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Starting solids for babies


We did annaprashan when my baby was 5months and a week old, that is because we had to do the ceremony choosing an auspicious day (as per Hindu calendar);  It was just a drop of kheer given to him.  I started solids only after A completed 6 months. My doctor gave me a list of first foods and how weekly to try and introduce different stuff. Initial foods were mushy ones like banana, steamed apple and porridges of all sorts. I had dates and bit of jaggery to substitute sugar; and for flavours I would add garlic and other mild spices like coriander powder and turmeric.
When a baby is born, there is a sudden flood of advice and information. Everybody suddenly becomes a teacher, treating you like the stupidest student. The myths and facts that a new mom is confronted with can get overwhelming. However learned and abreast with the trends we are, we do tend to fall for many of the myths and false guidance. It is important that we as parents take a stand  and make our choices, especially when it comes to food, based on research rather than having a random stranger or relatives and friends for that matter, throw their idea or opinion on us. What goes in my baby’s mouth is first approved by me; as a parent I have to decide what he eats and what he doesn’t.
I have jotted down here few things that one could keep in mind while they start weaning off their baby.

Annaprashan
The first-food ceremony

Things to keep in mind while starting solids

1.    The baby should be able to sit and hold the head steady. My baby started sitting unsupported in his 8th month, however I would always make him sit upright on my lap or in his high chair during meal times. This basically is to avoid choking instances.
2.      The baby should have lost the tongue thrust (swallowing purees and liquids while pushing out solids)
3.      Should have ideally doubled the birth-weight
4.      Breastmilk remains the primary source of nutrition for the baby till he/she reaches 1 year mark; so, don’t stress if what you offer is often rejected (which generally happens).
5.       Don’t drop breastfeeds; as said earlier, breastmilk still remains the main source of nutrition.
6.      Ensure that baby is sitting upright while eating; appropriate sitting posture reduces the chances of choking. Never feed solids while baby is lying down.
7.      Try to avoid sugar completely and add salt as little as you can, better to avoid if you can; as babies’ system is not mature to digest these. Also for babies, the sodium requirements are very nominal and are met by other sources such as fruits/vegetables etc.
8.      Honey may lead to  infant botulism (a fatal condition), so it isn’t recommended for babies under 1year.
9.      Any milk (other than breast/formula) should be avoided uptil 1 year. Dairy products and dishes from milk, like homemade paneer, curd, kheer etc can be offered 
10.  Avoid introducing any distraction while feeding. Tablets/ TV will only make your job difficult in long run.
      11.  Do not worry about the mess that is created during meal times. Let the baby feel various  textures and enjoy the meal timings
12.   A high chair or booster could prove to be a good investment.
13.  Avoid packaged food products like instant foods, biscuits, noodles, bournvita, etc. These are highly processed and contain many preservatives and chemicals which aren’t good for babies.
14. Try making the baby eat with all the family members; that way they eat well and of course it helps in family bonding too.


In order to make an informed choice, I have been talking to other mothers, doctors, support groups and reading enough online. To support these points, below are the links, most of which are internationally recognized associations/bodies.
1.   Baby’s readiness
3.   Do not drop breastfeeds, as said

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“Annaprashan ” The first Food ceremony

Image source: FreeFoodPhotos.com

6 months passed by and it looked like a thing of yesterday when we were all excited yet nervous about the delivery, anxiously waiting each day if it will happen today; and after the birth, as the 6 months mark approached it hit me that my baby was about to move a little further from me, beginning the solid food journey. The selfish mother in me was a little sad, seeing time fly out of my hands, it was just 6 months and I could already imagine him 6, 16 and 26 years old an independent young boy!!



I consider myself blessed as my breastfeeding journey has been smooth ever since the first moment we were born (baby A and the mommy me) and baby was put on my breast. I have read and heard horrid breastfeeding stories and struggles of new moms. My heart goes out to all the mommies who have or are struggling with breast-feeding; and the only advice I have is to tell them to hang in there; you have come this far, it too shall pass. Just don’t give up and give in to the various suggestions of all the well-intentioned aunties, those who ask you to start solids sooner than 6 months and those who tell you that your supply isn’t enough (well-intentioned, well they sure are)

The first-food ceremony in many parts of India is called Annaprashan (feeding ceremony where “anna” meaning grains or food). We had a pooja at home that was followed by feeding the baby and then a ritual wherein we keep different articles like book, pen, currency notes, a bit of soil, knife etc on a tray. The baby is expected to touch one of these, and the first thing that the baby puts his hand on is symbolic of what his future will be. It’s a funny ritual that only adds amusement to the ceremony. A initially held the entire tray; today’s babies you see, they want it all. Later he picked up a book and a pen.

A day before A’s annaprashan, I prepared date syrup to be used in the kheer that we planned to feed him as his first food; I wanted to avoid sugar completely hence date syrup. The memory of annaprashan is not a pleasant one for me as it left A with an upset stomach for almost 3 weeks, and it totally sapped me off emotionally and physically. Apparently, A was fed a bit of sweet from the market and that’s what I suspect did trouble to his tiny immature system. Well it could also be because of those few drops of kheer or little water that was offered.

Kheer
The first food of our baby

Soon after he completed 6 months and got back to his normal healthy self, I started off with solids for him. Steamed and mashed apple being the first thing, followed by banana, moong dal khichdi, avocado and naachni/ragi porridge. 

In the first month of feeding (7th month) we followed 1 meal a day and increased one meal each month; by the time we were 10 months old we had 4-5 meals schedule which included 3 major meals and 2 snacks/fruits. 
Other dishes that were offered during first few months:-
1. Nachni/ragi pancakes (egg/ eggless both)
2. Oats idli
3. Moongdal cheela
4. Beetroot parantha
5. Homemade potato fries (for snacks)
6. Homemade sweet potato fries (for snacks)
7. Makhana/lotus seeds fried in ghee (for snacks)
8. Ragi porridge
9. Khichdi
10. Porridge from homemade cereal powder mix.
11. Oats porridge
12. Oats pancake
13. Steamed broccoli florets
14. Steamed beetroot
15. Sautéed paneer (cottage cheese)

As you go about feeding solids to the baby, remember to not reduce or stop the breastmilk or formula. Formula/breastmilk should ideally remain the primary source of nutrition till the baby is 1 year. Go slow and do not worry about how little the baby is consuming, keep a check on pee and poo and that the baby is active and happy; that’s all that matters.

Happy feeding and happy weaning

Click here to see things to keep in mind while starting solids

Also do let me know in comments, how the first-food ceremonies are held in your culture?