ONE of my most enjoyable times was when it was time to start weaning my daughter when she turned 6 months and was developmentally ready. This stage of feeding a baby is known as complementary feeding.

I had so much fun experimenting with making different first foods for her. Watching her eat and eventually learning how to feed herself was always such a delight. Those moments were truly priceless for me as a mum and as a practicing dietitian. It was at that moment that I truly learnt the importance of nutrition in nurturing my daughter’s growth and development.

Here are some tips I’d like to share with you to make cooking and feeding your baby fun and hassle-free.

FOCUS ON NUTRITION QUALITY
By the age of 6 months, baby will require a greater amount of calories, vitamins and minerals for continued growth and development. Breast milk alone will not be sufficient to provide all the important nutrients. That is why weaning is introduced to supplement continued breastfeeding by the time baby reaches this age.

Common every day local foods such as these are a wonderful source of key nutrients for baby.

IRON
Red meat (beef, lamb, mutton)

Eggs

Chicken

Ikan bilis (anchovies)

Dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kangkung, bittergourd, fern shoots

Whole grains

Iron-fortified cereals

Chickpeas


Anchovies on sale at Pasar Sentral Sibu. Pix by Nadim Bokhari.

CALCIUM
Ikan bilis

Tofu

Legumes

Tempeh

Spinach

Broccoli

Kai Lan

Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)

VITAMIN A
Eggs

Dairy products

Deep orange and yellow fruit and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, mangoes, papaya, etc

Sweet potato


Sweet potato is a good source vitamin A. Pix by Rasul Azli Samad.

VITAMIN D
Eggs

Dairy products

Sardines

Tuna

Cod fish

Salmon

PROTEIN
Red meat, poultry and fish

Beans

Lentils

Nuts

LIMIT ONE FOOD AT A TIME IN THE BEGINNING
When you’re starting to wean baby, start with a new food one at a time. This will help ease baby to get used to tasting something new, but more importantly, it allows you to detect potential foods that your baby may be allergic to. For example, start off with making a plain rice porridge puree as it is less associated with an allergic response.

Give this to baby for two to three days in a row. If there is no allergic reaction, start introducing another type of food only, such as pureed sweet potato for the next two to three days. Once you have established several single foods that cause no allergic problems, you can mix them together to expand baby’s taste buds.

START WITH SMALL SERVINGS
In the very beginning, just start with a small serving. Start with two to three teaspoons. As baby gets used to being fed, gradually increase the serving to three to four tablespoons per meal. Don’t get too fixated on forcing baby to finish a standard portion as that’s not a truly realistic expectation. Regular visits to your doctor to check on your baby’s growth progression is a good indicator on whether baby is getting sufficient nourishment.

APPROPRIATE TEXTURES
The texture of the foods you prepare should be appropriate for the baby at the stage of their physical ability to eat. Start off with smoother purees and strained juices. By about eight months onwards, baby can manage finely chopped foods, ultimately moving to coarser textures. Always note the individual ability and likes of your child. It’s not unusual for some babies to take to texture easier than others.

KEEP IT NATURAL
When cooking baby’s food, there’s no need to add additional salt or soya sauce as it can potentially lead to excessive sodium. It’s perfectly fine for baby food to taste bland. Keep it natural. But don’t hold back on using a touch of natural aromatics such as onion, garlic, herbs and spices to add interesting flavourful taste to baby’s meals. The more you expose baby to various flavours, the more they will learn how to expand their tastebuds.

AVOID DISTRACTIONS
Interact and give your undivided attention to baby during meal time. It’s becoming more common now to see parents propping baby up on a high chair in front of a screen — be it the TV or tablet. When baby is distracted, they are not going to be mindful of what they eat.

COOK AND STORE
It makes perfect sense for busy parents to cook more and freeze foods for baby’s weaning. Storing food won’t make it lose its nutrients or cause baby to have indigestion. That’s just an unfounded belief. Store purees of food in ice cube trays so that you can thaw out the portion you need. This is particularly helpful, especially in the early days of weaning when baby will not be eating much. Once you cook the food, allow it to cool and then store it straight away in the freezer.

ALLOW BABY TO SELF FEED WHEN THE TIME COMES
As baby grows into the appropriate age where they have the ability to self feed, by all means go ahead and let them. This is good to enhance their motor skills. Plus, it helps them make the connection with the eating process. Don’t worry about baby making a bit of a mess. It’s natural as they learn to self-feed. I used to spread out newspapers on the floor beneath my daughter’s high chair.

FOOD SAFETY AWARENESS
When handling food, also practise good hygiene to avoid contamination, which can be a potential food poisoning hazard for baby. Avoid contact of cooked food with raw meat or eggs, which harbour bacteria before they are cooked thoroughly.

Another thing to remember is not to keep any leftover of food baby was eating. Keep in mind that saliva on the spoon already has bacteria on it that can rapidly cause food to go bad in due time. Also, never leave cooked baby food at room temperature for more than two hours as bacteria will start to multiply by then. Always be diligent and store excess food in the refrigerator.


When you’re starting to wean your baby, do start with a new food one at a time. Pix from blog.asha.org

NUTRITION IN THE KITCHEN

SWEET POTATO AND SPINACH RICE PUREE
Suitable for 6 months onwards

Ingredients:

1 small yellow sweet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces

½ cup spinach leaves, washed well

1 cup cooked plain rice porridge

Method:

1- Steam sweet potato and spinach leaves till lightly cooked

2- In a large bowl, mix the steamed sweet potato, spinach leaves and cooked plain rice porridge and blend till it becomes a smooth puree.

Tip: For older babies, blend less for a more lumpy texture

MULTI GRAIN AND GARDEN VEGETABLE TOASTIES
Suitable for 12 months onwards

Ingredients:

50g cream cheese (softened)

¼ cup finely grated carrots

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2-3tbsp milk

Method:

1- Toast slices of whole grain bread and cut into cute shapes with a large cookie cutter or cut into thick long strips.

2- In a clean bowl, mix together the softened cream cheese, finely minced garlic, finely grated carrots and a little bit of milk.

3- Serve to baby as a dip and toasties finger foods.

Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at indra.balaratnam@gmail.com

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