Starting Semisolid Feed to your baby

This is one of the aspects of childcare where there has been a great swing of opinion from one extreme to another. At the turn of last century, i.e. in early 1900’s, solid foods were not started until one year of age in England and America. Later on, probably in 1960s, the trend was to give solid feeds very early. In fact, some babies were given semisolid feeds at 1 to 2 months of age. 

After some years, it was realized that solid feeds given very early cause many problems because the baby’s kidneys and digestive system have not matured enough to handle this type of food, and also it interfered with the establishment of breastfeeding. Post that, the trend started of giving solid feeds not before 3 to 4 months age.

Current WHO advice is to start semisolid feeds after 6 months of age. In some of Indian societies e.g. among Bengalis there is a rice ceremony, when the baby turns 6 months of age. At that time, she is given rice porridge and fish with rice. Incidentally, this is considered to be the right age for starting semisolid feeds nowadays.

However, one does not need to be very strict about the timing of starting solid feeds. If your baby is demanding milk feeds very frequently when he is 4 to 5 months of age, you can start baby on semisolid feeds at this stage. You can start the baby on mashed banana, boiled apples or mashed boiled potatoes. Rice milk cereals can also be given at this age, especially to a breast-fed baby, when a mother feels that her baby is beginning to not be satisfied with breast milk alone.

Therefore, instead of giving formula milk in a bottle at this time, she can start her baby on rice milk cereals once or twice a day. Some babies refuse to take solid feeds initially, especially bottle-fed babies. Getting them used to solid feed is hard work. Some mothers get so fed up that they start giving cereals in bottles. 

This practice has lot of disadvantages -
  1. This can cause your baby to choke
  2. Such babies may not learn to eat even when they are 2 to 3 years of age
  3. They may gain too much weight and will become obese
  4. Weaning them from bottle may become very difficult and prolonged bottle-feeding after 2 years of age is certainly not good, as it causes tooth decay

If your baby refuses to eat solid feeds, do not give up; keep on trying. Feed your baby in your lap or in a high chair. Let your baby pick the food with her hands so that she puts it in her mouth herself. This way she will gain interest in eating. Meanwhile, you can keep on feeding her yourself. It may take some time, but certainly, the baby will learn to eat. Try the same food daily until the child starts taking that particular food; try another food only after baby gets used to taking one type of food. Use a very small spoon that fits the baby’s mouth or you can feed her with your hands after washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Initially, the child will spit the food out. This is because she does not know that the food has to be taken in and swallowed. Slowly she will learn to swallow. Once the child learns to swallow, you can increase the amount gradually, until the child takes ½ -1 small bowl of food.

Thereafter you can try new food items. It is quite likely she may not accept the new item in the beginning, but soon she will develop the taste for it and start taking it. If, after trying for 5 to 6 days the child stills rejects that particular food, then perhaps you should abandon the attempt and try again after 2 to 3 weeks. Keep at least 6 days gap between trying two different items.

Do not worry too much if your child is taking a long time to get used to solid foods. A child at 6 months of age is getting enough nutrition from milk feeds. A little bit of delay in taking semisolid feeds will not affect the nutrition of the baby.

Once your child starts taking semi solid food, try to reduce milk feeds to 3 to 4 times (bottle or breast) a day. By this time the child should be getting 3-4 semisolid feeds, 2 of which should be milk cereal and one or two of this should be, if possible a homemade lunch (like a mixture of rice, dal, and vegetables with a little bit of oil or other fat like ghee). Besides this, one or two snacks like biscuits or rusk, about one ounce of fruit juice, and half a fruit like banana, should be given to your baby daily.

If you are a vegetarian, the aforementioned diet is good one for your baby. The type of dal mixed in the khichery should be one which is easily digestible like yellow mung or masoor (lentil). If you are non-vegetarian, you can start giving chicken or fish with lunch. For fish, give a small amount initially to be sure that the child is not allergic to it. Be sure that all these items are well cooked and mashed. Bones from the fish of course should be carefully removed.

Eggs should be started only when the child is 8 to 9 months of age because some babies are allergic to these. Initially give a small amount of boiled egg, and if you find no problem with it, then the amount can be increased gradually until the child eats one whole egg.

When a child is 1 to 2 years old, a more lumpy food can be given so that slowly she gets used to eating the food that is cooked for other members of the family. One has to be careful not to give nuts etc. to the child as she may inhale this and this can obstruct her airways. You should encourage the child to eat with a spoon or hands by herself. She will make a mess, which is okay. Unless you allow her to eat, she will not be interested in eating.

Try not to add salt in baby’s food as excessive intake of salt in food is one of the causes of high blood pressure later on in life. However adding a little bit of salt will not harm the baby, especially in our hot and humid climate where babies sweat a lot. If there is a history of hypertension in the family then salt intake for the whole family, including the baby, should be reduced.

A small child naturally cannot tolerate spices as their mucous membrane (lining) of the mouth, stomach and intestines are very delicate. However, since spices are used in the food we eat, very soon we have to get our children used to eating food cooked with them. I personally think that only after the age of 3 to 4 years they should be given small amount of spicy food. 

However, I have seen many children of 2 to 3 years of age eating spicy food without any problem. Therefore, you can decide for yourself when to start giving spicy food to your child.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post