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Weaning Your Baby
You’ve probably been told a million times by health professionals that exclusive breastfeeding until six months is absolutely necessary. You probably did it very religiously even in the middle of the night. If you chose not to or were unable to do so, you probably reminded yourself to sterilize the bottle and keep water ready. Either way, you’re on your feet. Suddenly the day comes when your baby, who has been glaring at your plate all these days, jumps onto your plate and grabs a handful. Yippee! He is ready for solid food! Well, weaning a baby is that simple and I can vouch for it from my personal experience. First of all, this way you don’t rush to introduce solid foods and risk food allergies. Moreover, the jury is almost always out on when the right time to wean a baby off solids is almost always open. So why not just leave it to nature and let the baby decide when he wants to eat, not just drink. Just remember, like adults, every baby is different and develops on their own schedule, not yours. It’s much easier to feed your baby when he’s ready and it’s less stressful for you. It is said that if the ‘tongue thrust reflex’ does not work, i.e. reflex that makes them push everything out of their mouths, they may not be ready for solid food. Also, they are generally ready when they can sit without support.
My son started showing interest in food when he was about five months old, and when he was two weeks short of six months, I started offering him solid or semi-solid food, to be exact. Health visitors said the aim should be to provide him with a family meal by his first birthday. Goal orientation was very helpful in planning my strategy. I will share with you some of my wisdom and experience.
As a first-time mother, I wanted to be perfect in what I did for him. I used to refer to so many different websites and books on quitting, what to give and what not to give. If you were to pass most of them, I couldn’t even think of reaching my goal. Based on all of that, here are the key things I’ve done, thought or felt that might help you…
1. Try to stick to the four day rule, especially if there is a history of food allergies in your family. This means that if you introduce potatoes to your baby, do so for four consecutive days and do not introduce any other new food at the same time. This will help you spot any allergies as it sometimes takes a few days for an allergy to appear. If you give too many new things, it is difficult to find the allergen.
2. Don’t be too concerned about how much your baby is eating. It is said that the nutrient requirements for the first year of life are from milk, and food is more about instilling a habit. Remember, try not to reduce the amount of milk so that your baby eats more until at least one year
3. There are always days when they simply refuse to eat, and there are days when they will swallow anything
4. As your child grows, he develops the ability to chew food better. This means that you should vary the texture of the food. Start with a puree, then move on to a puree and then to chunks. Call me lazy, but I haven’t pureed any vegetables other than peas and beans. Everything else I would boil/scald and mash with a spoon. I crush each bite of banana in my hand and feed it to him.
5. Slowly introduce the spices. Most spices, especially those used in Indian cuisine, are beneficial for the body. Cumin, for example, helps relieve congestion and also aids digestion.
6. Unlike adults, fats are good for babies, especially for their rapidly developing brains. Use ghee, butter, oil in moderation. Give full-fat yogurt, cheese, etc.
7. Usually after 26 weeks you get the green signal to give almost any food like fruits, vegetables, meat (we are vegetarians). Of course, it’s up to you to keep allergies in mind.
8. Start with one meal a day at a time when he is not very tired, sleepy or grumpy. Take your time and don’t get distracted. Try to explain what he eats, what are its benefits, how it is prepared. This way, you’re both focused on the food. You eat a spoonful in front of him and say things like ‘yum yum’. Gradually increase the meal to two, then three.
9. Variety adds spice to life, even your little one’s. Try to add as many different flavors, vegetables, fruits, etc.
10. Some say that since babies naturally have a sweet tooth because we are born with more of a sweet tooth, it may be a good idea to introduce vegetables first or they may never develop a sweet tooth. I didn’t face this problem and I almost switched to new vegetables and fruits. For the same reason, I never added sugar to his diet. I add a little salt though. They say that their kidneys are not fully developed and therefore they avoid salt and sugar. It makes no sense not to add salt and give a bag of chips when the child is a child, because it will only make him want chips even more and harm the body. I want him to develop a liking for a balanced diet.
11. Try not to put a lot of food in the jar. Processed food is not good for adults, leave it alone for babies. It also becomes difficult to wean them off that food and eat home-cooked food. I used to buy a few jars for travel and emergencies. Also, I tried vegetables or fruits from a jar for the first time, looked for allergies and then prepared them at home.
12. Your baby is your best guide. Don’t panic and don’t get frustrated, they will pick it easily
13. You can’t expect your baby/toddler to snack on fruit when you’re snacking on chips. Lead by example.
As I said, I have shared most of my lessons learned here and I hope this will be a good starting point for you. It’s a long journey, not always a fun ride, but you’ll get there eventually. Remember, your goal is to give your child a good start. His quality of life, health and longevity largely depend on how well you set his eating habits. Childhood obesity is on the rise everywhere, and rates of juvenile diabetes are also said to be on the rise. You can help your child, so let’s do it.
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