Shifting your baby’s diet, from a milk-only to one that includes solid food, can be exciting. Understand how to make this transition smooth and positive for both you and your baby.
Feeding your baby is probably one of the most important things that cross your mind, daily. From the very first moment you know you are pregnant; your life starts taking a new meaning, loaded with goals and yearning for knowledge.
You and your Trimesters
Your first trimester is normally highlighted by tons of fears and worries. Is the pregnancy going well? The baby is growing inside the uterus or is it an ectopic pregnancy? Is your baby’s heart beating the way it should? All these fears dissipate as soon as the first three months finish.
Then, comes the second trimester with intensive tests. You will finally know the gender of your baby. That’s when all that shopping spree begins.
Finally, the third trimester is all about preparations and making sure to grow your baby in size. Clothes, nursery, essentials, chocolate sets, hospital bag and too much eating become part of your routine. All in all, it’s an amazing experience for everyone. Everything you go through, during these nine months, become forgotten when you first see your baby.
Breastfeeding Exclusively is a Good Start.
Breastfeeding exclusively is what is recommended, for the first six months of your baby ‘s life. Breast milk has endless benefits, for both you and your baby. If you really think about it, no need to think about baby formula, sanitizing the bottles, and running short on food supplies. That is, of course, if you do not start formula feeding. Following this amazing stage, comes the time to put yourself together and plan your baby ‘s diet according to solid foods.
The moment you hold your growing baby in your arm, the world stops for a while, and you realize the enormous responsibility you have for keeping your baby safe, healthy and happy! You need any piece of information that can help direct you. You need baby bath tips and guidelines, as well as evidence-based studies to explain to you how to care for your not-so little anymore baby. Everything is new territory to you. Here is what you need to think of when it comes to his nourishment.
Is Your Baby Ready for Solids?
The majority of babies are ready to start eating solids by the age of six months. Some are even ready by four months. Before you give your baby this first bite, you have to know if your baby is ready. Here are a few tips:
1- Your baby stopped using his tongue to push the food out of his mouth. He seems to have started developing a good coordination between food and the tongue.
2- This little cutie can now hold his for her head steady and upright.
3- He or she can sit with little or no support.
4- Your little one seems to be developing an interest to the food you’re eating. He or she are starting to mouth their hands or toys.
If the baby is capable of doing all four and your pediatrician agreed; then, you can start your baby on solids.
Note: Never rush into solids, your baby will have all his life to enjoy them. Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months is what you need to focus on! After that period, you can start complimenting your breastfeeding with solids. You are still advised to keep giving your baby your milk until after 12 months of age. Beyond that, it will all depend on your and your baby’s preference.
Single Food: How to Start?
Start introducing single grain food such as wheat, corn or even oat. Fruits and vegetables come next. Some pediatricians prefer starting with vegetables so that babies do not develop a preference for fresh fruit, but all babies are born with a preference for sweet tastes due to the milk of their mom.
- The best way is to introduce each fruit or vegetable, once at a time. Never add salt or sugar to the prepared food.
- Make sure you are starting simple. You have to wait three to five days between every new food. This way, you’ll be able to know if your baby is having any kind of reaction to that food. If so, you need to stop that food immediately. Reactions can be diarrhea, rash, or vomiting. If you gave him or her a certain single food and the baby did not have any reaction; then, you can offer a combination of such single foods.
- You have to know that iron and zinc are very essential nutrients, especially between ages six and twelve months. These two nutrients are normally found in pureed meats and fortified single grain cereals. Some countries add beans and lentils.
- Accepted fruits include cooked and pureed apples, pears, banana, apricots, and peaches.
- Vegetables include well-cooked and puréed carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet peas, and squash. It is preferable to steam the vegetables so they can retain all their vitamins and minerals content. Some Vitamins are water soluble; so, when we boil the food, these vitamins will leak out into the water.
- It is highly recommended to give your baby one kind of solids at a time and repetitively for several days in a row; so, he can develop a more usual sense for the taste.
- Meats such as chicken and fish are good by the age of 6 months and red meat by nine months.
- Legumes are never to be given before the age of 18-24 months.
- if the baby rejects a first feeding; it is ok! He or she is not used to that taste and texture. Give it a week and then try again. Never force your baby to try a new food.
Feeding your baby: What is Off-Limit and What is Not?
So, basically, now that you started your baby on single food, the next step would be to start mixing these single food, gradually.
Some wonder if juice is a good option for the baby. This is a controversial topic. From one hand, it is rich in Vitamin C, which can maximize the absorption of Iron. From another hand, it is high is sugar and can promote tooth decay and obesity. If you want to give your baby some fruit juice, make sure it 100% fruits based, with no added sugar. Also, never give your baby more than 117 ml per day.
Cow’s milk cannot replace your milk or even formula milk. It is low in Iron and does not provide your baby with proper nutritional needs. Once you stop breastfeeding, infant formula is surely recommended as it is fortified with numerous nutrients.
