Introducing your baby to solid food
Introducing your baby to solids is a big milestone in your baby’s life. There are certain indicators and general steps that are followed in this process.
Firstly, the parent must identify whether or not the child is ready for solids by checking if:
1. The baby can comfortably sit up on his/her own, as well as hold his/her own head up.
2. The baby does not push out her tongue when something apart from milk is put in her mouth. You need to know if she is comfortable with swallowing and generally co-ordinating his/her mouth and tongue together. Notice your baby carefully to see these signs.
3. The baby shows interest in what you or others are eating
4. The baby has doubled his/her birth weight (should happen around 4-6 months)
5. Your baby’s appetite seems to be growing and is not satiated even with around 10 feedings of milk a day.
If these signs are present then it is probably time to introduce your baby to solids, although initially you should make it only one meal a day and the other meals should continue to be breast milk or formula.
How to start giving solid food?
Traditionally most parents start solids by mixing a single-grained cereal in milk, with a very watery consistency. Put a little of the mixture on a spoon (a soft rubber one preferably so as to not hurt his/her soft mouth) and put it in the baby’s mouth. The food might not all stay in. This is normal as the baby still has to learn how to take the food from the spoon and swallow.
Continue this till the baby is comfortable with swallowing and keep thickening the mixture with more cereal until he/she has mastered the act of eating semi-solids. Also remember that your baby knows when he/she is full and turns away and refuses to eat then stop the feeding and do not force it.
When can the baby be given a little variety in his diet?
When your baby is comfortable eating the single grained cereal, you can also start introducing other foods of the same consistency such as puréed apples or mashed bananas and milk. However introduce any new food one at a time and give a gap of two to three days before introducing another new food. This way you can tell if your baby’s digestive tract can handle this new food or not. Also at this juncture the stool might change colour and consistency, but this is normal. However signs of diarrhoea or vomiting could mean that the new food is not agreeing with the baby.
Introducing other solids and textures:
Semi-solids such as pureed foods are a good start in introducing solids and normally after this babies can move on to softened or strained foods and then to soft solid pieces of food.
An example of strained or softened food is mashed up rice and dal or strained peas. However even in these dished ensure that the food is extremely soft as your baby still cannot chew and can only soften it with his/her tongue at the most.
Once your baby starts teething it is a good time to move onto softened solids such as small pieces of cut up fruits or vegetables.
This is also a good time to start letting your baby drink water. So you can now pour some water in a cup (or a sippy cup) and slowly help your baby drink from it.