Feed me food!

Know­ing how and what to feed your baby en­sures the very best start in life. Keep the end goal in mind – a child who en­joys a wide va­ri­ety of healthy food and snacks

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

YOUR IN­STINCT MIGHT be telling you that your baby is ready to start on solids. Af­ter all, you know her better than any­one else. If you’re a lit­tle un­sure though, here are some signs to be on the lookout for that will con­firm your suspicion. When three or more of these phys­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual mile­stones are reached, it is time to start the jour­ney of in­tro­duc­ing com­ple­men­tary food.

PHYS­I­CAL MILE­STONES

✓ Your baby is sit­ting steadily (with sup­port or with­out) and her head and neck don’t wob­ble on her shoul­ders. ✓ When ly­ing on her stom­ach, your baby can lift her head and hold weight on her arms. ✓ She has at least dou­bled her birth weight. ✓ She doesn’t stay sat­is­fied for long and needs more reg­u­lar feeds than be­fore, also at night. ✓ She can reach out for ob­jects and bring them to her mouth. ✓ She has lost her nat­u­ral tongue thrust re­flex, and she makes chew­ing mo­tions with her jaw. ✓ Her weight gain has slowed down as she be­comes more ac­tive.

IN­TEL­LEC­TUAL MILE­STONES

✓ She shows in­ter­est in your food when you eat, even grab­bing at it some­times. ✓ She is in­ter­ested in her sur­round­ings and can fo­cus for a pe­riod of time. ✓ She re­sponds to your voice or sud­den sounds by look­ing around and lo­cat­ing the source.

Be­fore you get started with ev­ery­thing that goes into menu plan­ning and cook­ing, there are a few prin­ci­ples to keep in mind to en­sure that this new ad­ven­ture is a pos­i­tive and healthy ex­pe­ri­ence. Breast is best. Wean­ing does not mean giv­ing up on breast­feed­ing – it merely refers to in­tro­duc­ing other food sources along with breast­milk. There is no down­side to breast­feed­ing – you can con­tinue for as long as you and your child wish, and rest as­sured that your child will reap the ben­e­fits. Their in­take of breast­milk will decrease nat­u­rally as their in­take of solid food in­creases. Early wean­ing is dan­ger­ous. Ex­perts agree that you shouldn’t even con­sider giv­ing your baby solids be­fore 17 weeks, and if shortly af­ter that only on the ad­vice of your med­i­cal care­giver. Any­thing ear­lier could lead to im­me­di­ate health prob­lems in­clud­ing chok­ing as well as prob­lems later in life such as obe­sity, heart dis­ease and di­a­betes. Don’t de­lay. Your baby’s feed­ing and en­ergy needs be­come more com­plex as she grows, and by six months the iron de­posits that she was born with be­gin to run out. She needs the added ben­e­fit of iron and other nu­tri­ents to her diet that milk alone won’t pro­vide any­more. First-time fun. Choose a time for the first feed when your baby is calm and re­laxed. It shouldn’t be right af­ter a milk feed, nei­ther should she be be­side her­self with hunger. The first lit­tle taste is more about the ex­pe­ri­ence and learn­ing to swal­low­ing than about nu­tri­tion. Make meal time part of your rou­tine by plan­ning feeds that are more or less at the same time and place ev­ery day.

Ex­pect a mess. It takes about a week for your baby to learn to eat prop­erly. Ini­tially only tiny amounts will go down – the rest will end up on her, on you, on the high chair, on the floor… Don’t be stressed about this. As you ap­proach the tod­dler years, mess will be­come part of your new nor­mal, with meal­times prob­a­bly the most messy part of the day for years to come. Take a deep breath and re­lax about it. Don’t be pushy. It is the mom’s job to pro­vide the meals, and the baby’s job to de­cide how much to eat. When your baby is clearly done, the meal is over. Don’t force her to eat more, or trick her by play­ing lit­tle games to get her to eat more. Her own ap­petite should be her guide. Feed­ing time should be a happy time, not a bat­tle of wills. Pop­u­lar tastes. You can start with baby ce­real, fruit or veg­eta­bles. Ce­real is con­ve­nient and easy and ba­bies like it. Most of them are also en­riched with iron, which your baby has a great need for. Fruit purée also goes down well as it is sweeter. The first meal can be as sim­ple as some mashed ba­nana, or a purée of cooked ap­ple or pear. If you’re wor­ried about en­cour­ag­ing a sweet tooth, start with a veg­etable purée. Pop­u­lar choices are sweet potato, but­ter­nut or car­rot. Three-day rule. Give your baby the same food for three days in a row to al­low her time to get used to the taste and texture, and to give you time to keep an eye

HER OWN AP­PETITE SHOULD BE HER GUIDE

out for any re­ac­tion. As the list of foods your baby eats in­creases, you can start com­bin­ing them and also adding meals. Af­ter a few weeks your baby should be hav­ing three meals a day, but re­mem­ber that some­times a meal will be only a ta­ble­spoon or so. Try, try again. If a par­tic­u­lar food is met with re­jec­tion, ac­cept it calmly. Of­fer it again af­ter a week or so. You might have to re­peat this ex­po­sure 15-20 times be­fore your baby will like the food. Just stay calm and keep try­ing. Don’t let frus­tra­tion get the better of you. Lumps are good. Not only does your baby have to learn about dif­fer­ent tastes, she also has to learn about dif­fer­ent tex­tures, and even tem­per­a­tures. As she mas­ters eat­ing, start to make food lumpier. Also give her cold food (such as yo­ghurt), room tem­per­a­ture food (mashed avo) and warmer food, such as a meat and veg mix. Serve fin­ger food. Your baby learns a lot while eat­ing by her­self. Never leave her alone to eat, though, as there is al­ways a risk of chok­ing and you need to be nearby to help. Never let her eat in the car. Sit with her, and put down some en­tic­ing food for her to han­dle all by her­self. Some sug­ges­tions: baby bil­tong, sugar-free rusks, hard boiled egg, pieces of roasted veg­eta­bles, pieces of fruit, cooked green beans, cau­li­flower or broc­coli flo­rets, cubes of cheese.

When she has mas­tered get­ting the food to her mouth, you could even show her how to dip – use hum­mus, plain yo­ghurt or mashed avo.

Lay off the sugar and salt. Ba­bies do not need added sugar and salt in any of their food. It is not good for them. On the other hand, if she wants to grab some­thing off your plate, or taste your food, let her. Ide­ally, by a year, you want your baby to be eat­ing fam­ily meals. So if you aren’t eat­ing well as a fam­ily, now is also the time to make some ad­just­ments so you can all start to en­joy healthy fam­ily meal­times to­gether soon. Keep it clean. Prac­tise per­fect hy­giene when pre­par­ing your baby’s meals. Use fresh in­gre­di­ents, wash your hands, use clean uten­sils and throw left­overs away if the spoon has been dipped into the food di­rectly. YB

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