Your baby’s diet presents unique challenges. Is breast milk better than infant formula, what is the right age to start solid foods, what kind of food allergies and intolerance should you be aware, are just some of the questions you will deal with in the first year.
Healthy food for babies focuses on building their health and immune system. An early start in the right direction spells fewer growth and development problems, and providing them age appropriate foods at each stage of development also ensures decreased risk of malnutrition.
Moreover, studies suggest that early exposure to a variety of foods expands your child’s food palate. Paying close attention to your infant’s diet and eating patterns can make mealtimes less stressful for new parents.
The first four to six months of your babies’ life is spent sleeping, crying, or eating. During these months, diet for baby would include milk via breastfeeding or infant formula. The World Health Organization report on nutrition and diet for infant (2002), recommends exclusive breastfeeding for up to 6 months.
If breastfeeding is not possible, doctors recommend iron fortified infant formula or infant formula with added vitamin D. The decision to breastfeed or provide a bottle is a personal choice.
For the first four months, breast milk or infant formula should provide all the necessary nutrients for your infant’s development. Doctors recommend that you wait until the fourth month to start semi solid foods for babies.
Foods to include
The dietary needs of a child changes as he/she grows. Your baby’s daily diet should include small portions of
- Dairy products like yogurt and soft cheese
- Baby cereals containing wheat and other mixed grains with high proteins
- Vegetables cooked either whole or pureed and strained, depending on the age of the infant
- Fruits whole and pureed fruits in addition to unsweetened pasteurized 100% fruit juice
- Lean meat and egg yolk, which offer good sources of proteins
Foods to avoid
Foods to avoid giving your baby include
- Foods that are round, slippery, and sticky, and large cut pieces of fruits, vegetables and meat; young kids are prone to choking.
- Whole milk of cow if your baby is under a year old as he/she may develop an allergic reaction.
- Honey (cooked or otherwise) should be avoided as it could be contaminated with bacterial spores causing botulism.
- Foods that are high in sweet, salt or fats.
- Processed foods or spicy foods.
Diet chart for babies
Around 8 to 9 months, you will notice that your infant’s interest in solid foods has peaked. Your baby is learning to feed himself/herself. At this time, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about an infant diet chart, depending on your baby’s eating patterns and food choices.
An infant diet chart based on different food groups can ensure that your child is receiving the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and dietary fiber. A diet chart also helps you keep track of different finger foods introduced and accepted by your baby. Busy parents can plan and precook certain foods with its help. Moreover, a healthy diet chart ensures that your child is neither overeating nor hungry.
Below is a typical infant diet chart for an 8-month-old baby. You may consult your doctor or pediatrician for a diet chart that suits your child’s needs.
Morning: Breast milk or iron fortified formula
Breakfast: Iron fortified cereal mixed with breast milk or formula, 2 to 4 tablespoons of small, cubed fruits and vegetables, egg yolk (no egg whites) mashed with milk or formula. Provide water in an age appropriate sipping cup.
Mid-morning snack: Nurse or offer formula on demand.
Lunch: 2 to 4 tablespoons of well-cooked mashed meat, cubed fruits and vegetables, one serving of whole grain such as well cooked, mashed rice.
Late afternoon snack: 2 to 4 tablespoons cubed fruit, ½ cup plain or unsweetened flavored yogurt and water.
Dinner: 2 to 4 tablespoon of cooked mashed meat and/or vegetables, cooked brown or white rice. You may also provide breast milk or formula if your baby demands it.
Before bedtime: Breast milk or formula on demand.
Diet and baby age
As infants grow, their nutritional demands increase. An age appropriate diet plan for babies ensures that they get the right kind of foods at the right stage of development. Below is a list of foods corresponding to each stage of the baby’s dietary needs.
- Birth to 4 months: Breast milk or iron fortified infant formula.
- 4 to 6 months: Semi solid foods such as rice, oatmeal or barley cereal formulated for babies.
- 5 to 7 months: Provide a baby-friendly cup for water. You may introduce cooked, pureed and strained vegetables followed by fruits.
- At 7 months: Introduce fruit juices diluted with water. Avoid citrus fruits.
- 7 to 8 months: Semi-solid foods like strained or pureed meats or beans, cottage cheese, unflavored yogurt, egg yolks (no egg whites).
- 8 to 10 months: Along with cereals and semi-solid foods, you can introduce finger foods like mild cheese, soft cooked vegetables, peeled fruit, cooked, ground meats (deboned, tough parts removed), toasted bread, unsalted crackers, or soft tortillas.
- 10 to 12 months: Feed your child at a table. Encourage them to try grain foods such as pasta, noodles, and rice and small pieces of soft meat, vegetables and fruits that the family eats.
- 1 year: After 1 year, introduce whole milk. Also, your baby can now eat both egg yolks and whites.
Feeding tips for New Moms
Women may find juggling their new roles as mothers and caretakers challenging. Here are a few tips to make mealtimes less stressful:
- Infant’s often cry or turn their mouth away to signify that they are full. Do not overfeed your baby as this may result in obesity in later years.
- You know your child is ready for solids when he/she can sit up with some effort and hold their head and neck.
- Provide cups for water and milk, spoons and plates when an infant starts to show interest in feeding independently. This will teach them co-ordination.
- Do not offer foods like hot dogs or soda and caffeinated beverages.
- Avoid conditions such as baby bottle decay by gently cleaning their teeth at the end of meals. Do not use toothpaste until they turn 3. Do not let infants go to sleep with a bottle in their mouth.
- Every baby approaches food differently. If you are worried about your infant’s eating habits or slow growth and development, talk to your doctor about special foods that may provide extra nutrition.