Every infant needs to be fed properly for normal growth and development. In many developing nations, it is a sad and ignored fact that lack in confidence and general ill education could result in improper infant feeding practices. In fact; even in the developed countries, many mothers fail to follow ideal feeding practices; the child must ideally be breastfed for 6 months to one year followed by addition of other healthy foods in the form of semi-solid and solid ingredients. This is often mistaken for “replacing breastfeeding completely” using commercially prepared canned baby foods. The term “weaning” is often mistaken for “totally stopping breastfeeding”.
Improper feeding practices
As mentioned before, weaning from breast milk is mistaken for total stoppage of breast milk and its replacement with semi solid foods. Furthermore; nearly 80% mothers delay feeding leading to loss of precious colostrum, an ingredient found only in the early breast milk which is vital for increasing baby’s immunity. Also, nearly 85 to 90% of women are using non exclusive breast feeding: which means that they include commercial infant formulas, animal milks and semi solid canned foods at a premature stage. Not only are the latter fed less frequently, they are often low in calories, leading to impaired baby’s growth.
Needless to say; these improper feeding practices and introduction of commercial baby food items early on directly or indirectly contribute to illness, malnutrition, and higher infant mortality, especially in developing countries. In the advanced countries too, some of these practices lead to childhood obesity. All said and done, mother’s milk is a source of nutrition which simply cannot be replicated.
Use the following guidelines for baby’s feeding practices
Advanced child care, growth and development can be encouraged by using these guidelines which can also reduce vitamin A deficiency and protein malnutrition in children.
Age 0 to 12 months
- Breastfeeding along with foods as mentioned below
- Breast feeding
- Addition of formula as prescribed by doctor
- Iron-fortified semi liquid cereals
- Introduce pureed foods like sweet potatoes, squash, pears, apples, bananas, peaches etc. Use the baby bullet blender to puree food to desired consistency.
At 4 – 6 months
At 6 -8 months
- Breast milk
- Pureed foods
- Pureed meat chicken, pork and beef
- Pureed tofu
- Plain yogurt
- Iron fortified oats, barley etc.
Start gradually and increase to 2 to 3 feeds daily.
Same as above, but also introduce finger foods like small pieces of cooked eggs, ripe and raw bananas, well cooked fish, chicken and tofu, well cooked pastas, chopped and cooked squash pieces, boiled peas and carrots, low sugar cereal, oats, mixed cereals, mashed black beans, toasted bagels and so on.
At 10 to 12 months
All of the above. Continue to breastfeed. Introduce cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese. Do not give cow’s milk until 1 year of age. Add combo foods like casseroles, Mac-n-cheese, egg, pureed vegetables and fruits, fish, teething crackers etc. Remember to introduce only one new food per day and at least maintaining a gap of 3 to 4 days in between to ensure that the baby is not allergic to any food.
After the age of 12 months, you can talk to the doctor regarding introducing whole milk and other dairy products. The child can now eat the same food as the rest of the family. Introduce vegetables like broccoli and cauliflowers which are cooked and cut into bite sized pieces. Make sure the child eats plenty of fruits like melons, papaya, apples, etc.
Some doctors are against introduction of eggs, fish and poultry early on as these foods are often known to induce allergies. However, new research has now shown that early introduction of these do not contribute to allergies. Breast feeding must be continued for as long as possible.
For more information on baby foods and when to start them, click here.