Every human being and therefore every child is unique in their own way. Consequently, they will develop at their own rhythm, both physically and mentally, gaining and discovering skills and areas with which they feel at ease. Nutrition is one of the important factors in the growth of your child, as it most often determines whether their body is receiving essential substances required in this fragile stage of their development, as well as their later food preferences to a lesser extent. Recognizing the importance of dietary requirements in your child’s education should be one of the top priorities, reason for which devising your own infant feeding chart is advisable. This can help you keep tabs of what your baby was introduced to, what he or she already enjoys eating and where you need to focus your efforts so that they have a healthy and balanced diet. Introducing solids to your baby can be a tricky business, so here’s how you can make it easier…
Introducing solids – When?
Pediatricians indicate that the average period of time when a child is ready to be introduced to solid food is somewhere between the landmarks of 4 and 6 months. Of course, this is an estimation to which variations may apply – so there is no need for you to be concerned about it. Some health organizations find it easier to state that you should delay this timeframe up until they are 6 months of age. This is a decision that relies mostly on the fact that solid or formula usually replaces the tedious habit of nursing, although breast-milk is still vital for the infant’s physical health and digestive development. If you keep this in mind and allow breast-milk its deserved place as most important in the diet of a baby this age, you can slowly start to familiarize him or her with solid food. Moreover, there are some clues that you, as a parent, can look out for and that indicate that your baby is ready or willing to discover what else they can chew and has a good taste. Yum!
Some of the important growth milestones that have to be overcome by your child before introducing them to solid food are head control, losing the extrusion reflex (pushing food out of his or her mouth), chewing motions and teething, growing appetite and a curiosity about solid foods that you are enjoying. Introducing solid food before your child is 6 months old can also be risky, as some babies do not have throat and tongue muscles developed enough and the tongue thrust reflex might still be strong. As each infant develops at their own rate, if you do decide to introduce them to solids a bit earlier than 6 months, keep in mind the known allergens, as well as overfeeding.
One small bite for them, one big mouthful for their growth and evolution
Up until the age of 1 year, both formula and breast milk should be an important component of the infant feeding chart you’ve developed. Both of these contain important proteins for their growth, vitamins and antibodies for their health and are in liquid form, which means they are easily digestible.
Having established this, you can slowly introduce them to single-grain cereals, such as rice and oats, or delicious mashed fruits or vegetables. Some of the most known starter vegetables include sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, swede and carrots, whereas babies will most likely enjoy pureed apples, bananas, pears or plums. In order to ensure that your child has not been exposed to an allergen, but also to keep track of what he or she has tried, liked and disliked, solid food should be introduced one item at a time, with a couple of days break in between.
It is important that this new experience is introduced at a time when they are most comfortable, after a serving of formula or breast-milk. Never force them to eat it and always use plastic tableware to protect them from eventual injuries. When trying to offer your child cereal, you can mix it with some formula, but abide by the standard sitting at a table and eating with the spoon, as it will facilitate their learning the upright, healthy position for eating. Start slow, with one offer of solid food per day, whenever it seems that it’s more convenient for them. In time, you can increase it to more times a day, as they will become more interested in discovering what else is yummy. In this manner, solid food will most likely be associated with positive emotions, rather than negative ones and you can transform this experience into a warm, constructive practice with your son or daughter.
In a nutshell, it is more advisable to introduce solid foods in your baby’s diet closer to the 6 month marker, gradually and varying the types as much as you can. Breast milk and formula should still be an important part of their everyday meals until they reach one year of age. Try to stay away from known allergens, such as lactose, wheat grain, corn, egg or various types of nuts, which you can gradually introduce in their diet after the 1 year milestone has passed, with at least 3 days in between to confirm the lack of side-effects. Introducing solids and finger foods in your baby’s infant feeding chart is a mutual experience. You should observe their development, look out for clues that indicate they can handle chewing and mastication and make it an enjoyable experience. Never force-feed your baby, as they will most likely lose interest as a sign of lack of appetite – appetite can vary a lot at this stage of their development.
The process will naturally require your patience at first, but it will gradually improve, your baby will enjoy new tastes and sensations and you will feel proud of being a responsible and caring parent!