This is just a list of things that I chanced upon during the course of my research on baby food topics, information gathered from elders in the family, and some that i learnt from experience. Note that these are purely my observations based on what works for me and Abhi. Please consult your paediatrician in case of doubts.
This list will be periodically updated as I learn more.
When is the ideal time to start solids?
The current paediatric association recommendation says 6 months. However, in our community a particular kind of ragi (finger millet) porridge made with ragi milk extract and panamchakkara (palm jaggery) is given sometimes as early as 1 month. This porridge is what I started off Abhi with but only after she had crossed the fourth month mark.
How much is right when introducing something new?
My mom says 'oru pallu kanakku' i.e. only a portion that is as big as a tooth :-) when giving your baby something for the first time. If there is no adverse reaction then you can increase that to a teaspoonful. I found this sensible advice because a small amount implies that adverse reactions , if any, are much more manageable.
Can you give me a few easily digestible first food choices apart from just boiled and mashed vegetables or fruit?
Kanji vellom or whey from cooked rice
Buy good quality brown or red rice. Take a teaspoonful of rice, rinse, and soak for half an hour. Add half a glass of water and pressure cook for 5 whistles. Strain. Allow it to cool till mildly warm. Feed this water to the baby. Brown or red rice gives a lovely nutty flavour that babies generally love. This is very nutritious too.
Use the same method as for making rice water.
Green gram (whole moong) water
Same method as above. Initially, just start with a single teaspoonfull.
Ragi milk porridge
Please refer to the procedure for making wheat milk porridge in the recipes section. The method is identical.
What about a baby that is averse to solids?
Newly married and on work deputation at Lebanon,we lived in an apartment block that also housed the family of my husband's colleague. The couple had young children and the meal time rule was 'eat what is placed before you or else the next time you are hungry you will be offered the same leftovers'! As an adult , even I cringed before such a spartan rule.
I'd rather go by the option of 'let your baby be your guide'. Place different and enticing objects before him/her and be patient. Force feeding tends to make babies grow into even more difficult to feed toddlers and young children. For babies who just dont seem interested, distracting them with songs, games, toys, view from the window are better options. They eventually will come around. Believe me, there are days even now when my 1 year old drives me nuts at mealtimes :-)
Some days my baby who generally loves solids doesn't want any. Why?
Babies have their foodie moods too. It's perfectly okay if your baby wants to get back into a 'just milk routine' on certain days. Mine suddenly went off solids for a week or so during her tenth month and threw me into a panic. However, emergency enrollment into innumerable new mommy forums for feeding troubles reassured me that a lot of babies do this at certain times.
Just ensure he/she is drinking enough milk. A baby that is completely off feeding might be sick!
Should I allow my baby to feed herself/himself ?
I allowed mine as soon as she showed an interest to feed herself. She would try to grab the spoon from me and then try angle it to her face. It's not that she eats her entire meal by herself. I place a little food on a plate on her high chair and she feeds herself a little, plays with the food a bit, while I feed her the proper meal. I also give her finger food as snacks between meal times.
It takes a lot of patience cleaning up after babies who feed themselves.But eventually, you are encouraging your little one's initiative. More importantly, at a later stage the one that is allowed to practise is going to become adept at feeding herself while the one who has always been fed will continue to want to follow that routine even into preschool or later. I have an acquaintance who still finds it difficult to make her first grade son eat on his own without fuss.
But, never leave a baby alone during feeds. Choking is a possibility.
My bay seems too thin??
That rotund, round baby image created by baby food brands of yesteryears still have their hold on the Indian psyche. As long as your baby's weight is appropriate for his/her age, don't worry about that well meaning neighbourhour who tut tuts, "oh my! why is this one so thin?". In fact, it is now scientifically established that lean babies are much healthier as adults than little sumo wrestlers.
Is my baby eating enough?
The answer is the same as above. If your baby's weight is age appropriate and he/she is active, do not worry. Do not expect your tiny little one to eat huge portions.
How many meals per day?
This was a huge doubt that i had! But with time I got to know that there is no hard and fast rule for this.At 6-8 months mine mostly had just one solid meal a day. After that for a couple of weeks I tried introducing her to a breakfast routine, however, she was not in the mood for solids in the morning. Stuck to milk which was just fine. Even on days I force fed her, I found that she not only refused a major portion of the breakfast meal but after that also refused her usual afternoon porridge. Then, I let her be. Again after sometime, when she seemed hungry even after her milk, I slowly introduced her to eating a little bit of banana, a small portion of dosa, idli, appam etc in the morning. She was not keen everyday.
The same holds true for little morsels of fruit as evening snack. Slowly by the time she was 1O months she was comfortable with having a biscuit (just plain marie, or a milk biki) or a tiny bit of hygenically handled, finely grated fruit for breakfast;a small lunch; an evening snack on some days and a dinner. This was not the case everyday. There was a period when she completely seemed off solids for a week or so. I panicked but later found that was also normal.
Now after her first birthday she seems more comfortable with 3 meals (on most days) with a fruit or puffed rice snack in between. By meals I dont mean full fledged adult portion :-)