Diversified nutrition represents an important stage in the baby`s development, so essential that some experts have named it the “second birth.”
Breast milk needs to be the main nutrition source for a baby during his first year of life, and the breastfeeding habit shouldn`t change at first when solid foods are introduced in the baby`s diet. The baby needs a lot of food, so don`t concern yourself that you may over-feed him.
The main purpose for the first 6 months of the baby represents his familiarization with different tastes and textures of the food, so the main source of food should remain the mother`s milk. It`s great if the baby eats only a teaspoon of food at each meal.
In some cases when mothers introduce solid foods, they start to become confused regarding the moment when adding solid foods. This activity should happen just as before, and only to add small snacks of solid foods between breastfeeding sessions.
After the first year, if the mother still breastfeeds, she may offer solid food as a main source and transform breastfeeding in a snack during the day.
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What Is Diversification?
What actually means to diversify food? The gradual introduction and progressive of each food (other than milk) considering the digestive tolerance specific to each age. The latest research have shown that it`s not really appropriate to speed up the diversification of food. The explanation consists in the fact that only after 3 months the permeability of the intestinal mucosa becomes uniform, the level of local immunity of the intestine increases, a series of ferments that helps with digestion reaches maturity, and various mechanisms that help in swallowing various semi-solid and solid foods enter into action.
An early diversification may favor the occurrence of allergies. Up to 4 months, the baby`s digestive system is immature and, so, it`s not ready to accept other foods than milk. On the other hand, it`s not good to postpone the onset of diversification too much either. The introduction of a new food long after the child has reached 6 months may create issues with the organism adapting to foods with an increased consistency, “solid” compared to milk.
Recommendations on Food Diversification
- Add solid foods when the baby is 6 months old and continue to breastfeed him. – More info!
- Add baby foods with a high nutritional intake.
- Prepare his food hygienically to avoid food poisoning.
- Offer to your child foods with proper “texture” and quantity according to his age.
Between 6 and 8 months, the baby can receive 1 small meal 2 times per day; between 9 and 11 months, he can receive a small meal 3 or 4 times per day, and between 12 and 24 months, he may receive 1 or 2 snacks per day supplementary. They are added along with the mother`s milk, which remains the main source of nutrition.
How Do We Diversify Our Baby`s Food?
Start to get him acquainted with the new food, offering a bit in a teaspoon (to avoid allergies and allow the baby to get used with the new taste). The amount of puree will be increased gradually, each day with 1 or 2 teaspoons, until managing to replace an entire meal of milk.
You should always start with a puree of a single fruit or vegetable, and if it proves that the little one tolerates it well, you can start combining 2 or 3 kinds. It`s best if you`ll give him the new type of food at lunch. You can start with milk, and at the middle of the meal, give him the new food.
You can then switch to the new food after continuing with the first for 4 or 5 days, then increase the amount progressively. Follow the reactions of your baby carefully. Try not to overlook the occurrence of any symptoms, such as soft stools, redness or rash. At the first symptoms of intolerance (diarrhea, vomiting), the new food is suppressed for a couple of days, and then its administration is resumed with the normalization of the intestinal tract. If the signs of intolerance don`t disappear, you should replace that food with another one. (e.g. changing pears with apples).
- Don`t add honey or sugar to puree.
- If the little one has a tendency of constipation, postpone the moment when introducing bananas and don`t make abuse of carrots.
- The amount of puree may vary from a few teaspoons to 60 g/day, depending on the child`s appetite. It`s preferred to offer them at lunch.
- It`s recommended to use a soft plastic teaspoon, because it`s less colder than the one made out of metal and doesn`t hurt them.
- If you prepare the puree on your own, don`t forget to wash the vegetables at first, wipe the skin off, wash them again, boil them and then pass them.
- It`s useless to try and give him food with a teaspoon if the little one is hungry. He won`t make any effort to eat; he`ll rather prefer the comfortable option, suck from your breast or bottle. – Read here!
How to Know that the Baby Is Ready for Solid Food?
- He can hold the food in his mouth without pushing it outside with his tongue.
- He`s at least 4 months old, preferably 6 months.
- He`s still hungry after 8 to 12 breastfeeding sessions per day.
- He`s interested in the food from your plate.
- He`s attempting to imitate you by opening his mouth wide while you are eating.
- He can stay straight on his own.
When to Start Diversification?