Do not give your baby honey before the age of 1 year as it might be contaminated with spores of Clostridium botulism that can be offensive for your baby.
Avoid all exotic fruits until after the age of 12 or 18 months to prevent any possible food allergy.
Eggs are essential after the age of 9 months: 3 eggs per week are a good number!
Never offer your child hard food that can have choking hazards. Stay away from hot dogs, grapes, raw veggies and fruit pieces. Also, seeds and hard candies are a definite no-no. Popcorn and marshmallow are also not recommended for babies, they present a choking hazard.
Do not offer your very young baby (4 months old) with home made spinach, beets, carrots green beans and squash. These are rich in nitrates and can cause a blood disorder called methemoglobinemia.
Make sure you never give your baby unpasteurized cheese. It might pose a slight food poisoning risk. Make sure to check the label first.
When it comes to fish, stay away from swordfish, shark king mackerel and tilefish. They are high in Mercury.
There are eight kinds of food that are allergenic: milk, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. If there is some kind of food allergy that runs in your family, delay giving your baby any of these food.
How much does my Exclusively Breastfed Baby Need to eat?
If you are breastfeeding; then, you do not need to measure how much your baby is eating. Just follow the baby’s needs. Whenever he wants, give him your breast. Most babies, during the first month or so, eat every two hours. The way you need to count these two hours is by starting from the time the baby starts eating. So, if your baby ate at 3pm, even if he kept eating for 40 minutes; he can be ready to eat again at 5pm.
Sometimes, the baby may nurse more often, like when he is going through a growth spurt or if he or she is sick. But, overall, never worry if your baby is eating enough if he is exclusively breastfeed. The most important determinant that the baby is well-fed is his or her growth . Your pediatrician will follow up his weigh and height changes throughout the weeks. What you will be looking for is a consistent growth.
Why do Some Babies Cry after Breastfeeding?
If your baby cries after eating; do not worry, you are not alone. Many reasons can cause a crier baby. Make sure you observe your newborn and talk to your doctor about it. Here are some reasons:
1- Your baby may be colic. According to the British Medical Journal, a colic baby is one that cries at least three hours per day, three or more days per week. It is mainly common in babies that are younger than 3 months of age.
2- Acid Reflux can lead to a fussy baby. This usually causes a poor weight gain. The symptoms of a baby with acid reflux are somehow similar to those of a colic baby.
3- If your baby has food allergies or sensitivities, he may be a crier. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine explains that a baby is very rarely allergic or sensitive to the mom’s milk. If your baby is very irritable, and have blood poop; then, you need to discuss it with the doctor. A food allergy test may be needed. One thing for sure if that your breastfed baby is affected by the food you eat. So, you may want to be careful about what you chose to eat. Stay away from caffeine, and some food your baby may show signs of allergies to.
4- Gas can make your baby cry a lot! breastfed babies are at lower risks to swallowing air while feeding. Make sure you burp your baby after every feeding.
Do I need to Give Water to my Baby?
While you may feel a little weird about not giving your baby; studies suggest to start introducing water after six months of age. An exclusively breastfed baby does not need water. Breast milk contains 80% of water and can keep your baby hydrated. Babies who are bottle-fed, are hydrated from the formula they are drinking. So, as long as the baby is eating enough, he or she will always be well-hydrated.
Water can fill your baby’s small stomach, preventing them from having enough milk leading to a proper growth. Also, water can lead to water intoxication where the nutrients obtained from formula can be diluted in the water.Your baby’s body is still beginning to perform its functions. When a baby drinks a lot of water, the kidneys will flush out electrolytes with the water, leading to malnutrition.
When your baby is 6 months old, you can begin introducing a little water when you give him his new pureed solids. For a well-fed baby, who is still having breast milk or switched to formula, 2 to 4 ounces of water per day (24 hours) are more than enough. Keep in mind that milk is better than water at this young age; so, do not rush your baby into drinking water.
After the age of 12 months, your baby will need to have a cup of 8 ounces every day. Keep in mind that a hot weather may require a higher fluid intake.
Probiotics and Prebiotics: Are they a Good Choice?
Healthy flora is the beneficial bacteria residing in the lining of the intestines. These help promote digestive support and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. They also help boost the baby’s immune system. This normal flora improves with adding probiotics and prebiotics to your baby’s diet.
Probiotics include the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. They exist in yogurts and buttermilk.
An American study explained the benefits of probiotics:
– Reduces antibiotic-related diarrhea,
– Treats infectious diarrhea,
– Relieves bloating, pain and other gastrointestinal problems
– Alleviates atopic dermatitis.
Prebiotics are food that our body does not digest. These help the normal functioning of intestinal flora. We can find prebiotics in artichoke, banana, dairy products, legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans & lentils) and whole grains (oat). Breast milk is rich in prebiotics.
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