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Weaning Your Baby
It’s about the millionth time that health professionals have told you 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 may have reminded yourself to sterilize the bottle and have the water ready. Either way, you’re on your feet. Suddenly, the day comes when your little one, who has been staring at your plate all these days, pounces on your plate and grabs a handful. Hurrah! It’s ready for solids! Well, weaning a baby is that simple and I would vouch for it from my personal experience. First, this way you don’t rush the introduction of solids and risk food allergies. Plus, the jury is almost always out on when is the right time to wean a baby off solids. So why not just leave it to nature and let the baby decide when he wants to eat and not just drink. Remember, just like adults, every baby is different and develops on their own schedule, not yours. It is much easier to feed your baby when he is ready and less stressful for you. They say that unless the “tongue thrust reflex” goes away, the reflex that makes them push everything out of their mouths, they may not be ready for solids. They are also generally ready when they can sit unsupported.
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 solids or semi-solids to be exact. Health visitors said the aim should be to allow him to have family meals by his first birthday. Being goal oriented has helped me quite a bit in planning my strategy. I will share some of my wisdom and experience with you.
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 weaning dos and don’ts. If you were to walk past most of them, I could not even think of reaching my goal. Based on all of this, here are the key things I’ve done or think or felt that might help you…
1. Try to stick to the four-day rule, especially if food allergies run in your family. This means that if you introduce potatoes to your child, do so for four consecutive days and do not introduce any other new food at the same time. This will help you watch for any allergies as it sometimes takes a few days for allergies to show up. If you give too many new things, it is difficult to find the allergen.
2. Don’t worry too much about how much your child is eating. It is said that the nutrient requirements for the first year of life are from milk and food is more of an inculcation of habit. Remember, try not to reduce the amount of milk so that your baby can eat more until at least one year
3. There are always days when they simply refuse to eat and there are days when they will gobble up anything
4. As your baby grows, he develops the ability to chew food better. This means that you should change the texture of your food. Start with the puree, then move to the mash, then the chunks. Call me lazy, but I didn’t cook any vegetables other than peas and beans. Everything else I would boil/steam and mash with a spoon to make a mush. I mash 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 to the body. For example, cumin helps relieve congestion and also aids in digestion.
6. Unlike adults, fat is good for children especially for their rapid brain development. Use ghee, butter, oil sparingly. Serve 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 though). Of course, it’s up to you to keep allergies in mind.
8. Start one meal a day at a time when he is not too tired or sleepy or cranky. Take your time and don’t get distracted. Try to explain to him what he eats, what benefits it has, how it was prepared. This way you both focus on the food. You eat with a spoon in front of him and say things like ‘yum yum’. Gradually increase the meal to two and then to 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 babies have a natural sweet tooth because we are born with more sweet taste buds, it might be a good idea to introduce vegetables first or they may never like them. I didn’t have this problem and I almost alternated new vegetables and fruits. For the same reason, I never added any sugar to his diet. However, I add a pinch of salt. They say their kidneys are not fully developed, so they avoid salt and sugar. There is no point in adding salt and serving a bag of chips when he is a toddler as this will only make him want chips more and is bad for the body. I want him to develop a taste for a balanced diet.
11. Try not to put a lot of food in jars. Processed foods are not good for adults, leave them alone for children. It is also difficult to wean them off these foods and eat home cooked food. I bought a few glasses for travel and in case of emergency. I also tried vegetables or fruit from a mason jar for the first time, looked for allergies, and then prepared them at home.
12. Your child 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 while you snack on crisps. Lead by example.
Like I said, I’ve shared most of my lessons here and I hope it’s a good starting point for you. It’s a long road, not always fun, but you’ll get there eventually. Remember, your goal is to provide a good, healthy start for your child. His quality of life, health and longevity depend quite heavily on how well you adjust his eating habits. Childhood obesity is on the rise everywhere, and juvenile diabetes is also said to be on the rise. You can help your child, so let’s do it.
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