Becoming a parent is one of the biggest joys. But the inherent responsibility often creates a lot of tension for the parents. The biggest worry is whether they are feeding the right things in the right proportion and how it will affect their baby’s health. The baby is unable to express their likes and dislikes, so the parent often is confused about what the child is comfortable with. It is often a trial and error situation that leaves the parent in a dilemma.
Every mother you know will have a different version of how to feed your baby, what to feed your baby, when and how much to feed her based on personal experiences. The advice is generally good, but you should try and stick to your own personal experiences. After all, it’s your baby and you know her best. Let us try and understand what suits the baby at the various stages in life. Breast milk is the best thing you can give her for at least the first year of life.
General food habits of 4-6-month-olds
Here is a food chart that will help you understand what foods you can prepare for your baby. It also gives you a fair idea as to what you feed her when.
|Early morning||Breakfast||Mid- morning||Lunch||Afternoon||Dinner||Late night|
|Mon||Breast milk/formula||Banana puree||Breast milk/formula||Moong dal soup||Breast milk/formula||Ragi porridge||Breast milk/formula|
|Tues||Breast milk/formula||Cheeku puree||Breast milk/formula||Pureed khichdi||Breast milk/formula||Suji kheer||Breast milk/formula|
|Wed||Breast milk/formula||Apple sauce||Breast milk/formula||Carrot mash||Breast milk/formula||Rice gruel||Breast milk/formula|
|Thurs||Breast milk/formula||Suji halwa||Breast milk/formula||Pumpkin puree||Breast milk/formula||Sweet potato kheer||Breast milk/formula|
|Fri||Breast milk/formula||Sweet potato mashed||Breast milk/formula||Masoor dal soup||Breast milk/formula||Dal puree||Breast milk/formula|
|Sat||Breast milk/formula||Rice cereal||Breast milk/formula||Pumpkin and carrot mashed||Breast milk/formula||Moong dal soup||Breast milk/formula|
|Sun||Breast milk/formula||Avocado puree||Breast milk/formula||Lauki puree||Breast milk/formula||Suji Kheer||Breast milk/formula|
The best thing to feed the baby until 4 months of age is breast milk. Most paediatricians will suggest you not to start any solids till the age of 6 months. But do remember, the best way is to watch the baby not her age. You can start the baby on soft and easily digestible foods like mashed bananas, avocadoes and yoghurt at 4 months. You can also start with pre-cooked baby food available in the market with the advice of the Doctor.
The other option is to give lentils cooked in plenty of water. It is best to avoid solid lentils and just start with the watery part.
Rice and oatmeal are the safest cereals that you can give your baby. They are easily digested and have low allergic reactions as compared to other grains. Just cook them till they are super soft. It is not a good idea to give your baby salt or sugar in the first year of life.
The other things you could give your baby at this age are a little fruit juice and pureed fruits. It should be about a teaspoon at 4 months and can be gradually increased to about half a cup till 6 months. The best fruits to give are bananas and avocadoes in mashed and raw form. Cooked and pureed fruits that can be given to a baby are apples, pears, peaches and other soft fruits. It is not a good idea to give highly acidic fruits like citrus, strawberries and grapefruit.
Grapes are best avoided the whole as the baby might choke. You can peel and mash the same if you are keen. Fruits are a good source of soluble fibre and Vitamin C. More fruits can be introduced as the baby grows older.
It is not a good idea to start too many vegetables at the four-month stage but you can slowly start pureed vegetables like carrots, peas and potatoes from the sixth month. Again do remember that too much fibre is also not recommended for babies of that age. The mantra is to go slow. Test the tolerance and then add a little more. Weaning is a slow and steady process. Your baby’s tastes develop at this time. Introduce new foods with caution and stick to a general plan.
The general consensus remains that you should start solid food in a soft pureed state only at 6 months, but if otherwise advised by a paediatrician you can start with the foods mentioned above. The health of the digestive system at this age is fragile and you should be careful in starting with age-appropriate food. If your baby seems unwilling to eat something, try a couple of weeks later. It is a sign that she is not ready to start weaning.
How much to feed your child?
Every mother thinks that her child is underfed. The matter is of grave concern to her. But in most cases the fears are unfounded. Your baby’s tummy is only as big as his fist. So the amount of food that goes into it is only a teaspoon or so at this age. Never expect your baby to finish her meal at this stage.
I have spent many an anxious day when my 5-month-old refused a single spoon of food! But as long as the baby is active and playing happily it should be perfectly alright.
This is a time to help her grow her repertoire of foods. Give every new food a few days to settle in. If the baby has issues like loose motions, constipation or even vomiting after eating something, do not repeat the food till a later age.
Grandma knows best. If you have an older lady whom you trust it might be helpful to take tips from her about what to feed your child. Many a time store-bought baby food can be lacking in nutrition and it is a better option to feed the baby indigenous food items like poha, sooji upma, kanji, kheer and so on.
Understand your child’s preferences
Let the taste of each food develop. The child and you are on a journey of experimentation. Choose foods that suit your baby as every baby feeds uniquely. In fact, you should avoid spicy and heavy food while you breastfeed your baby as most of it is passed to the baby and may upset her stomach. Most of the feeding pattern of the baby is demand-based at 4 months. You should feed the baby as and when required. This can be slowly increased and brought into a routine and the baby grows older.
Do not fret if your baby does not like solids at the beginning. Every taste needs to be developed. Watch the readiness of the baby and proceed with foods slowly. Always use your instincts, you know your baby best. Do not hesitate to take the help of the paediatrician to plan the baby’s meals. The doctor is your best guide.
The cardinal rule of parenting is that there are no rights and wrongs. Everything you do is the best for your baby and a mother’s instincts are never far from the mark. Enjoy this phase of motherhood. Every day is a new day at this age and your baby is growing so fast! Do not miss this time to savour the beauty of motherhood in fretting about unnecessary things.