Now that your baby is six months old, it is time to go beyond exclusive breastfeeding and introduce some pureed solid food in his diet. While fruits and vegetables are going to be the number one choice, most moms do spare a thought for meat as well. This is when the predicament begins. Can meat be a part of the baby’s first solid food? When can a baby start eating meat? Which meat is safe to start with?
When To Introduce Meat To Baby?
Your baby can start eating meat anytime between sixth to the eighth month of his life. This is the same time when you will gradually introduce him to solid foods, while also maintaining his intake of breast milk.
What Kind Of Meat Should I Begin With?
There is no restriction on the kind of meat you introduce to your baby. Be it cattle (which is red meat), poultry or fish meat, you can make your choice and start with two servings of about one to two teaspoons pureed meat a day.
Feeding meat means cutting down on his vegetable or cereal intake marginally. So, is it worth it?
Health Benefits Of Meat For Babies
Besides being a great source of protein, meat provides the following essential advantages to your growing little one:
1. Excellent source of microminerals:
Iron and zinc are among the most important microminerals that your baby needs from the age of six to 12 months. Meat is an excellent source of these vital nutrients. In fact, zinc and iron from meat are quite readily absorbed by the baby’s body. Along with that, meat is also a source of other microminerals such as copper and manganese.
2. More nutrients per quantity:
Meat contains more nutrients than fruits or cereals of the same quantity. This means your baby gets sufficient nutrients from a small portion of meat, which implies you will have to feed him less often if meat is part of his diet.
3. Improves iron absorption from other foods:
Meat is not just a great source of iron but also enhances the absorption of iron from other food sources. For example, feeding a meat-vegetable puree can double the iron absorption, thus preventing anemia.
4. Exclusive source of vitamin B12:
Vitamins are in abundance in meat, especially vitamin B-complex. In fact, vitamin B12 is found in animal protein, which means meat can provide this vitamin in good amounts. Vitamin B12 is important for the maintenance of healthy nerve cells in the body. It also works with vitamin B9 to play an essential role in the formation of red blood cells (RBCs). Deficiency of vitamin B12 in babies can cause delayed or even retarded motor skills due to its impact on brain development.
5. Contains highly digestible protein:
Protein found in meat is of higher quality and is highly digestible than the proteins found in plants. This means your baby’s body will be able to utilize more protein from meat than it does from the same quantity of plant-based protein.
Now, we know you are convinced about feeding meat to your baby. But when preparing to introduce meat to baby, it needs a certain process.
Points To Remember About Meat For Babies
Here are certain points that you need to keep in mind before and while feeding meat to babies.
1. Be alert towards allergies:
Just like any other solid food, even meat poses a risk of allergy to the baby. Meat is rich in protein, and a baby’s developing immune system may mistake it to be a foreign pathogen and mount an attack. Therefore, look out for any allergic outbreak symptoms such as skins hives, diarrhea, and swelling in lips and face.
Allergies are the reason why you must start feeding meat in small quantities initially so that you can observe the onset of any reaction. If the meat seems to be suiting your baby, then slowly increase the quantity. Some medical practitioners recommend parents to wait until the first birthday to introduce meat for the immune system to develop. But there is no evidence to suggest that it reduces the chances of allergy.
In fact, research has shown that introducing food early in a baby’s life may diminish the probability of an allergic reaction.
2. Not all forms of meats are good:
Adults consume various forms of meat, which are not necessarily safe for the babies. For example, you should avoid processed and salted meats sold at supermarkets or delis since they are heavily processed to have a longer shelf life.
However, when it comes to the type of meat itself (chicken, fish, goat, etc.,), there is no restriction on which meat to introduce as long as you do it in small quantities. That way it is easier to determine if your baby is allergic to a specific type of meat.
3. Do not store meat for too long:
Meat-based baby food preparations can be frozen to be reheated and fed later. But avoid storing it for over a day to prevent any bacterial growth and contamination. Store the meat puree in a freezer-safe container and before reheating the puree, let it thaw in some warm water. Never freeze thawed puree again since it may lead to an unpleasant taste due to bacterial activity.
4. Avoid packaged meat baby food:
You may come across packaged meat-based foods specially made for babies. This could be plain packaged meat or meat made into a preparation like chicken gravy. While these are formulated for young ones, they can never match the safety of fresh meat. The primary reason is the fact that this meat is packaged and manufacturers may add high quantities of sodium as a preservative.
If you want to be safe and benefit the most from meat, then stick to fresh meat processed at home.
Remember, meat is a great source of nutrients and even makes an excellent finger food when your baby is completely weaned. However, start with small quantities so that you need not have to worry about allergic reactions in your baby. Keep a close watch and see a doctor if you think there are any signs of allergy. Also, do not introduce meat with some other new food. One new food at a time is the best way forward.
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