Perhaps all caring mothers (and dads too!) prepare anxiously for the day when they can give their child the first dose of solid food. It is almost like the first signs of the coming of age of the child. Yet most parents face a bout of confusion, often asking themselves the invariable questions of when and how, while the reality is that this need not be something very complex or challenging, if just some simple rules and timings are followed.
Although the theories concerning the right time to introduce the baby on solid foods have varied from time to time, it is now generally believed that this should happen between 4 to 6 months, as this is the point where they are not only developed enough for starting on solid foods but also this is the time when their reflexes for sucking bottled or breast milk diminishes.
There are also some easy symptoms to find out if the baby is really in a position to start on solids. The general signs could be whether, with some support, she can sit up and hold her neck and head up. Interestingly, if the baby also peers at your own plate when you are eating in the baby’s presence. It can also surface in the baby showing signs that she wants more when her bottle is empty and can manage to keep the solid food within the mouth than just pouting it out. Besides the symptoms there are some solid medical reasons why the period of 4-6 months is the ideal one: this is the time when the digestive system has matured enough to tackle solid food intake, without any adverse effect on allergies. It is also the time when the baby’s inherent stock of irons start diminishing and the liquid intake cannot sustain the iron levels any more. This is the time when it would be useful to give the baby such iron rich solid foods like spinach, meat and beans.
Theories abound about what best to have on the baby’s first solid food menu list. Ideally it should start with some supplement of iron fortified cereal, followed by fruits and vegetables, probably in that order as most babies prefer the sweet taste of fruits. Once the baby has got accustomed to these solid foods, other new foods can be added gradually but preferably during the day times only, to notice any adverse responses if any.
Having started the baby on solids, most mothers also have to face perhaps the first time task of making the baby food. Most pediatricians would recommend that making one’s own baby food is the ideal option instead of using pre-packaged varieties, so that one can know exactly what the baby is taking. Fortunately, preparing baby food in the house has now become quite convenient and cheap besides being quite efficient. This also has the added advantage of feeding the baby, as it grows, with some of the regular food of the household, processed through these handy gadgets.
Basically, preparing baby food in the house requires hardly 5 different standard gadgets, many of which are already available in any household kitchen. The essentials comprise of hand-turned food mill with blades of different sizes and shapes to produce the different textures of food; a steam-cooker with an arrangement to puree the fruit, vegetables, and meat. These are normally referred to as “all-in-one baby-food makers”. In some of the more sophisticated models there is provision for defrosting and reheating of previously prepared food.
The other gadgets would include a baby food grinder, to break down chunks of food for the baby. It could be non-electric and portable, but these may not provide a choice of textures. Added to the list is a hand blender for pureeing the food, by just holding the portable device within the food itself. A regular kitchen blender or food processor and a good old-fashioned fork complete the list, these last 2 items being mostly available already.