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Breastmilk is the primary source of nutrition for a new-born baby. But there comes a time when solids need to be introduced into a baby’s diet. Shifting a baby feeding exclusively on milk to solids can mark a big milestone in his life. The whole process can be very challenging for the parents as well. Therefore, it makes sense to present solids to a baby in stages so that he may get adequate time to familiarise with the new development.
You may like to add solid food to your baby’s diet gradually initialising with liquid purees and slowly advancing to softer foods. A steady progression may help your baby to get used to chewing without teeth and become acquainted with managing whole foods when they grow teeth.
You may have often noticed the labelling on baby foods categorising them as stage 1, 2, 3 foods. It can be quite baffling to interpret these labels. Companies making baby foods tend to use different labels for every baby food stage contributing to the confusion. Experts suggest following the general principle of using baby food labelled stage 1 for beginners and avoiding offering foods which have chunks to your baby until he is a seasoned eater.
Infant Food Stages
The age recommendations for every stage are merely general guidelines. Some babies can be ready for stage 2 foods before the recommended age of 7 to 8 months while some babies may not be ready even by 8 to 9 months. Parents should not unnecessarily worry or force their baby to meet a certain stage requirement. You need to allow your baby to reach the milestones in his own time. However, you may wish to consult your paediatrician for suitable guidance if you feel that your baby is not appropriately advancing in his feeding habits.
Baby Food Stage 1 (4-8 Months Old)
During this stage, your baby will experience the taste for solids for the first time. Ideally, solid foods may be introduced to a baby when he begins to hold his head/neck steady and is able to sit up through some support. Apart from bodily signs also look out for social signs like your baby displaying a keen interest in seeing what others around him eat and trying to imitate their eating habits. He may open his mouth every time he sees food and appears hungry even after nursing.
1. 4 to 6 Months Old Baby
Bear in mind that breast milk should remain the chief nutrition at this stage. It is desirable, to begin with, small servings of evenly mashed foods. A few spoonfuls may be enough for your baby. You can try adding a small amount of breastmilk or formula milk to the pureed food to suitably thin it. It is not recommended to add salt or sugar to your baby’s food at this point.
Foods that you can try giving your baby at this stage can be:
- Smooth purees of fruits like banana, apple
- Fine purees of vegetables
- Clear soups of single grain cereals like rice, dals
2. 6 to 8 Months Old Baby
During this period you can reduce the amount of fluid you use to thin the pureed foods as your baby may have become comfortable with more texture. You can try introducing new foods, one food item at a time, to discover what your baby may like or dislike. Do wait for a couple of days before introducing a new food to ensure prevention of any likely allergic reaction or digestive troubles.
Some of the foods that you may introduce can be:
- Cereals like barley and oats
- Fruits like pears, avocado, mango
- Vegetables like sweet potato, green beans
Baby Food Stage 2 (8-10 Months Old)
You may know that your baby is all set to advance to the next food stage 2 in case you observe signs like tongue thrust reflex owing to which a baby can smoothly take food into his mouth and efficiently swallow it. There may be less drooling and minimal food dribbling out of your baby’s mouth. By now you may be well aware of your baby’s food sensitivities also. Baby food at this leg can be thicker in consistency and may contain very small food bits. Babies are not likely to have grown many teeth at this phase so keeping the food strained may be a good idea. You can try different combinations of vegetables, fruits and cereals together and slowly increase the portions of feeds.
Foods that you may introduce can be:
- A vegetable mix of corn, carrot, pea
- Other vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, eggplant
- Iron-fortified cereals
- Grains like quinoa, buckwheat, flax
- Bite-size cut raw fruits like grapes, kiwi, papaya, figs, blueberries, cranberries
- Meats like fish, beef, chicken, turkey
- Cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, cream cheese
- Whole milk yoghurt
Baby Food Stage 3 (10-12 Months Old)
In baby food stages by age, the next stage is when your baby turns 10 to 12 months. He may be swallowing well having grown more teeth. He may be able to hold a spoon and take it to his mouth as well. Babies of 10 to 12 months can usually manage food with small pieces and easy-to-chew finger food items quite easily. He may be eating more like up to a quarter cup each of vegetables, fruits and cereals for a single meal. Continue to avoid salt and sugar in your baby’s food until he is one year old.
Some of the options for foods at this stage can be:
- All kinds of fruits including citrus and berry
- Different types of cereals and grains
- Whole eggs
- Whole milk
- Soft Cheeses
- All varieties of vegetables including green leafy vegetables
You can always refer to a nutritionist to chalk out a proper diet for your baby age wise in case of any lingering concerns. Meanwhile, it can be fun to watch your baby making progress with his eating habits and skills.