Once the baby feels comfortable with puree made from a single vegetable, you can introduce fruits as well as a new food every three days Image Credit: Shutterstock

After relying on milk to provide all the nutrition they need for the first six months of their lives, babies are now ready to try more substantial sources of food. Like any new experience, this too may be met with some initial hesitation and issues. This makes the discussion of weaning, or the introduction of supplemental feeding, an integral part of the well-baby visit. Weaning is a major transition period. As you introduce new foods, new types of bacteria will be introduced into your baby’s tummy changing its balance. A diet that contains a wide variety of foods will not only provide nutrition but also encourage a healthy, diverse balance of friendly bacteria in the tummy. Proper weaning practices also help reduce the risk of allergies.

Here’s a general guide to the introduction of solid food.

Ist stage: Introduce one food at a time

Start weaning only after six months and never leave your baby alone with food. Babies thrive on routines, so feed them in a place that is comfortable for them. Initial hesitation is to be expected. Some babies may try to test their food with their fingers or by sticking their tongues out. Some may even play with it. Encourage it as this gives them the confidence to trust their food and the act of feeding. Studies show that it takes up to 10 tries (even 20-25 tries, in some cases) for babies to like a new flavour. So keep trying until you succeed. Start by getting your baby to try one tasty vegetable at a time. The addition of clean drinking water, at least an ounce per feed, is encouraged at this stage.

2nd stage: Try out new fruits, vegetables and textures

Once the baby feels comfortable with puree made from a single vegetable, you can introduce fruits as well as a new food every three days. Introducing as many tastes and textures as possible will establish a healthy appetite in later life. Give smaller meals more than once a day. Cook everything thoroughly. Steam food rather than boil to retain more minerals. Make all food soft and easily digestible. Offer new foods alongside favourites.

3rd stage: Establish three meals a day

Keep feeding him milk in the morning but just enough to not spoil his breakfast. Make lunch the main mealtime for protein-based foods and experimentation, as the child may be more likely to be tired in the evening. Meats and eggs may be gradually introduced every three days beginning at eight months, avoiding soft-boiled or runny yolks until 12 months old. Do not worry if the child eats small amounts at the beginning. Make sure to keep offering her foods from the previous stage, even the ones she didn’t like, because her preference will definitely vary daily. Encourage discovery by making food that is easy to hold such as toasts and banana, or easy to scoop with a spoon like cereals. Make feeding relaxing and fun and try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Avoid processed foods, caffeine, sugary or salty foods, and beware of seasoning, sauces or stock cubes, most of which are high in salt and sugar.

By her first birthday, she should be eating most of the things your family is eating, keeping milk intake between 16 and 24 ounces per day for her calcium needs.