A good start !
I had my first son in India. I got a complete culture shock when he turned five months old and the pediatrician told me to start feeding him rice and lentils.
Every culture is different, and I believe we are genetically ready for the food our ancestors were used to. In my children’s case, this meant French and Irish food with an Italian touch. I did lots of research on genetic and digestive enzymes print, which could explain how people from Asian countries can eat enormous quantities of rice, which would make most of my European cousins sick.
When you do not move from your city of birth and stay close to your parents, you usually get good help when it is time for weaning onto solid foods. But when living abroad, you hear so many different ways of feeding your baby, and the Net is not helpful either.
Here is a step-by-step guide for the first two months, with an explanation that I will keep as simple as possible.
A healthy baby starts with a healthy mummy
Stress is a major risk factor during pregnancy. That’s why a mother-to-be should look after herself even more, as she is experiencing dramatic body changes and emotional stress. Gentle exercise, breathing, maintaining a social life and of course focusing on nutrition can all help.
A healthy pregnancy starts with healthy preconception. Before conceiving, it is important to assess the nutrient intake and nutritional status of the future mother as it can impact on her future baby’s health. For example, an underweight or overweight mum might deliver underweight or overweight babies who could suffer from respiratory disorder, diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity later in life (Stanton, 2007, p. 307).
It is important to assess the possible toxicity of overdosing on vitamin and mineral intake via the supplementation of nutrients. Supplementation is given when nutrient deficiencies are diagnosed, usually in underweight women, undernourished women, teenagers, drug users, smokers or alcoholics and vegans. Common supplements are iron, folic acid, vitamin D and iodine, as well as B-12 for vegans (Byrd-Bredbenner, Moe, Beshgetoor & Berning, 2013, p. 585). Ask your physician to do regular blood tests before and during conception to assess the need for vitamin supplements.
During the first months of a baby’s life, both mother and baby should be looked after when breastfeeding, as nutrient deficiencies could have a negative impact on their health later in life.
When to start feeding solids to your baby
Your baby has to be ready to start eating solids, as should you. We are little mammals and our body is slowly maturing in the first months. Our organs get ready as well as our enzymatic activity, so there is no need to start too early.
At the end of its first year a baby will triple in weight and grow accordingly (usually 50% more in length). Those measurements are the first indicators of its health and nutrition status. Some measurement charts have slightly different estimates, depending on the country they are from, so there is no need to panic if your child is at the bottom of a chart in a country of people who may have different body types compared to your cultural background. The importance is the baby’s steady growth, especially between six and twelve months (http://www.eufic.org/article/ar/page/BARCHIVE/expid/basics-child-adolescent-nutrition/)
Before starting to feed solids to your baby, you need to wait for them to be able to sit up, for the weakening of extrusion reflex (where the baby’s tongue automatically pushes away foreign objects or food too big to swallow) and for their body to be capable of the chewing motion.
Use an appropriate baby spoon, and let your baby learn to enjoy food.
(Byrd-Bredbenner, Moe, Beshgetoor & Berning, 2013, p. 630-631)
The first month
Every baby’s digestive system is different. Some will have a tendency to have diarrhoea, while others will have constipation.
In the first case, it is recommended to start feeding them solids such as carrot, broccoli, potato and banana. In the second case, peas, green beans and pears will be more appropriate.
(Neifert, 2006, pp. 58-59)
It is easier on the digestive system (and on the family) if baby starts with one vegetable at a time, changing every three days. This process trains the taste buds and enzymatic activity and could help to monitor possible allergic reactions.
After a month, some protein could be added, as well as mixed vegetables and some fruits too.
As recommended by the French health program, weaning should start between four and six months (meaning when the fifth month starts up to the beginning of month seven).
To develop good habits, it is important to feed at regular times from day one of weaning. Start by first offering solid food at lunch time (noon), then later on at lunch time and at dinner (noon and 6 pm).
At the age of seven months the menu should be:
Lunch: vegetables and meat or fish or egg puree (with added butter or oil) plus yogurt or fruit puree
Snack (4pm): milk or yogurt and fruit
Dinner (6pm): milk and fruit or yogurt and soup.
This routine will vary depending on cultural and family habits, but it is essential to keep one routine with limited food intake through the day.
Every culture has different beliefs. It is important to focus on scientific research to consider the best options.
As mentioned, babies are all different. In any case, it has been proven that solids should be started between four and six months for healthy babies (premature babies and babies with allergies should be monitored by a health professional).
If possible, and providing that there are no health issues, breastfeeding should be done till six months and even for a year. Do not introduce cow milk before the baby turns one to avoid deficiencies (use a recommended infant milk if not breastfeeding).
Varied food from 7 months of age is essential to meet the baby’s nutritional needs.
(Anderson, Malley & Snell, 2009, pp. 23-31)
Feeding should be a moment of joy. If you are struggling with the feeding process, it is important that you ask for help: it is in the best interest of your family.
Look after yourselves, eat well and be happy.
Anderson, J., Malley, K. & Snell, R. (2009). Is 6 months still the best for exclusive breastfeeding and introduction of solids? A literature review with consideration to the risk of the development of allergies. Breastfeeding Review: Professional Publication of the Nursing Mothers’ Association of Australia, 17(2), 23-31.
Byrd-Bredbenner, C., Moe, G., Beshgetoor, D. & Berning, J. (2013). Wardlaw’s perspectives in nutrition (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Neifert, M. (2006). Babytalk Guide to Tummy Troubles. Babytalk, 71(9), 58-59.
Stanton, R. (2007). Foods that harm, foods that heal. Ultimo, N.S.W.: Reader’s Digest.
Programme national nutrition sante. (2005). Manger c’est la santé. Health comes through eating.