First of all… Congratulations. Your little sweetheart is 6 months old now. I think all mothers start thinking way before the completion of 6 months about what she will feed and how she will feed when the baby would turn 6 months. But when now is the time, you must be confused, scared, doubtful, and everything…. Right?
Since this is the first time when you are going to wean your baby and baby is too young, it is obvious for you to be afraid. While every baby is different and may react differently to different foods, there are few rules that you should follow and few precautions you should take. In this article, I am going to talk only about things that you should NOT DO and foods you should NOT GIVE.
When to Start
As is the common notion, that solids should be started at 6 months, I would also go with 6 months. If you wish to start before 6 months, you should definitely consult your pediatrician. However, more than age, few other factors are important. I have read that solids should be introduced when the baby can sit on his own and shows interest in the food. But as many babies do not sit independently at 6 months, I think we can still introduce but taking care that the baby is sitting with some support. Nothing should be given when the baby is lying flat. At least the head should be elevated (even when the baby is taking milk from breast or bottle). Second factor, the baby should show interest in food, I cannot comment on this. My daughter (3.5 years) still does not show interest in food; does not mean I won’t feed her. So conclusively, you can start food at 6 months making the baby sit while feeding.
Do Not Expect Much
Just when you start, do not expect that baby will take a full meal. He would be tasting the things for the first time. He will take some time to develop and like the taste (if he does at all). Start with as much as the baby takes in willingly, be it only one spoon. On the first day, if after one spoon, the baby does not want to take the second spoon, you should stop. Do not force feed. If you force feed, the baby will develop a disliking for the food and meal time.
Do Not Give Up
Do not force feed, but do not give up. Keep trying. Gradually, baby will develop the taste for different flavors. Make him taste the new flavors daily.
Beware of Choking Hazards
Never ever give anything that is a choking hazard. Do not give nuts, peanuts, entire grapes, peas etc. until you are sure that the baby has developed the habit of chewing. That may be as late as 2 years, but let it be. Be careful.
Be Cautious with Finger food
Several mothers suggest that you should not give pureed food and instead give small pieces that they themselves can pick and eat; if you give pureed, they will not develop the habit of solid food and self eating. While this makes sense, please do not start doing this at the age of 6 months. 6 months is too young. And even when you start giving finger food or small pieces (may be after 9-10 months), do not leave the baby alone even for a minute. Keep sitting beside him with his water sipper in your hand.
Honey must not be given to the baby before the age of 1 year. Honey usually contains bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) which may cause botulism in infants. This bacteria does not harm the adults and older kids because their digestive system are mature enough to flush the bacteria out before it can cause any harm. But for babies less than 1 year, honey is big NO.
No Cow Milk
This is a very hot topic for debate. It is so debated that I can write entirely another post on this (Let me know if you want). Cow milk must not be given before at least 1 year of age. Why? Because cow milk has lot of proteins and minerals that immature digestive systems cannot digest. In fact, introducing it so early may even make the baby intolerant to cow milk. The high content of proteins and minerals may also stress the kidneys which can pose a problem in future. Lastly, cow milk is deficient in iron. Since till one year, the baby’s primary source of nutrition is milk, babies having only cow milk may develop anemia. Only breast milk and/or formula milk should be given before 1 year.
No Salt and Sugar
It is not advisable to introduce salt and sugar to babies before 1 year. You may give him the food that has natural sweetness, like fruits, carrots, peas etc. You can add dates puree to recipes like sooji ki kheer. Dates are healthy and safe to give.
Although since baby does not know salty and sweet tastes, he will usually accept food without salt and sugar, but sometimes baby do not eat even after months of trying and we mothers feel tempted to add flavors hoping that they will eat. Same happened with me and I was ready to try anything and everything to make my baby eat. So, I started adding (just a couple of months before completing 1 year) Sea salt (sendha/lahori namak) in place of table salt and desi khaand (don’t know the English name) or jaggery in place of white sugar. Today, my daughter is 3.5 years old and I still do not add table salt and white sugar in the foods that I cook exclusively for her.
I am no way suggesting you to give these things before 1 year; I am just sharing what I did and I am suggesting you the healthier alternatives that you can opt for after 1 year. If you too want to start before 1 year, you should consult your pediatrician, and keep the quantities very low (even after 1 year).
Stay Away from Citrus Fruits
It is better to not to give citrus fruits before 1 year. Citrus foods are acidic and may give baby rashes. If you are too willing to give, you may try giving a few drops of citrus fruits’ juice after the age of 10 months and look for any reactions.
Citrus fruits include orange, lemon, grapefruit and similars.
Do Not Give Tomatoes right away
You should not start giving tomatoes right away. As they are acidic, the little baby might find it harsh. You may start with the minimum quantity at around 9 months.
No Wheat at 6 months
Do not start with wheat at 6 months. Give some time to your baby’s tummy to get habitual of digesting things other than milk. You may start with little quantity at around 8 months.
No Dry Fruits, not yet
Again, do not give dry fruits at 6 months for the same reason as above. You may start at 8-9 months, but with precautions. Will discuss ‘How’ next time.
No Biscuits… Please…
I would probably never understand where this concept of giving biscuits to the baby came from. In the mommy groups, I see mothers suggesting ‘2 Parle G biscuits mixed in milk’, Really? Let me tell you the composition of your favorite Parle G biscuits.
It says wheat flour, okay, wheat flour is fine (though I doubt, because it does not taste that fibrous). Next comes sugar. Did our doctor advise us that we should not give sugar before 1 year and we are following this advice? Then how are we giving biscuits which contain sugar? Next is vegetable oil. Which vegetable oil? We don’t know. Is it refined oil? We don’t know. Next is invert sugar syrup (sugar, citric acid). Sugar again? And citric acid for 6 months old? We are not giving them fruits due to citric acid, but we can give citric acid in biscuits, why so? Raising agents (baking powder). Baking powder for 6 months old? Then, Salt. Again, salt should not be given before 1 year. Milk solids? Means processed milk. What is the need when baby is already having bm or fm? Then emulsifiers (tartaric acid and more), dough conditioner, artificial flavors. You have no idea what these are (I have because of my pharmaceutical background, but let’s not go into details). So you see, how much chemicals (natural or synthetic) you are willingly giving to your little baby. Please develop the habit of reading the labels and decide wisely. Biscuits are not good at all.
No Canned and Packed food
These days, there is a huge variety of baby foods available. All of them claim that the ingredients are organic, that the food is baked (not fried) and so on. I would say, we never know. It’s better to avoid anything packed. If you are giving marketed cerelac, it would be better if you don’t; but even if you do, choose at most one packed food that you would give. Analyze the risk to benefit ratio. For example, if you choose cerelac, it is complete one time meal for the baby and is fortified with nutrients. But there are sticks and gummies also available in the market. They are not meal, they are extras and do not contain nutrients as much as cerelac. So you should avoid these extras. There are also powder mixes available like Ragi and almonds, Ragi Pulses and Dates, etc. You can choose these but it is always better to make your own mixes. And in any case, please develop a habit of reading labels and analyzing risk to benefit ratios.
So these are the things that you should not give at 6 months. Next in this series, I will be coming up with ‘what you should give’, ‘complete meal plans’ and may be few recipes. If you wish to be notified of all these future articles, you can follow the Facebook Page where I will be uploading direct links to the articles.
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Disclaimer: I am not a pediatrician and thus this should not be considered as expert advice. Although I have taken all the data from the trustworthy and authentic sources, you should still consult your pediatrician for all the doubts you have.