Your little one hits another an exciting milestone when he is ready to start on solid foods – he gets to experience new ﬂavours and textures.
While there are no hard and fast rules on the process, these guidelines will serve as a handy reference, including how to choose the right foods to support your baby’s health.
WHEN TO WEAN
Around four to six months old is when most babies start weaning. You can also tell that your child is ready when he:
• sits up against the back of a chair and holds his head up.
• reaches his hands out and grasps objects.
• shows interest in food.
• opens his mouth for a spoon and closes his lips over it.
• wants to chew and put things in his mouth.
• seems hungry even after a milk feed.
Don’t worry if he takes time getting used to solids. He may initially push the spoon out with his tongue or have food spilling out from the sides of his mouth. He still has to learn how to chew and eat properly.
If he doesn’t seem interested, don’t force-feed but wait until the next feed. Practice makes perfect!
From six months old, most of your baby’s stored iron will have been depleted so his ﬁrst foods should be rich in iron, such as iron-fortiﬁed rice cereals, ﬁnely minced meat such as chicken and dark green leafy vegetables, together with good sources of Vitamin C in the form of fruits and vegetables such as carrot, pumpkin and pear. This will help in iron absorption. Porridge with blended vegetables is another good ﬁrst food that has a soft consistency and is nutritious.
Around 10 to 12 months when he can swallow and chew better, he is ready for a little more texture in his foods. This is when you can introduce mashed pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot. Add milk for a creamier texture.
As he grows older, he will be able to manage thicker and coarser food like bread, rice and shredded meat, such as chicken and ﬁnely ﬂaked ﬁsh. You can introduce ﬁnger foods – soft bite-sized pieces of food – at this stage, if he tries to pick food up or reach out for a spoon.
Take note of the recommended portion sizes and servings per day for each food group and ensure your baby has a healthy and well-balanced diet. Food groups include brown rice and wholemeal bread, meat, fruits and vegetables. An example of portion sizes and servings in a day can look like this:
• 1 bowl of rice/noodles/ beehoon
• ½ a small banana or apple
• ½ a rice bowl of vegetables (carrots, spinach, peas, etc)
• ½ palm size of meat (ﬁsh or chicken)
• 2 to 3 cups of milk
Keep an eye on your baby to ensure he’s eating at a safe pace. Whether he is slurping purees from a spoon or feeding himself with soft fruit or other foods, it’s important to supervise him so that he doesn’t choke.
If you notice any allergic reactions during or after the meal, consult your paediatrician.
Start with just one to two teaspoons of weaning food a day in between milk feeds. You can slowly increase the amount to one to two tablespoons for up to three times a day over time and as your baby gets used to it.
At around 10 to 12 months, most babies are able to take three full, well-balanced meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) comprising of the four main food groups (wholegrains, meat and alternatives, fruits and vegetables). This is in addition to about 500 of milk daily.
SWITCHING TO COW’S MILK FROM FORMULA MILK
When your little one turns 12 months old, it’s also time that you consider switching him from formula milk to full cream cow’s milk, which is rich in protein and calcium – important minerals for the healthy growth of bones and teeth.
But what about growing-up or Stage 3 formula milk? If your tot is eating and growing well, it is not necessary. As formula milk may be denser in calories, the extra calories and nutrient are not required as he will already obtain these from his well-balanced diet. Furthermore, this could reduce your toddler’s appetite.
There are three main types of full cream cow’s milk – chilled pasteurised, UHT (ultra-high temperature) and powdered full cream milk. Nutritionally, they are similar, although their shelf lives differ. Feel free to go with what suits your child’s palate.
But you shouldn’t give him ﬁlled milk, which is reconstituted with fat or oil of nonmilk origins. Examples include evaporated milk and condensed milk, which are high in sugar and saturated fat. If your tot is still on breast milk, continue for as long as possible and suits your lifestyle.
ALLERGIES AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
If your toddler is allergic to cow’s milk, has a medical condition or is on a vegan diet, it’s best to check with your doctor before changing his formula.
No matter what your child’s milk preferences are, remember to feed him a variety of food from all four main food groups so he gets the nutrients that he needs.
HOW TO INTRODUCE COW’S MILK
You can start by mixing full cream cow’s milk with his regular milk. Do it a little at a time until he is used to the taste.
Experts recommend starting with a ratio of one part full cream cow’s milk to three parts of regular milk, and gradually shifting the ratio until he is drinking 100 per cent milk. You can also add full cream cow’s milk to cereal and other foods for him to get used to the taste of full cream cow’s milk.