Food is a very important factor which determines our health, regardless of the age. Breast milk is the best natural food for infants but from around six months, they will need solid foods in addition to breastmilk for adequate nutrients and energy. And eating right early in life can affect attitudes and habits later on, as well as influence health.
A baby’s first solids are an important milestone for parents as well as for babies. The food sources provide the energy for physiological and mental development which includes, weight, height, brain development, intelligence and so on. They also determine the health of the child and the risk of metabolic disorders in later years. The most common disorder is obesity, which can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, and early heart diseases.
Conditioning the child from infancy and the toddler years are the best opportunity to influence adult health. Termed as programming, it is the idea that the nutrition during the first 1,000 days can have long-lasting effects on how the body grows, functions and decreases the risk of certain diseases.
What to give and when to give is the next question in the list. “There is no one food that is recommended as a first food,” said Sarah Shamila, Dietetics Manager from Mount Alvernia Hospital.
“Single-ingredient foods should be introduced first, one at a time to observe for possible food allergies such as a rash, swelling of the face, tongue or lip, vomiting or diarrhoea, wheezing or shortness of breath. Common food allergens include seafood, eggs and cow’s milk.”
“Single-grain infant cereal has traditionally been used as a first supplemental food as it supplies additional calories and iron. Fortified rice cereal is commonly offered first because it is widely available and is least likely to cause an allergic reaction. Fortified oat cereal is another good choice,” Sarah added.
In serving, she said that they need to be finely puréed, contain only one ingredient, and should not contain additives such as salt or sugar.
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“Complementary feeding should be timely, meaning that all infants should start receiving foods in addition to breast milk from six months onwards. An infant’s need for energy and nutrients starts to exceed what is provided by breast milk at around the age of 6 months,” explains Sarah.
However guidelines with ages can only provide an approximate as babies develop at different rates. “When your baby is ready for solids, he will show signs of readiness, which is a better guide for an individual baby. He will show a great interest in what you are eating, perhaps try to grab your food; he will have lost the tongue-thrust reflex that pushes food back out of the mouth; and he will be able to sit upright. These tend to occur at around six months of age, with some a little earlier and others a little later,” Sarah explained.
When Introducing Solids…
Increase the number of times that the child is fed
2-3 meals per day for infants 6-8 months of age
3-4 meals per day for infants 9-23 months of age, with 1-2 additional snacks as required.
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