces of fruit and cooked vegetables should be the dietary staple of your toddler. A child may also need two healthy snacks in between meals. The World Health Organization recommends that all babies are breastfed for up to 2 years or longer. One can keep breastfeeding for as long as suits you both, but the child will need less breast milk to make room for more foods. After the baby completes 1 year of age, refer toddlers’ diet for a kid.

 

FOODS TO AVOID AT WEANING

       Salt: The baby’s kidneys cannot process the salt yet.

       Honey: No honey till the baby is one as it can cause infant botulism in babies.

       Sugar: Sweeten the food with mashed banana or stewed dry fruits puree. No artificial sweeteners as it encourages your child to develop a sweet tooth.

       Whole Nuts: They are a choking hazard and difficult to process

       Certain Fish: To avoid mercury poisoning.

       Tea/Coffee: Do not tempt the child with even the slightest drop of the beverages. Caffeine and tannin are unsuitable for babies and prevent absorption of vital nutrients in their body.

       Low-fat food: Any low-fat dairy or food products are unfit for the baby as they need calories.

       Risky Foods: Foods like mouldy cheese, liver pâté or soft boiled or raw eggs that can contain bacteria and are not killed in the cooking process.

Foods You MUST include in Weaning Diet

Soft, cooked vegetables: Broccoli, carrot, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, peas — pureed, mashed or served as finger foods.

Soft fruit: Banana, mango, papaya, raspberries, avocado, cooked pear or apple, plums, peaches — pureed, mashed or served as finger food

Cereals: Oatmeal, rice, quinoa, millet — cooked, mashed or pureed to a suitable texture and mixed with a small amount of breastmilk or formula milk.