Thursday, April 19, 2012

Introducing Solids to your baby - Part II

Once you have started down the road of feeding solids to your little one and you are comfortable with the routine, there are a whole lot of things that you can experiment with. Many parents, myself included, start with the grain cereals available on the market. After a month or so after this stage, the pediatrician might recommend that you start feeding your child pureed vegetables and fruits. Apparently there are different views on whether its better to start first with vegetables and then fruits. The reasoning is that if you feed fruits first, then the baby might not accept the obviously different taste of pureed vegetables..Whatever you decide, do discuss it with your baby's pediatrician. I started with pureed apples and then generally alternated with veggies and fruits.

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Good choices for first fruits for babies include apples ,pears ,cantaloupes, peaches and apricots , blueberries
Choices for veggies include green beans , spinach, carrots , butternut squash , green peas.

For any fruit or vegetable that you choose, wash it well and peel it and remove the seeds.
Chop it into medium sized pieces and steam well until it is very tender.
I would recommend that you steam rather than boil so that you retain as many nutrients as possible.
Once the steamed produce cools down, you can mash it with a fork or even run through a blender for a finer puree.

Who wouldn't want to prepare fresh food for their child daily ? But with the hectic lives that we lead nowadays, it is sometimes just not possible. The alternative is to prepare a batch of fruit / veggie puree and then pour it into ice cube trays and stick the trays into the freezer. After a few hours , pop the frozen cubes and store in a zip lock bag. When you want to feed your baby, take out the number of cubes that you need and thaw them out.
Make sure that the food is at a proper temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. Preferably, it should be slightly warm. It will be more palatable to your baby and its also good for digestion.

Once you have tried individual fruits and vegetables, you can make fruit / veggie combinations for a different variety. Remember that you can try a variety of permutations and combinations. If on the first try, your baby doesn't seem to like your preparation, don't despair !! Experts suggest that it takes a minimum of 7 tries for your baby to accept any new taste or texture.

You can even combine vegetables and fruits to get the taste as well as the nutritional punch. For inspiration, you can check out the flavors available in the markets and then prepare the same at home !

I have often seen parents plop their kids in front of the television in the hope that they would get distracted by the programs which would allow the parents to feed them quickly. Although this might work in the beginning, I can only think that this habit will be harmful in the long run. It is entirely possible that even when the child gets older, he / she will not be willing to eat unless they are watching the idiot box.
Instead, have them sit comfortably in a bouncer or a high chair , keep their food in front of them and involve them in the process. Tell them stories, talk to them about your day, sing songs. They will be much more entertained by your face and will also eat if they are hungry.

Please don't force feed your child. If a spoon full or two is all your precious darling manages to eat in the first few sittings, then so be it. Slowly increase the amount of fruit or vegetable puree that you offer your baby.
As the baby grows, so will its appetite and your baby will start enjoying all of nature's bounty :)

Once you have started feeding solids, you might notice some changes in the baby's bowel movements. If it looks like your baby is constipated, don't worry...Increase the amount of liquid that your baby consumes, be it breast milk, formula or even plain water. It will take a little while for the tiny digestive systems to get accustomed to different textures of food.
My children's pediatrician that in order to keep their digestive systems working in order, we should ensure that we include the following food in their diets :
* Cantaloupe - Puree the fruit and feed at lunch or snack time
* Papaya - Make a smoothie with other fruits and offer it to your baby
* Prunes - Prunes are an excellent fruit to keep your baby regular. You can rehydrate prunes in warm water and then blend it in a blender for homemade prune puree ...or you could also chop it into small pieces and mix it while making oatmeal for your baby
* Raisins - Include these dried fruits in oatmeal, or other fruit purees for added sweetness

Stay tuned for a final post on this topic ! I will be including some recipes for home made food that you can try with your little ones !

Please note that I am not a healthcare professional. It is always advisable to consult your child's pediatrician and your own common sense while trying new things with your baby.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Introducing solids to your baby - Part 1

My little one just turned one recently. I started him on solids when he was 5 months old. He has been exclusively breast fed and the only reason I started him so early on solids was because he was showing a lot of interest in the food that we were eating and seemed ready for solids. His pediatrician also agreed and thus began my journey again with baby food.
I started with the baby cereals available on the market and then worked up to homemade food.
The ideas and options listed below are just a few of the choices that you can make when you and your little one start on your food journey :)

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1. Oatmeal - Generally recommended as a first grain for your baby. These are available in a variety of combinations. Try the plain oatmeal first and when you have ascertained that your baby is able to digest it well, then try the other fruit combinations.
2. Rice - Rice is also a safe option for most babies. In fact, in India, a small ceremony is held by the parents in which the baby is fed sweetened rice out of a gold ring ! This signifies that the baby is ready to start eating solid foods.
3. Barley - Barley cereal is also widely available in the markets and makes for a very good and nutritious choice for little tummies. Please note that barley falls in the same group as wheat when it comes to gluten content. So if your little one has a gluten intolerance, then please do not feed barley to your baby.
In any case, please talk to your baby's pediatrician before beginning any new food.
4. Whole Wheat - Whole wheat cereal is a good alternative for slightly older babies. It can be given plain or like I prepare it, with a couple of tablespoons of mashed fruit. Since I do not add additional salt or sugar to these prepared cereals, adding fruit definitely increases the appeal !
5. Ragi (finger millet) - This is a much beloved cereal amongst South Indians...Although I am one, I am not very familiar with this as baby food. But its very nutritious and quite filling while being digestible as well. Dissolve a couple of teaspoons of the flour in cold water and remove lumps. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Add a little bit of desired milk, a little sweetener and offer to your baby.
6. Mixed Grain - This is another option available in the US markets and consists of whole wheat, rice and oatmeal. Once you have made sure that your child is not allergic to any of the individual grains, you can try this blend more more nutrition.

1.For each of the above options, I initially used breast milk and then later water or fruit purees. You could either do that or even use your formula of choice.
2.When you first start feeding your baby solids, make sure that the consistency is almost comparable to milk / formula. Your baby needs to get used to receiving the food on the tongue and then learn to push it to the back of the mouth.
3. Keep in mind that it takes a while for the baby to get used to the different taste and texture of these cereals. Start with only a tiny serving each time and then work up to larger servings.
4.Do note down any reactions / allergies that you might notice when you start a new food and discuss with your child's pediatrician. Wait for at least 4 days after you introduce a grain / cereal before you try another one.
5. My baby had a few bouts of indigestion and gas every time I tried a new cereal. I gave him extra water / breast milk and used gas drops and gripe water along with a few home remedies to prevent discomfort and constipation.

In the next post of this series, I will write about the home made options that I tried with my little one.
I would love to hear from you...when did you start your baby on solids ? What all have you tried so far and how have the two of you enjoyed the process :) 

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not in the medical professional, just a fellow parent trying to make the best decision about my children's nutrition. Please consult your child's pediatrician before you start your baby on solids.