Starting solids for your baby? Here are some common mistakes to avoid

When I started solids for my baby girl, she was 6 months old. She was showing signs of readiness. She could sit up and her neck was upright. We had also taken her for her anna prachanam (an infant’s initiation into solid food) when she had just turned 6 months and she loved the soft boiled rice that the temple had made! Of course, the Guruvayoor temple only makes baby food for the babies who are sitting down for anna prachanam. But this was not pureed food. I knew then that she was ready.

When starting off into the journey into solids, I made many mistakes that I regretted later. Of course, we all live and learn. Also, it is important to understand that not all parents share the same parenting philosophy. We should respect one another’s choices. At the same time, it’s good to have information to back these choices.

1. Starting solids by giving pureed foods

The biggest mistake I made was in pureeing everything. I would blend everything — rice, fruit, dal. My daughter later had some speech delays, when she was 4. Of course we set it right and she is fine now.

But here’s the thing, eating regular food is important because the baby is introduced to a lot of food textures. This is crucial for oral motor development. Also, when a baby is sucking soft food off the finger, he or she is learning to differentiate from ‘sucking.’

My daughter would reject salads even when she turned 5. She would not eat raw vegetables or carrot sticks. It took me a while to get her to eat them.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about giving natural foods to babies:

When an infant is offered a spoon of puree, the practiced or familiar oral motor pattern is sucking. As purees are thicker than formula or breastmilk, puree is sucked off of a presented spoon and moved in the mouth in a similar fashion as liquid. This is generally looked at as a part of the process of introducing solid foods and parents are often encouraged to push past this.

Start with rice and moong dal kichadi. You can introduce one food a week so as to eliminate allergies. Pureed foods are not needed at all. Instead, cook rice, fruits and vegetables very softly and mash them with your fingers. Sweet potatoes, carrots, beet roots and bottle gourds all work brilliantly when steamed well and mashed with the fingers.

My sister started adding very little spices like black pepper and jeera to her baby’s food when she turned 8 months old. Introducing textures and variety to a child’s diet really helps them

2. Putting cerelac into the milk

This is a strict no-no, in my book. A huge mistake I made when ‘transitioning’ to solids was to put some rice cereal in the milk and bottlefeed her with it. Why? Because Dr. Google told me it will help the baby sleep through the night. Taking semi-solids from a bottle is, for me, a big no-no, since the baby starts ‘drinking’ the solid instead of learning how to eat and chew.

At every stage, by using these short cuts, we are depriving our babies of tiny opportunities to learn basic skills on their own.

3. Force feeding and over feeding

I really dislike force feeding or getting a baby to eat when he or she isn’t hungry. The baby may not still be ready yet, even though he or she may have just entered their sixth month.

Unfortunately, I did try and force my baby to eat and I also fed her more than she should. It is important to understand when a baby has had enough.

Similarly, if a baby is rejecting a certain food, reintroduce it a month or so later. My sister did that with her baby. My niece refused to eat banana, so my sister waited for a couple of months, reintroduced it and voila!

4. Spoon feeding consistently

I’ll admit, baby led weaning seems a bit tough for me to practice, even though it seems like a great system. For those of you who may not be aware, Mamanatural defines baby led weaning as “an approach to introducing solid food where baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon.”

Baby led weaning involves encouraging the baby to sit with the rest of the family during meal time, too.

So here’s what happened with my daughter. We used the high chair on her. I used the spoon to feed her. One day, I had placed a bowl of rice in front of her. She put her finger in, took out a dollop and put it in her mouth! She took another and another but the mess was unbelievable.

But as a working mom hurrying to office, I spoon fed her as quickly as possible before scooting off. What a big mistake it was! In retrospect, I wish I had encouraged her to eat on her own more, as a baby. I also regret not making her join us during meal times.  

I will end by stating three important things. It is always important to consult your pediatrician first before venturing into solids. Don’t stop feeding breastmilk/milk. And finally, trust your judgment and do what you think is right! Remember, you know your baby better than anyone else does.

Featured image credit: Pixabay

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