Thursday, December 28, 2006

Appropriate Foods for Growing Babies

The feeding needs for a baby change with time. Not all foods are appropriate for all ages and different foods enter the baby's menu after a minimum age limit is crossed. Generally, babies need to start on solid foods between four to six months of age because they need more nutrients than those found in the mother's milk or formula milk alone. Following is a helpful guide for mums to pick the right food for the first year of their growing babies.

From Birth to Four Months

Milk is the only healthy food for babies from their natal day to four months of age. At this stage, babies cannot bite or chew food. Also, their digestive apparatus is prone to allergies if food other than milk is offered. Both mother's milk and formula milk can be used for children of this age. Mother's milk is obviously superior to the synthetic alternative. Breastfeeding is the best method of feeding babies in this age categories. Mother's milk can be continued up to two years of the baby's age.

Four to Six Months

As the child enters his/her fourth month, solid foods need to be included in the diet. It is also the time to start teaching your baby how to take foods other than milk. Start with a teaspoon of vegetable or fruit puree, or a non-wheat-based cereal like sago or baby rice in a smooth puree. The puree can be of a variety of items like: (1) carrot, parsnip, potato, yam, or courgette (2) banana, cooked apple, pear or mango (3) rice, cornmeal, maize, millet, or baby rice mixed with baby's usual milk. You should gradually increase the quantity of food fed to the baby. It is best to feed the baby before or after a milk feed. About 6 weeks before the baby is six months old, start introducing other foods like purees of meat and poultry, purees of lentils or split pulses, full-fat milk products e.g. yoghurt, fromage frais, but check your family history for any allergies to these items.

Six to Nine Months

Entering the sixth month allows the baby to have almost any food given in mashed or minced form rather than pureed. You should preferably include the following:

(1) One serving of meat, fish, egg or alternative foods (tofu or pulses) daily
(2) Two to three servings of starchy food like potatoes, bread, rice, and unsweetened breakfast cereals every day
(3) Finger foods that encourage the child to chew. Take care that choking does not happen. You can offer the child foods like pitta bread, breadsticks, banana or peeled apple slices, cooked carrot or green beans, and hard cheese cubes.

Nine to Twelve Months


Now your baby is ready to eat three minced/chopped meals daily. Also, between the meals, he/she can have healthy snacks like fruit.

Drinks

For weaning the baby, use his/her usual milk as the main drink up to six months of age. From six months onward, you may offer beakers of boiled water or diluted fruit juice to be taken at meals.

Inappropriate Foods

Of course, you cannot let your child take everything to eat. Following is a list of foods not to be allowed your baby due to health concerns.

Sugar

Sugar leads to sweet tooth and tooth decay. If sweetening the food is necessary, try mashed banana, breast milk, or formula milk.

Salt

Salt is found naturally in foods and adding even a tiny amount to the baby's food can tamper with the baby's proper digestive system.

Before Six Months

The following foods should not be fed to the baby before six months of age.

Eggs
Fish and Shellfish
Citrus Fruits
Follow-on Milk
Cows' Milk (you can use it for cooking only)
Wheat Based Foods (wheat flour, breakfast cereals, and rusks)
Nuts and Seeds (including ground nuts and nut spreads; nuts contain gluten and also pose the risk of choking; nuts may also cause allergies in certain children)

Before Three Years

Avoid giving peanuts and their products to the child before three years of age.

Before Twelve Months

Honey should not be given to babies younger than twelve months. Honey can cause tooth decay and sweet tooth. Home can also cause serious illness (infant botulism) in young children due to the possible presence of spores.

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