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“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 diversityA 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 food:s & Don’ts for choosing food:
· Fish is healthy and can even protect against allergies – carefully remove the bones and heat thoroughly (70–80 °C for 10 minutes).
· Chicken eggs are good as baby food during the first year since they contain lots of protein and zinc. Heat well (70–80 °C for 10 minutes).
· Finely grated nuts contain valuable fats. Feeding nuts in the 1st year can reduce the risk of allergies later on.
· Always add a bit of high-quality vegetable oil to purées. Flax seed, canola, walnut or olive oil (1 tbsp to 200 g). This promotes cerebral and motor skills development.
· Foods with high zinc and iron content (beef, veal and pork, grains, legumes). Zinc stimulates the metabolism, iron promotes the formation of haemoglobin.
· Lots of fruit and vegetables
· Honey – only after the age of 1. It may contain spores that a baby’s digestive system cannot cope with and can therefore be dangerous for baby’s health.
· Raw preparations of eggs, fish or meat
· Anything that can be accidentally swallowed – unprocessed nuts, seeds, grains, berries and legumes as well as sweets or chewing gum.
· Salt and salty snacks or spicy seasoning
· Sugar (sweets, fizzy drinks)
· Cured meat (ham, sausage, bacon)
· Alcohol, coffee, caffeinated drinks
· Low fat foods (“light” products)
· Foods labelled “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.
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.
|MAM BABY GUIDE – a guide to your baby’s most important developmental steps|
|I am…||Newborn, my head needs to be supported||already moving about, sitting with support, pushing myself into a prone position with my elbows extended||already quite clever, sitting independently, able to hold small items and reaching for food or the spoon||already moving about, learning how to crawl and trying to stand up||able to stand, pull myself up alone and take my first steps|
|I can…||breathe in sucking or swallowing rhythm when nursing or bottle feeding||recognize the spoon and open my mouth, my spitting out reflex is decreasing||eat firmer foods, hold food in my fist or move it from one hand to the other for myself and drink from a cup with your help||already pick up “finger food” between my thumb and forefinger and eat and I can drink on my own from my cup||eat by myself using my fingers and drink while holding my cup with both hands, I like straws too|
|I’m hungry when…||I yell, open my mouth, stare at you and give other signs that I want to drink more||I move my head forward toward the spoon to get the food into my mouth||I reach for the spoon or food or point towards food||I reach or point towards the spoon or food and am really happy as soon as the food arrives||I tell you – with sounds or even whole words|
|I’m full when…||I stop sucking, turn away from you or the bottle or fall asleep||I turn my head to the side or am very easily distracted||I eat slower, keep my mouth closed or even spit out what you give me||I eat slower or simply push the food to the side||I shake my head or say something that I hope you understand means “No”|
If you have any unanswered questions related to this topic then please consult your healthcare practitioner.
For our brochures “Discover the World of Baby’s First Food and Drinks” and “MAM Recipe Collection” please visit https://www.mambaby.com/about-mam/mam-brochures/ and for more details about our feeding products please visit the MAM Baby website at https://www.mambaby.com/shop/us_int/feeding.html. For any other queries please contact us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MAMCyprus/.