Ensuring health safety and nutrition for the young child is very important for their development and to raise them well. Weaning a child is a big step for both mother and baby. It is the start of a new chapter as the baby slowly gets used to eating food other than breast milk is also child nutrition stage, to get ready to step out into the ‘big world.’
Breast milk is a nutritious source of food at birth that is best child nutrition, and for the first 6 months of life, it is the best choice for a baby. But as the baby grows, his/her nutritional requirements start to increase. Additionally, the mother gradually stops producing as much milk as needed. This usually happens around 6 months of age, which is the best time to start giving children supplementary food.
What to feed the baby to ensure health safety and nutrition for the young child development
Initially, for your child nutrition you can try feeding mashed or soft cooked starchy food, fruit and vegetable. While some babies like the texture of mashed food, others may prefer the food to be pureed initially (to a smooth mixture). After that, you can try ‘finger food’ which refers to pieces of food easy to bite and easy to hold – roughly the size of a finger. A piece of soft banana for instance, or another fruit. After that, you could include pieces of chicken (if you are non-vegetarian), pulses, rice, chapatti, yogurt.
India’s National Institute of Nutrition suggests some of the following low-cost, easy-to-make recipes as well.
The recipes listed below are for 2 servings and provide about 250 calories and 5 g protein:
- Roast 30 g whole wheat and powder it
- Then add 15 g roasted Bengal gram flour, 5 g roasted/crushed groundnut, and 15 g sugar
- Cook in sufficient water
- Store it in an airtight container until you use it
- Clean 35 g rice and 10 g green gram dhal; cook them in water with a little salt, until the water is absorbed and the grains are soft
- Add about 2 tsp leafy vegetables when the cereals are almost cooked
- Fry 2 tsp jeera (cumin) and add at the end
Dos and Don’ts when introducing solid food in Child Nutrition
Here are some tips to help your baby get used to new solid food:
- Allow your baby to ‘experience’ new food – touching it, holding it, picking it up. All of this helps the baby develop fine motor skills.
- Allow your baby to feed himself/herself with their fingers.
- Encourage your baby to try new food and new flavors, little at a time. This takes time and may take several attempts on your part as well. Be patient
- Make sure the food is not too hot
- Do not force your baby to eat – babies will eat when they get hungry. If you are using a spoon, wait till your baby opens his/her mouth first
- Don’t worry about things being messy while eating. That is bound to happen. If you make them sit on a plastic mat or a newspaper, cleaning up later would be easier.
- You or another adult should always be with the baby while feeding so you can attend to them immediately in case he/she starts to choke
Be cautious and aware of certain things when you start weaning the baby.
Some food may trigger an allergic reaction in the baby. So, introduce them slowly, one at a time and look carefully for any signs of an allergy. These food items include:
- Cow’s milk
Signs of a food allergy include: diarrhea, vomiting, rash on the skin, wheezing, swollen lips, runny nose or sore/itchy eyes.
Some food should be avoided for babies. These include:
- Honey may make some babies unwell. Avoid it till your baby is more than 1 year old
- Nuts may cause a young baby to start choking. So, they are best avoided initially
- Fishes, like a shark, which may have high amounts of mercury
- Too much sugar and salt. Too much sugar can lead to tooth decay while excess salt could affect the kidneys
- Cow’s milk, until the baby is at least 1 year old
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