As already mentioned earlier, diversification is a period when other foods than milk are introduced gradually. They will be offered with a teaspoon. Today, nutritionists recommend that diversification in infants to be made not too soon or too suddenly. Up to 4 months, the little one doesn`t need anything else than milk to develop healthy. However, starting with 5 – 6 months, milk doesn`t cover his entire nutritional necessities, and now you need to start giving him something else as well. So, in a healthy child, diversification starts around 4 or 5 months and is continued gradually until 18 to 24 months.
Why isn`t a good idea to start sooner? First of all, because until 4 months as already mentioned above, the child`s digestive system isn`t mature enough to be prepared to accept new foods. Also, the reflex of mastication isn`t well developed. Another reason is that the premature introduction of other foods favors the occurrence of allergies. More than that, if you quit too early at a meal of milk in the favor of another food, there`s a risk for the calcium content to be insufficient, which may affect the little one`s bones and teeth later.
Lots of mothers struggle to respect the basic rules, although it isn`t really necessary. Diversification asks for flexibility – you should adapt the “rules” to your child`s necessities. Still, at first, it`s best if after every new food introduced to pass a few days. This way, the baby can have enough time to get used with everything the new food brings: taste, color or consistency.
What Foods to Start With?
- Start with non-spicy foods.
- You can give your baby any type of food you want, the order doesn`t count. Some foods offered to babies are: bananas, avocado, peaches, pears, rice cereals, pumpkins, carrots.
- Some mothers start with rice cereals, then they turn to finer foods like crushed bananas, and later meat and vegetables. – Read more!
- For babies under 6 months are recommended purees, and when they are ready, mothers can give them small pieces of fruits, bread or biscuits.
- You don`t need to purchase expensive baby foods; you can give them whatever you have cooked in your kitchen for breakfast, lunch or dinner (you can always make a puree from them, if necessary).
- Try to add as many types as foods in your baby`s diet. If he doesn`t like something, you can always add it later.
- Up to 8 months old, you need to make sure the baby`s diet contains fruits, vegetables, milk, meat or cereals rich in iron.
What to Do if He Refuses Solid Food?
Some children find it harder to adapt to solid food, sometimes this being the way their body protects itself until their digestive system is ready.
You shouldn`t worry too much if, however, the baby develops well and you are breastfeeding him with success. Each child adapts to food diversification in his own way. All you need to do is offer him a variety of foods, but if he doesn`t want to eat them, you shouldn`t force him.
Signals that Some Foods Aren`t Comfortable for the Baby`s Stomach
- Red irritation on their face or butt;
- Diarrhea or explosive stools;
- The baby is nervous;
- The spitting or vomit moments occur more often.
Warning about Food Diversification
- Constipation from solid foods: Don`t replace breastfeeding too early with solid food, because the baby may experience constipation.
- The baby`s stools will change along with diversification.
- Food diversification will make the baby want less milk, which will lead to a decrease in the quantity of milk produced by your breast, therefore you`ll be fertile again.
- Always try to add a new food in the morning, so you can give time to the possible side effect to appear, instead of waking up at night due to this cause.
- Some babies might experience allergies to milk or eggs.
He Starts Eating Alone
From now on, the little one won`t eat purees or foods mixed with soups. The menu needs to be diversified even more. You`ll continue to give him foods as you did until now, but in larger quantities, depending on his appetite.
From 9 to 12 months, his foods will evolve a little. He now has a few small teeth and he manages pretty well with chewing. He`ll start eating more and more solid foods! He`ll be able to eat snacks on his own, so you can start giving him biscuits or pieces of bread. From now on, he`ll regularly consume purees of vegetables, pasta or rice. Be careful to give him vegetables, fruits, milk and dairy products on a daily basis. Once per week, give him an egg yolk, and 3 times per week 30 g of chicken meat or fish. Don`t forget! Keep his tastes in mind and don`t force him to eat what you notice he systematically refuses.
What Foods to Avoid?
- Cow`s milk may cause allergies and is difficult to digest. Don`t use it before your little one is 1 year old.
- Honey may contain a specific type of bacteria that favors botulism.
- Fats, spicy or fried foods.
- Sodas – don`t give him anything else than 100% natural juices, either the ones that you made yourself or juices specific for babies.
- Nuts may cause him allergies or he may choke with them.
- Egg whites – Don`t give him this food until is 1 year old.