PARENTING

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FEEDING YOUR CHILD

Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and yet it’s also a source of worry for most parents. What should children eat? Can I afford to give it to them? Will they eat it?
The next few pages will give you some basic guidelines on how to get your baby through the stage of weaning and on to family foods.
 


STARTING SOLIDS

When to start
For the first four months babies can’t properly digest any foods other than breast or formula milk. Some foods, in particular wheat (which is found in several baby cereals), may cause problems well into the future.
Most babies are ready to start solids when they are about four months old. (Babies who were born prematurely will be ready at different times. Ask your GP or health visitor for advice about what is best for your baby.) It’s wise to introduce some solids by the time your baby is six months old, as he or she now needs more iron and nutrients than milk alone can provide. Increase solid foods gradually so that between six and twelve months these become the main part of the diet, with breast or formula milk to drink alongside. If weaning is delayed after six months, some babies also have difficulties in eating foods with lumps and will only accept purées.

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Babies are usually ready to start on solid food between four and six months. Talk to your health visitor for advice, especially if your baby was premature. Try giving solids when your baby:
· Is still hungry after finishing a good milk feed and you’ve tried giving more milk.
· Starts to demand feeds more often.
· After sleeping through the night, starts waking again to be fed.
Go on breastfeeding, alongside giving ‘solid’ food, for as long as you and your baby want.
Hints for successful weaning
The idea of weaning is to introduce your baby gradually to a wide range of non-milk foods so that by the age of one your baby will be joining in family meals. All babies are different. Some start solid food earlier, some later. Some take to it quickly, some take longer. Some are choosy, others like anything and everything.
· Go at your baby’s pace. Allow plenty of time for feeding, particularly at first. Until now your baby has only known food that comes in a continuous flow from nipple or teat. Your baby needs to learn to move solid food from the front of the tongue to the back in order to swallow it. The food tastes and feels different – it’s bound to take time.
· Make sure everything you use for feeding your baby is really clean. Spoon out the amount you think your baby will eat and heat this, rather than heating a large amount that then goes to waste. You can always heat up more if it is needed. Heat food really thoroughly and allow it to cool, stir well and test before offering it to your baby. Throw away any food your baby hasn’t eaten, as it is not safe to reheat previously warmed food. Don’t refreeze warmed food if it isn’t used.
· Your baby may be happy to eat food that hasn’t been heated.
· Cover the floor with newspaper and use a bib to catch food spills – weaning can be a messy business!
· Always stay nearby when your baby is eating to make sure he or she doesn’t choke.
· Do not rush or ‘force feed’. Most babies know when they’ve had enough to eat. Don't spend a lot of time persuading your baby to take food – they soon learn that refusing food is a good way of getting attention, or of getting a sugary pudding instead of a savoury first course. Of course it’s right to give attention, chat and enjoy meals together, but when food is refused, it might be best to call an end to the meal.
· Choose a time of day when you are both relaxed.
· When your baby shows an interest in feeding him or herself, this is a good sign. Encourage this by giving your baby one spoon, whilst you try to spoon in most of the meal with another. It will be messy at first, but try not to worry about it.
· In the end you want your baby to be eating a variety of ordinary foods and adapt to your pattern of eating – say three meals a day with a drink at each meal and two or three additional snacks. Offering a wide variety of foods now may help avoid choosiness later on.
· Use mashed-up family food when you can – you know what the ingredients are and it will get your baby used to eating what you eat. (Commercial baby foods can be useful but don’t let them replace family foods altogether.)

How will I know my baby is ready?

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