*Note that before introducing new types of food to your baby, both age and ready signs must be considered because not all babies develop at the same rate.

0 – 6 months

Diet

Strictly breast milk and/or formula milk

Research shows that breastfeeding strengthens babies’ immune systems, making them more resistant to diseases, both now and later in life. It also strengthens the bond between mommy and baby. Hence, it is highly recommended that every baby’s diet is strictly restricted to breast milk, for at least the first six months of life.

However for moms who are unable to breastfeed exclusively, there is the formula alternative.

Do you know that…

Breast milk digests faster than formula. So, a breastfed baby is likely to get hungry faster than a formula fed baby.

When your baby is hungry, he is likely to let you know by smacking his lips, making suckling movements with his mouth or moving his head in search of your breasts. These are signs which must not be ignored.

6 – 7 months

Diet

Milk + Iron fortified cereal + Pureed fruits and vegetables

Now, food other than milk can be introduced. It is advised you begin with a single grain, iron fortified, infant cereal. Single (and not multiple) grain, so that in case of an allergy, the source can easily be identified. Iron fortified, because at this age a baby’s birth store of iron gets depleted and would need to be replaced through iron rich diets. Highly recommended is the rice cereal because it is iron fortified, easily digested and low allergenic.

Vitamin C and A in form of pureed fruits and vegetables can also be introduced. However note that solids at this stage is not a replacement for milk. It is only a supplement.

Ready signs

Don’t introduce solids until your baby shows the following signs: Has a doubled birth weight, turns his head away or keeps his mouth shut when full in the tummy, sits up with support, shows interest in food, gets hungry after 8 feeds of breast milk and/or has started teething.

Do you know that…

Eating solids takes practice. Your baby needs time to get used to the spoon and the feel of solids in his mouth. Hence, rather than trying to get him to eat a whole lot of solids at the beginning, concentrate on getting him used to the solids.

Dieticians recommend introducing vegetables before fruits because the sweetness of fruits may make the vegetables unappealing. Also recommended is the introduction of one new food at a time so that in case of a food allergy, the source can be easily traced.

7 – 9 months

Diet

Milk + Iron fortified cereal + Mashed fruits and vegetables + Small amounts of protein + Finger foods + Boiled, cooled water

After six months you can introduce your baby to water. But the water (no matter the source), must be boiled and cooled (by you). Finger foods like bread strips, small pieces of ripe banana, well cooked spiral pasta, teething crackers, etc can also be introduced. Vegetables like potatoes and carrots can be cooked until very soft and then served mashed. Likewise, washed and peeled soft fruits can be mashed after ensuring all seeds are removed. Small amounts of proteins like poultry, pureed meat and mashed beans with soft skins can also be given.

Ready Signs

You will know he is ready for finger and mashed foods when he starts picking up things with his thumb and forefinger, putting them in his mouth and then chewing with an up and down movement

Do you know that…

Some babies are sensitive to egg whites, so you may want to stick to only egg yolk till your baby turns one

9 – 12 months

Diet

Milk + Iron fortified cereal + Mashed (or small bite sizes of) fruits and vegetables + Larger portions of Protein + Boiled, cooled water

At this age, though milk is gradually taking a back seat, it must still not be eliminated from your baby’s diet. Your baby should also be eating more protein now and you can gradually graduate to small bite sizes of soft fruits and softly cooked vegetables

Ready Signs

When your baby has more teeth, swallows more easily and is trying to spoon feed himself, then he is probably ready for small bite sizes of his food.

Do you know that…

As your baby grows, he’ll try to feed himself. Hence you’re bound to be faced with food flying around and messing every place and everyone close by.

This is a learning phase for him. So, be patient and indulge him. However you both should be dressed accordingly (don’t put on your Sunday bests!) and you must be smart in containing the mess by putting a mat underneath his high chair. Using a high chair which can be wiped clean with a damp sponge is another smart move to consider.

(Picture courtesy: healthimpactnews, webmd, parents.com, punctuatedwithfood)