The following information is kindly provided by MAM Baby.
Eating and drinking independently is one of the most important and exciting developmental times for babies, but it can be also be a frustrating time for parents with so many different and often confusing recommendations and restrictions about what the right foods are for babies. Learning to eat should be fun so hopefully this article will give you an overview and answer the most pressing questions you may have.
Starting with baby food: The first porridge
After the 6th month is the time to begin a smooth transition from “just mum” to more. Along with breastfeeding, the first attempts at supplementary food can begin now. You will know when it is the right time to try different foods because your baby won’t spit the food out anymore, the head can be held up without help, sitting up alone works quite well now – and interest in what the grownups are eating increases noticeably.
For the first attempts, try small amounts: about 2–3 teaspoons of finely puréed foods. Gradually increase the quantity. When babies move their head forward to reach the spoon, it usually means “yes, more”. Turning the head away and being easily distracted are the typical signs of “I’ve had enough” (a final offer of more breast milk to drink is a good way to make sure that baby is actually full).
By their first birthday, children should be eating together with the family – breakfast, lunch and dinner. This routine usually comes about on its own since babies’ hunger signals come after 3 to 5 hours at the most.
“Drink plenty of fluids” goes for babies too
Only exclusively breast or formula fed babies can do without additional fluids (except in case of fever, vomiting or diarrhoea). As soon as supplemental foods are used, babies will need extra fluids and at the latest when they transition to regular food, or at about 10 months. Water is best. Drinks with sugar disrupt the nutritional balance and development of the sense of taste while prolonged sucking on a bottle of fruit juice or sugared tea can lead to tooth decay. The best for babies is their own cup designed for their needs. At first, parents need to help a little but between the 9th and 12th month children should be able to drink on their own.
A meal plan for diversity
Having a variety of supplemental foods is not only necessary to ensure a good supply of essential nutrients. The more variety there is with the first porridge meals, the more open children will be to different tastes later on.
Slowly increase the consistency:
- First steamed and finely puréed and soluble foods (e.g. flakes)
- Then thicker porridge and coarsely mashed foods (i.e. mashed bananas)
- Firmer, grated food is also good (e.g. apples)
- Solid foods finely sliced, diced or chopped (fruit, vegetables and some foods that the whole family eats as well)
While the meal plan is somewhat flexible, in some countries and cultures more solid food is preferred and therefore an earlier part of the child’s programme. In addition, babies have their own preferences. They spit out what they don’t like, completely independently of the plan or culture.
Dos & Don’ts for choosing foods
Home cooking or smart shopping?
Modern parenting life does not often fit well with long hours in the kitchen. However, this does not need to be a problem as buying baby food in glass jars is a good alternative:
- Commercially available baby food is generally prepared very carefully and strictly controlled.
- A look at the ingredients on the label will tell you what’s inside (and conversely how you can compare it to home cooking).
- Many finished products are also enriched with vitamins and minerals.
The advantages of home cooking:
- More variety, more flavours
- Avoidance of certain ingredients like sugar and salt
- Extra portions can be prepared for freezing. Meat keeps for up to 3 months, vegetable purée up to 6 months. However, once thawed, it cannot be refrozen.
Generally speaking, supplemental foods should not be kept warm for extended periods and leftovers should not be saved – harmful germs certainly do not belong on baby’s menu.
Learning to eat is fun
The transition from breastfeeding to more independent eating and drinking is not just about motor skills, it’s a social skill as well. The change from being breastfed to eating at the table with the “grown-ups” is a central experience for toddlers.
While every child will be different, there are a few important guidelines and signals for important developmental steps that are worth considering. The MAM Baby Guide offers help and assurance for parents who want to support their children as best they can in learning to eat.
If you have any unanswered questions related to this topic then please consult your healthcare practitioner.
You can find the MAM baby brochures “Discover the World of Baby’s First Food and Drinks” and “MAM Recipe Collection” here and for more details about their feeding products please visit the MAM Baby website.
For any other queries please contact them on Facebook.