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Weaning Your Baby
It may seem like a million times you’ve been told by healthcare professionals that exclusive breastfeeding until six months is essential. You may have been very religious doing that even in the middle of the night. If you chose not to or were unable to do so, you may have been reminding yourself to sterilize the bottle and keep the water ready. Anyway, you’re on your feet. Suddenly a day comes when your baby, who has been shining on your plate all these days, jumps on your plate and catches a handful. Yippee! It’s ready for solids! Well, that’s how simple baby-led dismissal is and from my personal experience I would vouch for it. For one thing, this way you are not in a hurry to take in solids and run the risk of food allergies. Additionally, the jury is almost always out on when the right time is to wean your baby on solids. So why not leave it to nature and let your baby decide when he wants to eat and not just drink. Just remember, like adults, every baby is different and will develop according to their own timetable and not yours. It’s much easier to feed baby food when it’s ready and less stressful for you. It is said that if the ‘tongue thrust reflex’ ie a reflex that makes them push everything out of their mouth, they may not be ready for solids. Also, they are generally ready when they can sit up without support.
My son started showing interest in food when he was around five months and when he was two weeks short of six months, I started offering him solids or semi-solids to be more precise. The health visitors said the target should be to enable him to have a family meal before his first birthday. Focusing on targets was very helpful in planning my strategy. I am going to share some of my wisdom and experience with you.
As a first time mother I wanted to be perfect in what I did for him. I used to refer to so many different websites and books regarding weaning, what to give and what not to give. If you were to pass most of them, there was no way I could even think of achieving my target. Based on everything here are the main things I did or thought or felt and maybe I can help you…
1. Try to stick to the four day rule especially if there is a history of food allergy in your family. Yes this means, if you introduce potatoes to your child, do so for four consecutive days and do not introduce any other new food during the same period. This will help you spot any allergies as sometimes it takes a day or two for the allergy to appear. If you give too many new things, it will be difficult to find the allergen.
2. Don’t worry too much about what your child is eating. It is said that the nutritional needs for the first year of life are from milk and that food is more than a habit. Remember, try not to reduce the amount of milk until your baby is eating more at least until one year of age
3. There are always days when they refuse to eat and there are also days when they steal anything
4. As your child grows, he will develop the ability to chew food better. This means that you should change the texture of the food. Start with purees and then move to mashed and then to chunks. Call me lazy but I have not pureed any vegetables except peas and beans. Everything else I would boil/boil and make a pulp by mashing with a spoon. I mash every mouthful of banana in my hand and feed him.
5. Add spices slowly. Most spices, especially those used in Indian cuisine, are beneficial to the body. Cumin for example, helps to reduce congestion and also helps with digestion.
6. Unlike adults, fat is good for babies especially for their rapid brain development. Use ghee, butter, oil in moderation. Have full fat yogurt, cheese etc.
7. Usually after the 26 week mark, you get a green signal to give up almost any food like fruits, vegetables, meat (we are vegetarians though). Of course it’s up to you to keep allergies in mind.
8. Start with one meal a day at a time when he is not very tired or sleepy or cranky. Don’t rush and don’t worry. Try to explain what he eats, what are the benefits, how it was prepared. This way, you both focus on the food. You eat with a spoon in front of him and say things like ‘yum yum’. Gradually increase the food to two and then to three.
9. Variety adds spice to life, even the life of the little man. Try to add as many combinations of flavors, vegetables, fruits etc.
10. Some people say that because babies naturally have a sweet tooth because we are born with more taste buds for sweets, it might be a good idea to introduce vegetables first or they may never like them. I did not face this problem and almost did not change fresh vegetables and fruits. For the same reason I never put any sugar in his diet. However, I add a little salt. They say that their kidneys are not fully developed and therefore avoid salt and sugar. There is no need to add salt and give a bag of chips when he is a child because that will only make him want more chips and harm the body. I want him to love a balanced diet.
11. Try not to give a lot of jar food. Processed food is not good for adults, let alone for babies. It will also be difficult to wean them away from these foods and eat homemade food. I used to buy a few jars for travel and emergencies. Also, I used to try vegetables or fruits for the first time from a jar, look for allergies and then prepare them at home.
12. Your baby is your best guide. Don’t worry and don’t worry, they will pick these easily
13. You can’t expect your baby/toddler to snack on fruit when you’re snacking on crisps. Lead by example.
As I said, I have shared most of the lessons learned here and I hope this will be a good starting point for you. It’s a long journey, it’s not always a fun journey, but eventually you’ll get there. Remember that your goal is to give your child a good, healthy start. The quality of his life, his health and his longevity depend a lot on how well you set his eating habits. Childhood obesity is on the rise everywhere and rates of juvenile diabetes are said to be on the rise. You can help your child, so let’s do it.
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