Most babies are ready to start solids from the age of 4 to 6 months in addition to continued breastfeeding. If you are planning to wean your little one, you must probably be wondering which weaning foods are ideal to begin with.
There a lot of opinions on which is the best first food for a baby. “Starting from six months, you can feed a variety of foods to a baby. However, it is advisable to feed the baby one food at a time so that any allergies can be easily tracked,” says Dr Rahul Varma, child specialist, Maya Clinic, Delhi NCR.
Start with a single-grain cereal such as rice and then gradually introduce other foods. Babies have delicate digestive systems, hence it is important to introduce age-appropriate foods to enable complete digestion.
The right weaning foods for your baby
Before you start your baby on solids, do take weaning advice from your paediatrician to steer clear from possible allergy-causing foods, specially if your family has a history of allergies. Here is a combined weaning food chart that indicates when to safely feed common cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables to your baby.
Weaning foods for the 4 to 6-month-old
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding an infant for 6 months with continued breastfeeding in combination with the right solids. Since your baby will be starting solids for the first time, it is a good idea to make the foods semi-liquid by mixing it with breastmilk or formula. Feed only 1-2 teaspoons of the food once a day to begin with.
Fruits: Puréed and mashed banana or stewed apple or pear purée are good first fruits.
Vegetables: Well-cooked green beans, sweet potato, pumpkin and bottle gourd (lauki) are nutritious first foods. Blend them with your baby’s cereal or feed them as a soup.
Cereals and pulses: Rice and sooji suit an infant’s stomach. Begin with rice kanji for a few days. You could then try making sooji halwa with cooked, mashed vegetables in some water. Moong dal is the safest legume to introduce in baby meals as it is easy to digest. “Start with moong dal in a pureed, free-flowing form. Moong dal water has no calories and will not help your baby gain healthy weight,” informs Dr Varma. Gradually, you can thicken the consistency to make moong dal soup or moong dal khichdi when combined with rice.
Dairy: Some people introduce paneer or curd made from cow’s milk at six months.Paneer and curd are rich in calcium and proteins and are already in a fermented or broken down form and are hence easily digested by the baby. “A child should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months but incase of less milk secretion, cow’s milk can be safely given at the age of six months,” says Nidhi Dhawan, HOD, department of dietetics and nutrition, Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi. Do consult your baby’s doctor before introducing any cow’s milk and milk products.
Weaning foods for the 6 to 8-month-old
Your baby will be ready to experiment with thicker purées and textured foods by the time he is eight months old.
Fruits: Pulp from ripe mangoes or chikoos can naturally sweeten a baby’s blended oatmeal. These are safe to introduce at this age.
Vegetables: Your baby can now try soups made from spinach, tomato or carrots.
Cereals and pulses: Wheat can be introduced when your little one is around eight months old. Try giving him small pieces of bread. Daliya with mashed vegetables can also be introduced. Masoor dal is light on the tummy and can be fed at this stage.
Non-veg foods and dairy: Boiled egg is a good source of protein for a baby if you wish to start non veg foods. But if there is a family history of allergies, avoid feeding egg till the baby is a year old. Steamed, minced fish such as pomfret, rawas, cod (gobro) or sole (repti) cooked with less spice, are safe to begin at 8 months. You may continue feedingpaneer or curd to your baby as per the doctor’s advice.
Continue reading to know more about introducing foods as per the baby food chart for the 8 to 12-month-old baby
Foods for the 8 to 10-month-old
Finger foods, coarser textures and more variety is advisable for the 8 to 10-month-old.
Fruits: Your baby can now enjoy bite-sized pieces of ripe papayas, cherries, melons and grapes.
Vegetables: Boiled, flavoured and mashed broccoli, potato and cauliflower are healthy vegetables for a 8 to 10-month old. You may even try tiny pieces of fresh cucumber. Be cautious about the baby choking on them, though.
Cereals and Pulses: Wheat, rice and oats can now be served in more complex forms.Chapatis, parathas, rice kheer and mixed dal khichdi are some ideas. Your child may also enjoy well-cooked whole wheat or durum wheat pasta cooked with tomato gravy and a little cheese. Boiled and mashed kidney beans (rajma) and chickpeas (chole) can also be introduced at this stage.
Non-veg foods and dairy: For vegetarians, soft soya granule sabzi can be tried once your baby is 9 to 10 months old.
Foods for the 10 to 12-month-old
As your baby approaches toddlerhood, he can start eating most of the foods off your plate. The foods must still be soft to chew.
Fruits: Figs, citrus fruits and coconut are some fruits your little one can safely enjoy at this stage.
Vegetables: Most soft vegetables (variety of gourds, tinda, green leafy vegetables etc) can be served.
Cereals and Pulses: Most cereals and pulses are digested by the 10-month-old.
Non-veg foods and dairy: Fish cubes and minced chicken are good sources of lean protein for children. From this stage, pure cow’s milk can also be slowly introduced as top feed.
Things to note
- Be gradual when you introduce new foods. This will help your baby get used to varied tastes and textures.
- Instead of ready-to-use baby food, stick to homemade food from the kitchen. “If you’re cooking dal, keep some aside for your baby before you temper it. This way, he will get used to your food sooner,” cites Dr Varma.
- Once you begin solids, start giving your baby some boiled, cooled water. “It will not only keep the baby hydrated, but also keep constipation at bay,” informs Dhawan.
- Experiment with finger foods once your baby can sit independently. Steamed carrot sticks, boiled potato cubes, paneer cubes etc. are some ideas.
- If your baby expresses dislike to a particular food, don’t push him. Try the same food again the next week.
- Each baby will have his own food preference. With trial and error, you will soon be whipping up tasty baby food the way your baby likes it.
Once you celebrate your child’s first birthday, you can confidently give most of the food that his chubby fingers point out to. But keep his diet healthy and simple to allow him to get the maximum nutrients he needs to grow.
This article was written on Indus parenting site with my inputs by Preeti Arthi.
Dr Rahul Varma