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Son­ali Shivlani answers all your baby-re­lated con­cerns

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS -

There’s no doubt that breast milk is the best and the most nu­tri­tion­al­ly­w­hole­some food for a child up to six months of age. How­ever, it is very ex­cit­ing for new par­ents to want to start their lit­tle ones on solid foods. First, it is all about the new ex­pe­ri­ence, about watch­ing your child as she ex­plores new tastes and tex­tures. Sec­ond, you can fi­nally start hav­ing some time to your­self with­out be­ing on con­stant call to feed your baby. How­ever ex­cit­ing or re­liev­ing it may be, it still makes sense to go about wean­ing in a sys­tem­atic man­ner. This can help your lit­tle one adapt to the process eas­ily, as well as help to pre­vent any al­ler­gies and un­to­ward re­ac­tions.

The first step

The most im­por­tant thing is to watch out for signs that your child is ready to start solids. This means that the baby can now sit up, with or with­out sup­port. The baby should be show­ing an in­ter­est in the food – drool­ing, reach­ing for the food and over­all watch­ing you and oth­ers eat. Your child’s weight gain will also be a good in­di­ca­tor to watch out for. Closer to six months the weight gain starts to ta­per off and when you see a plateau, and all the other signs are also favourable, you are good to start. De­spite the ad­vice you may have re­cieved from well-mean­ing fam­ily men­bers, about how dal and rice wa­ter is a good food to start off with, it is just not the right food for a baby. It does not com­pare to breast milk in calo­rie or nu­tri­tion and hence can­not serve as a re­place­ment or al­ter­na­tive to a breast milk feed. In­stead, opt for pureed foods in the form of ce­re­als, pulses, veg­eta­bles and fruit. This does not mean that you can give any­thing and ev­ery­thing to the baby. Start with one food group at a time. Gen­er­ally, one fruit or veg­etable is the safest bet. Feed your baby a small amount and watch for re­ac­tions over three to five days. Don’t be in a hurry to try all va­ri­eties in the first week it­self. Keep in mind that breast milk still ac­counts for fifty per­cent of your childs nu­tri­tional needs, even at nine months of age.

What to ex­pect

Par­ents of­ten meet re­sis­tance when they in­tro­duce solid foods. This is nor­mal. The baby is used to a par­tic­u­lar method of feed­ing and if you sud­denly cre­ate this huge up­heaval, you can­not ex­pect that it will be wel­comed with aplomb. Ex­pect fussy be­hav­iour, re­fusal to open the mouth or even spit­ting up. De­spit this re­cep­tion, please do not force feed your child. I have had mothers re­late their ex­pe­ri­ences of need­ing two peo­ple to hold the child in place while they put food in their child’s mouth. This kind of force­feed­ing is not help­ful, and in fact, can lead to food aver­sion that can follow even into adult­hood. More­over, re­frain from re­sort­ing to the use of tech­nol­ogy dur­ing meal­times. We have all seen how that en­er­getic tod­dler who re­fuses to sit still, es­pe­cially dur­ing meal time, is sud­denly quiet and gob­bling up all his food the mo­ment he has his mommy’s phone to play with. Al­though this may be a tem­po­rary solution, it is surely not a sus­tain­able one. We want our kids to learn the plea­sure of eat­ing and ac­tu­ally en­joy their food. They should recog­nise hunger and sati­ety which is not pos­si­ble if their brain is ac­tu­ally oc­cu­pied with watch­ing some­thing on the TV, tablet or phone. We also have to keep in mind that chil­dren have their own tastes, how­ever bizarre it may seem to us. I’ve had one mom share her dis­be­lief that her child’s favourite food was water­melon mixed with rice. Hon­estly, I don’t find any­thing wrong with it. Both the foods are healthy and if the child con­tent with his food choice, why not let him eat it? As par­ents, we for­get that our chil­dren are also in­di­vid­u­als with tastes and pref­er­ences and we should al­low them to ex­plore and de­velop their own unique iden­tity. This does not mean that we don’t keep try­ing new flavours and tex­tures with them. It just means that we’re not dis­ap­pointed if they show a pref­er­ence for an odd com­bi­na­tion. I once had a fa­ther protest a wean­ing plan I gave him which in­cluded pa­paya in the chart. Why? Be­cause he be­lieved that his daugh­ter wouldn’t like the fruit be­cause he didn’t like it. Re­gard­less, I sent him home with my rec­om­men­da­tions and sim­ply asked him to re­frain from mak­ing any faces or sounds when feed­ing her pa­paya. When we met again, he was as­ton­ished by how much his daugh­ter had taken to the fruit. This is just an­other ex­am­ple why we need to let our kids be the unique in­di­vid­u­als that they are. Wean­ing is a fun and ex­cit­ing time. If han­dled cor­rectly, it can ac­tu­ally cre­ate the love for food and healthy eat­ing habits for life. If you have any con­cerns re­lated to preg­nancy, birth and the post-de­liv­ery pe­riod, Son­ali Shivlani will an­swer all your ques­tions through her col­umn. Do send in your queries to mbe­d­i­to­rial@gmail.com.

M&B’s pan­el­list Son­ali Shivlani is an In­ter­na­tion­ally Cer­ti­fied Preg­nancy Con­sul­tant and a child nu­tri­tion coun­sel­lor. She is the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CAPPA In­dia, and also trains as­pir­ing birth pro­fes­sion­als to achieve cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in preg­nancy, birth and lac­ta­tion coun­selling.

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