Weaning A Baby and Starting Solid Foods

Depending on the baby’s requirement, starting solid foods is usually recommended 6 months after birth. After finishing a full feed, if the baby is hungry again within two to three hours, it is an indication of the increasing nutritional needs of the baby. Usually, by the time babies are 6 months old, this need for more nourishment become apparent. Since solid foods are more concentrated in calories, they will meet the additional need when given along with normal feedings.

Weaning a baby is a new experience for him. Swallowing solid foods is a new skill for the baby to develop, and by the age of six months, most babies may be ready for this task, even though a few may be already swallowing solid food that parents place on the back of their tongues. Some parents may start solid foods too early in the mistaken belief that it would help the baby to sleep soundly through the entire night. It is not wise to force infants to swallow solid food before they are ready, as it may lead to eating problems later. There is a high risk of developing pneumonia due to aspiration of food too. If solid food is offered after a bottle or breast feed, it may satisfy the both their sucking instinct and their hunger.

Parents should not introduce many different foods into the baby’s diet all at once. New foods should be introduced one at a time, as it would make it easy to identify allergies or intolerance towards any particular food. Since allergic reactions towards certain foods are more serious in babies than in adults or older children, the parents should try one new food for at least a week, to ensure that it is well tolerated, before introducing the next one.

It is recommended that cereals are introduced as the first solid food, that too, a single cereal at a time to begin with. Cooked vegetables and fruits can be introduced next. Meats, well-cooked and mashed up, may be given to babies older than 7 months, but many babies do not seem to like them initially, even though they provide good proteins.

When babies start on solid foods, they should be fed with a spoon. At around six to nine months, babies may try to grasp the spoon and try to feed themselves. Parents should encourage their attempts at self- feeding. However, hard bits of food which pose a risk of choking, such as uncooked carrots, peanuts, crackers etc, should not be offered to infants. Commercially available baby foods are better avoided during weaning a baby. Freshly cooked and pureed vegetables and fruits usually provide sufficient nutrition to the baby, while being less expensive than store-bought foods. Once babies start to sit up and feed themselves, soft finger foods such as cooked carrot sticks, bananas, and apple pieces without skin, can be given.

Most infants show a preference for sweet foods, but keeping in mind that sugar does not offer any nutritional benefit, it should be kept to a minimum. Babies do not need added sugar in their diet and sweetened deserts are not beneficial to them. Honey is not advisable for babies below one year of age due to the risk of them being affected by a type food poisoning called botulism, if the spores of Clostridium botulinum are contained in honey. It is generally harmless for adults as well as older children.

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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