Weaning is the transitional period in an infant’s diet when the mother gradually begins to introduce foods other than breast milk. This is the time when you give your baby first food that is solid and keeps the baby satiated for a long time and helps with developing your baby’s taste buds.
How should your baby be weaned?
Infants should be gradually weaned and introduced to a wide range of foods with different tastes and textures. The baby should be given time to get accustomed to the new food, as well as to set his/her own pace of feeding. Ideally, only one new food item is introduced to your baby’s diet at a time. The next new food item should be introduced only when you are sure your baby is accustomed to the first item and does not show any intolerance or allergies to it.
The infant should be exposed to a variety of foods from the four main food groups:
- Rice and alternatives (e.g., cereal, potato, bread)
- Meat and alternatives (e.g., fish, chicken, beancurd)
Traditionally, the first foods given to the baby have always been soft, smooth, and runny in consistency, such as purees, and are fed with a spoon. As the baby’s ability to chew and bite starts developing, the food can be thicker and more textured (e.g., mashed, lumpy, minced food) to allow the infant to experience a wider variety of food.
Some parents follow the baby led weaning approach that involves starting the baby with finger foods right from the beginning of weaning at 6 months of age. Baby led weaning gives the babies a chance to explore foods for themselves, and these babies tend to eat a wide range of foods at an early age.
What are the top baby weaning foods?
- Rice has traditionally been the first weaning food as it is least likely to cause any allergic reaction. Rice cereal is relatively bland in taste and is thus likely more acceptable to babies, especially when mixed with breast milk. It also provides the necessary iron at a time when the infant’s levels of iron are most depleted – this usually occurs at around six months of age.
- Sweet potato squash is a good source of vitamins and fiber, has a smooth texture when pureed, and mixes well with other vegetables.
- Carrots are naturally sweet and make for excellent weaning food as they are rich in vitamin A.
- Spinach is rich in vitamins (folate and A, C, and K), iron, and calcium
- Homemade vegetable soup will help provide your baby with minerals and vitamins
- Apple and pear are great as the first fruits for your baby and are easily digestible when cooked and pureed.
- Banana and papaya can be easily mashed up with a spoon or fork and do not require cooking. Banana can also be given whole as they are easy for the baby to hold and chew on.
- Homemade single-grain cereals like rice, barley, or oats can be mixed with breast milk or formula milk for a nutritious meal.
- Legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas) are rich in protein, vitamins (A, C, and folate), fiber, and minerals (including calcium and iron), and are typically introduced at around eight months of age, as they may be more difficult to digest.
Water and Juices: Although the infant will still drink plenty of milk even after they start solids, they can also drink other liquids during mealtimes. Well-diluted fruit juices (one part fresh fruit juice to 10 parts boiled cooled water) or water can be given with their meals.
Why is weaning important?
Your baby grows very fast in the first year of life. What you might not know is that a baby’s birth weight doubles by 6 months and triples by 1 year. To support this growth, babies need a very nutritious diet during this time. The addition of solid foods to the diet, after six months of exclusive breastfeeding, is essential to the healthy growth of your baby. To make sure your baby gets adequate nutrition for growth, prepare a healthy baby meal plan that includes milk as well as solid foods from all food groups after consulting your doctor.
Also read: Healthy Sheera Recipes For Weaning Babies