Newborns and infants live on a nutritious diet of mother’s milk until 6 months. Having crossed the first milestone of 6 months, every mother is anxious about what to feed the little one. The anxiousness leads to over-excitement and finally, self-doubt creeps in. While doctors and elders in the family offer the idea of a wholesome meal to be fed, they skip the process of feeding the baby. This article throws some light on the vital points to be kept in mind while starting with the solids and ensuring a balanced meal for the baby.
Every baby is always surprised and sometimes shocked by the new flavours introduced. So, the key to a successful first feed is patience and variety. But to ensure a balanced diet one can have a sneak peek into the following points.
Solid food is necessary for a growing baby. But as the baby is just being introduced to solid foods, one needs to be careful about the hygiene and the nutrition that goes into the food. The food given has to be in a pulpy state, but not too watery. The food should be semi-solid and packed with basic vital nutrients. The baby can be introduced to salt, sugar, and very little spice. Honey is generally avoided.
A baby has to be fed with essential nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, calcium, vitamins, and iron. Carbohydrates are in the form of cereal and grains like rice, wheat, or ragi. Most Indian households rely heavily on dals for proteins. Eggs, meat, or fish can also be given. Fats in the form of ghee, butter, or oils are necessary. For vital minerals, milk, and other dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables and legumes should be given.
How much to Feed
Babies and children under 10 years do not have a big stomach to have large meals. They need 4-5 meals a day. A healthy and nourishing breakfast gives them the energy needed to kickstart the day. A mid-morning snack or fruit keeps them going till lunch. Between lunch and dinner, a snack is a must. While we are talking about the number of times the child needs to be fed, it is pertinent to understand that every child is individualistic. While some might need a heavy 5 meals, other fussy ones might go without a single proper meal throughout the day.
Many children struggle with hidden hunger. Hidden hunger is hunger due to inadequate levels of micronutrients. Lack of micronutrients like iodine, zinc, iron, etc. is detrimental to the physical and mental growth of children. One had to take cognizance of the amount of salt, nuts, legumes, green vegetables, and fruits. Hidden hunger may also be because of improper diet during pregnancy, lack of nutritious food, or any kind of illness. Wholesome home-cooked food is the remedy for this. If the problem persists, medical specialists should be consulted.
Not to be missed
Few things that need attention:
- Milk and other dairy intake are a must. If the child suffers from lactose intolerance, an alternative for calcium should be discussed with the doctor.
- Breakfast should never be missed.
- What goes in is more important than how much goes in. Nutrition takes priority over quantity.
- Do not stuff the child.
- Do not let the child live on a particular taste. For example, living only on sugars or neglecting fruits.
- Food is important even while the child is ill.
- Water intake has to be monitored.
- Junk can be permitted but rarely.
Feeding a child can be a tedious task. But planning for a meal is, even more, an uphill one. One can chalk out a chart for the week or a couple of weeks. Let the mind take a creative route.
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