Infancy being a period of most rapid growth, nutritional requirements are the highest per unit of body weight during this period. Breast milk provides the required nutrients in suitable proportions for rapid infant growth. The decision as to when to start weaning or introducing solid food in infants diet depends on physical & physiological development as well as appropriate nutritional requirement.
Before solid foods are introduced, it is essential that enzyme system in the intestine is ready to digest starches and non–milk proteins. When foods are added to baby’s diet, they should be introduced one at a time. Only small amounts should be given to start with. Mixtures of food should be avoided. The use of sugar, salt and other seasonings should generally be kept to a minimum. A wide variety of foods should be given to develop good eating habits. A child should not be forced to eat more than what he or she wants.
Following chart indicates a general guideline for introduction of various foods to infants:
|Orange/Tomato juice (vitamin C)||2nd month|
|Food||Age for introduction|
|Well cooked cereals||2 to 4 months|
|Strained/Pureed Vegetables Fruits||3 to 5 months|
|Cooked Egg yolk/Fish||6 to 7 months|
|Pulses along with cereals vegetables||6 to 9 months|
|Substitution of milk with cereal or pulses etc||6 to 7 months|
|Complete weaning on family foods||12 months|
As far as possible, introduction of commercial baby foods should be avoided. Mother’s milk and natural foods are the best for the good health of infants. Introduction of these baby foods need careful reconstitution and proper understanding on the part of the mother and/or other caretakers. They also involve hygiene and other factors to be taken care of. However, if introduction of these foods is unavoidable due to some reasons, the following points must be noted:
- Commercial weaning foods can be introduced only after 4 months.
- Before that period other milk substitutes or cow/buffalo milk may be used.
- Proper attention should be given to hygiene.
- Proper directions for preparation and feeding be followed and child should not be forced to eat more than what he takes willingly.