When to Start Solid Foods
Most health experts suggest only breast milk, and no other solid foods for babies, till they reach the age of six months. Usually, a baby’s diet for the first six months consists of breast milk only. In some cases, doctors may extend this period of exclusive breastfeeding. This delay (up to six months or more) in introducing solids to a baby is to reduce the risk of food allergies, to protect from illnesses, to enable the digestive system of the baby to get mature, to avoid future obesity, and to make it easier for the baby to get adjusted with solid foods. Introducing solid foods to a breastfed baby does not mean that you have to stop breastfeeding. You have to understand that even if you start solid foods for your baby, breast milk continues to be his/her primary source of nutrition, and it has to be continued till his/her first birthday, or even beyond that.
First Solid Foods
Most parents start with rice cereal, which is considered less allergenic (as it is gluten-free), when compared to other foods. Take two to three spoons of dry cereal, and mix it with breast milk or formula. Some of the cereals have to be cooked before giving to the baby. Then it is better to use water, rather than using cow’s milk for cooking. The cereal should be semiliquid in consistency. Breastfeed the baby, and then give him the cereal. Start with a very small quantity. Use a rubber-tipped spoon, and let the baby taste the cereal. Let him get adjusted to the idea of solid food, and once he gets comfortable, feed him slowly. It is not advisable to use the baby’s bottle to feed him solid foods. You may also give mashed bananas or other fruits, and cooked vegetables, to the baby. It is better to delay introduction of foods, like fish, eggs, nuts, soybean, dairy products, and wheat, to reduce the risk of food allergies. You may gradually include other solid foods in your baby’s diet.
While introducing solid foods to a breastfed baby, you can start with once-a-day feeding. Make it sure to give him solid foods, when he is in a good mood. The food intake of the baby may vary from time to time. If he turns his head away, or keeps his mouth shut, understand that he is no more interested in the food. Sometimes, he may take time to swallow the food, and keeps his mouth shut. Give him enough time to swallow the food, and try to feed him. Initially, he may not show much interest in solid foods, but you have to be patient in this task. Once he gets comfortable with this diet, he may increase the intake. If there is an increase in his intake, you can gradually thicken the consistency of the foods, or start adding new foods to his diet. According to health experts, solid foods should not be more than 10% of the baby’s diet, for babies in the age group of six to nine months.
Introducing solids to a breastfed baby is not a complicated task, but it can be surely ‘messy’. You must consult your baby’s pediatrician before giving him solid foods. He will be in a better position to advise you about the various aspects of introducing solid foods to your baby.