For what seems like the longest time, you’ve been laser-focused on pregnancy, but now that the baby’s here, you feel completely unprepared. You’re not alone. This is how most new parents feel, and one of the biggest concerns is Baby Nutrition and the cultivation of healthy eating habits. This raises a whole lot of questions: When can I feed my baby solids? How do I get my baby to eat fruits and veggies? Are some foods off-limits? These decisions can be even harder to make when you’re bombarded with contradictory information from well-wishers. Here’s what you need to know so that you can make the right decisions to nourish your baby.
7 Baby Nutrition Tips for New Parents
1) Breast Milk Before All Else
Breast milk is a superfood for babies, and it’s all that your growing baby should be consuming for the first 6 months. The benefits of breastfeeding cannot be stressed enough, making it essential to watch your nutritional intake. If you’re well-nourished, breast milk will provide your baby with the right blend of nutrients to meet all his or her requirements. Breast milk also contains antibodies and immune factors that are known to reduce the risk of infections, including respiratory conditions like pneumonia.
2) Introduce Solid Foods at the Right Time
Most babies are ready to begin consuming solid foods by the time they are 6 months old. Just as each of us is unique, every baby is different, and some may be ready a couple of weeks earlier or just after the 6-month mark. The longer you wait, however, the higher the risk of your baby developing iron deficiency. You’ll know your baby is ready when she can pick stuff up and put it in her mouth, lean or sit up unsupported, and shows interest in food.
3) Choose the Right Foods
Research shows that food preferences develop early in life, making early feeding choices critical. Because of the high risk of iron deficiency, it is advisable to start with foods like well-cooked beans, peas, and lentils, as well as iron-fortified infant cereals. To provide balanced nutrition and get your baby accustomed to eating healthy, you can also start introducing fruits and veggies. Just make sure that all foods are cooked until tender, minced finely, pureed, or mashed to avoid any risk of choking.
4) Don’t Overfeed
One of the pitfalls of parenting is that we always feel like our kids aren’t eating enough! In truth, if your baby is healthy, you probably have nothing to worry about. Learn to listen to your baby’s cues instead. If your baby isn’t hungry and doesn’t need to be fed, he’ll turn his head away or shut his mouth. As babies often only accept new food after several tries, you need to be patient and persistent. At the same time, it’s important that you don’t force your child to eat by tricking or coaxing him. Babies who are fed according to their hunger cues tend to have a lower risk of childhood obesity.
5) Keep Your Baby Hydrated
Babies do not need to consume any water when they are exclusively breastfed, but once you start feeding your baby other foods, you can also begin to introduce water. Water is the only fluid that your baby needs for hydration. Fruit juices may seem nutritious, but juice intake can increase the risk of diarrhea and is also associated with early tooth decay.
6) Introduce Food Allergens Carefully
Most parents will be inclined to avoid giving their babies any foods that could produce an allergic reaction, but this may not be the best idea. It may be a good idea to introduce common food allergens a little before 6 months, as research shows that the practice may help prevent food allergies. When doing so, make it a point to only administer small amounts and no more than a single new food a day. You can even wait for 2 days before administering a new food. This can help identify trigger foods early. Before introducing such foods, make it a point to speak to your pediatrician.
7) Some Foods are Off Limits
While it is important to introduce your baby to a wide range of foods, some foods are just off-limits. Honey, for example, is considered healthy for most of us, but it poses the risk of botulism in infants. Similarly, cow’s milk can be problematic as a baby can’t digest enzymes in it, and minerals in cow’s milk may also cause kidney damage. Certain fish like tuna, mackerel, and shark are associated with high mercury content, putting them on the list too. It’s also advisable to avoid feeding your baby any unpasteurized foods and foods or beverages with high sugar content.