Mini Parenting Master class : Your Baby’s First Food

“Patience, concentration and lots and lots of love.” A nutritionist’s advice on how to introduce your baby to first foods.

What are the best first foods for babies? What should we do if the child does not want to eat or refuses food? We asked nutrition expert Dr. Spoke to Purnima Menon.

source: Unicef Youtube Chanel

Transcript of the video ‘Mini Parenting Master Class on Baby’s First Food’

Feeding children is not just about putting food in their mouths. It is also about learning to eat for them. It’s a matter of learning to enjoy eating them. It’s about a positive interaction between parents and children and eating wants to be part of that positive relationship.

My name is Dr. Purnima Menon and this is my mini parenting master class on baby’s first food.

When is my baby ready to try his first meal?

Six months of age is the right time to introduce babies to their first food. This is the time when the mother’s breast milk is no longer sufficient to meet nutritional needs. It is also the time when children are ready to eat through physical development and become eager to try new foods on their own. So six months of age is often the right time.

What are the best first foods for babies?

It is very important that these first meals are as nutritious as possible. So it can be a mix of colorful vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. Mixed fruits are also great as a baby’s first food. If your family eats meat, you can feed the baby soft meat. Eggs are a great first food for babies.

You can change anything you eat at home. You just have to mash it and make it a little puree or soft for babies. We also want to make sure that we avoid foods that lack vitamins, proteins and minerals for babies. So we want to make sure that baby’s first foods are not too sugary. Also they will not be too salty. But they will be packed with the right nutrients for brain growth.

How should I prepare the first food for my baby?

If you start feeding babies first foods at six months, you must puree or soften them. The first food should be soft. Children should be able to swallow them easily. Now you can adapt it over time. So when you first put foods in baby’s mouth, you need to soften them. But as the children get a little older, you can adapt the food accordingly.

How can I make introducing baby to first foods a fun and positive experience for me and my baby?

Baby’s first meal is more than just food. It is a matter of culture, a matter of love. It’s about children learning to be part of our family. And if parents keep that whole picture in mind, it takes some of the stress out of just putting food in your baby’s mouth. And I think the best thing we can do is remind ourselves that children are learning. They are learning who we are. They are learning what kind of food we eat as a family. They are learning more, what they like. Because they don’t know what they like until they taste it. And we are learning about them as we watch them enjoy those foods. So it is really important not to get stressed. It is really important to proceed with patient concentration and a lot of love in the truest sense. Because ultimately it’s all about learning.

What should I do if my baby does not want or refuses to eat the first food?

Oh, children always refuse food and again we have to remember that this is their learning. You are tasting something new. It is very natural for children to sometimes reject that taste and sometimes science tells us that children need to taste something several times before they feel comfortable with it. Therefore, it is very important that parents do not lose hope or think that once the child refuses a food, it is rejected forever. And all we can do as parents is relax and try again.

Should I spoon feed the baby or let him feed himself?

You can feed babies with a spoon or with very clean hands. Hand washing is really important and make sure anything you feed the baby is as clean as possible. Again, one thing we have to remember is that children are learning and they are very interested in their food. So there really needs to be some give and take when it comes to feeding babies. Part of feeding babies is for parents to listen and see their cues so that they understand the signals that babies give them. Just as they can’t eat themselves, they can’t talk to us and tell us when they can’t do something the way we enjoy it or when they’re full. They can’t say anything to us. And so they use several gestures to send signals.

What happens when they get a little older is that they want to touch their food and start eating with their own hands. It can start between 9 months and 1 year of age. We can control what we give to children. But we should also give them some freedom in how they consume their food.

How often should my baby feed solid foods?

When you first start feeding, you start giving them about three or more times a day. And then as the babies continue to grow and reach the age of 9 or 12 months, you should increase the number to four times a day. Also you need to increase the amount of food. Because feeding the same amount of food at 12 months that you used to feed the baby at 6 months will not be enough for the baby. As babies grow, both the number of feedings and the amount of food should be increased.

Should I continue breastfeeding after starting solid foods?

You must continue breastfeeding. It is currently recommended that breastfeeding be continued for at least two years and even beyond if possible. In a sense, breast milk and the nutrients that breast milk provides are the foundation of good nutrition for babies. And the first foods make up for the lack of other important nutrients, which are needed for the development of the baby’s body and brain.

A developing brain needs good nutrition. So what we get through the first food actually brings those nutrients to help babies’ brains develop. Parents spend a lot of time feeding babies during the first few years of their lives. Feeding moments provide opportunities for play and displays of affection. These moments also create opportunities for language learning. Parents talk to babies while feeding them, talk to them about food. The first meal isn’t just about nutrition for the brain. It’s also about creating opportunities to integrate nutrition, play, positivity, which, we know, help a child’s brain grow so well.

Dr. Menon is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. He has a PhD from Cornell University in ‘International Nutrition’ and an MSc in Nutrition from Delhi University.

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