Introducing Babies To Solids: A Comprehensive Guide
Wondering what foods do you introduce to baby first? Mothers start feeding their babies from the womb. Most women continue to breastfeed their children until they are three years old. In most homes, the child’s diet and nutrition is the mother’s preserve. They ask and often answer the most difficult food related questions. When will they eat? What and how will they eat? Is the meal a balanced diet? These are important considerations especially when you consider the consequences of poor nutrition. A malnourished child is more likely to fall ill. When it comes to babies, it is important to introduce solids at the right time and in the right texture. Here’s a breakdown:
The Role of Breast Milk
This is often the child’s first food (of course there are exceptional cases where the mothers are unable to lactate or the baby is unable to suckle). The breastmilk is sugary and warm. Medical experts advise mothers to breastfeed their kids exclusively during the first six months of life. At six months, a child can be introduced to solid foods. However, the child is expected to be breastfed until he/she is two.
Children who aren’t exclusively breastfed get introduced to formula earlier than six months. Exclusively breastfed babies aren’t introduced to formula until they are six months old. Formula introduction shouldn’t be a Herculean task, though. Most of these formulas are made to taste like breastmilk. It is important to serve the formula warm—not hot. Adhere to the stated directions. Wrong water measurement, too little milk or too much milk can make the child sick. If the formula mixture is too hot, place the feeding bottle in a bowl of cold water. Dispose of leftover milk one hour after preparation.
Most babies are receptive to cereals, so don’t be scared to introduce it. The child can also take any solid food at this time. But because most babies can’t chew at 6 months, it is best to make the food semisolid. This will make it easier for the child to bottle-feed.
This is one of the most basic foods for infants. However, the pap shouldn’t be thick. The thinner the better. As the child grows older, you can increase the thickness. Watery pap ensures that the infant does not have difficulty swallowing. It also reduces the risk of choking. Pap can also be mixed with the baby’s formula milk. A little sugar can be added, but not honey. Babies should not ingest honey before the age of one; their stomachs can’t digest honey
Another pap recipe involves mixing the pap with soya beans.
Pap is best processed with millet, guinea corn and/or any other nutritious grain. Pap has very high nutritional value.
A ground mixture of soya beans, groundnut and crayfish can be added to the pap or custard. This mixture will increase the nutritional value of the pap meal.
YAM AND POTATOES
Parents can boil yam or potatoes, mash it and feed it to the baby. A child of any age can take this. Some parents even mix a little of palm oil to the mashed yam/potato so that the food can glide seamlessly down the baby’s throats. Another way to serve this nutritious meal is to add the mashed yam/potato to the pap. Babies often like this mixture too.
RICE AND BEANS
When these are cooked very soft and fed to a toothless child, he/she can chew and swallow it. If the infant cannot chew, the parent can mash the meal with a fork. The mashed mixture will make it easier for the child to swallow the meal.
OKRO AND OGBONO SOUP
Mothers all over the country seem to agree on one thing, Okro and ogbono happen to be every baby’s favourite soup. Something about the slipperiness makes this meal desirable. Children love the way the soups glide down the throat. Children of nine months and above can take this with soft eba or agidi.
4. FISH, MEAT, EGGS
These are superb for children and can be introduced at any time. Before meat is introduced, wait until the child starts chewing. Many mothers chew the meat for their babies and then feed them the mush. However, this isn’t a very hygienic practice.
The best alternative is to feed the child deboned fish. You can mash the fish with your spoon or well-washed fingers. Meat and fish are both rich in protein. Before you feed the child fish, carefully take out all the bones. In fact, that is why it is good to mash the fish with your fingers so that you can feel the bone and take it out. Eggs are also another good source of protein for the child. The egg yolk can be mashed and added to pap or any cereal the baby takes.
Most fruits are sweet and children often find them yummy. It is healthier to snack on fruits than on biscuits. Nutrition experts recommend two different types of fruits a day. It is a great idea to give your babies apples, bananas, oranges, and watermelon (ensure the seeds have been extracted). Don’t feed the child grapes, though. There is the danger of the child swallowing and choking on the fruit.
Vegetables are good for children. They are rich in vitamins and minerals. When introducing solids, consider adding some sweet veggies like garden eggs, carrots, and cucumbers. If the infant is too young to chew, consider cooking the veggies with other solid foods.
It is always better to allow a child to get to at least nine months before introducing bread. This is because bread constitutes a choking hazard. Bread, however, can be taken with hot milk and chocolate.
Most mothers breastfeed until the children are two years old. After six months of exclusive breastfeeding, a child can take just about any meal. There are many reasons some children might not be breastfed exclusively for six months. The mother might be ill and unable to lactate; the mother might have died at childbirth, the mother’s demanding job, or the mother’s personal decision to skip that aspect of feeding.
Many babies who lose their mother at birth start taking solid food alongside formula and cereals immediately. The most important thing is to feed them the appropriate way and in the right proportion. As they grow older, their ability to process more complex meals will increase. Give liquids from the first to the third months. From the third to the sixth month, semi-solids are fine. Six to nine months, mashed. Nine to 12 months, very soft solids.