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Updated: Jun 12, 2022

All the small babies around us have just one task, which is to eat, sleep, drink and repeat. They are just so cute that people don't even mind them doing just these things. For their considerable growth we all have to take proper care. So here this article tells you all about the weaning foods.

The term ‘weaning’ comes from the word ‘wemian’ which means to be accustomed. Weaning begins from the moment supplementary food is started and continues till the child is taken off the breast completely. Solid food added to an infant’s diet is called beikost. There is an increase in activity of enzymes at the time of weaning.

The ideal time to start introducing semi-solid food is when a baby is ready to sit up, swallow and eat and taste other foods, the baby’s stomach is ready to digest food and the baby has a good appetite and accepts food readily and there is more activity in the child.

Infants in our country thrive on breast milk alone up to milk alone up to six months of life and their growth rate during this period is satisfactory. After six months, increasing needs of calories and protein of growing children cannot be met by diminishing output of mother’s milk. Milk is also a poor source of vitamin C and supplementation with fruit juice is essential. Iron stores in the liver of the infant would last only upto 4-6 months. Hence iron-rich foods should be given at least from six months onwards. Milk is deficient in vitamin D.

If the baby is to maintain the expected rate of growth, remain healthy and well nourished, supplementary feeding has to be resorted around the 6th month. Investigations conducted at National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, suggest that early introduction of supplements before six months of age is not associated with any beneficial effect on an infant's growth. The supply of breast milk decreases because the baby suckles less frequently, less vigorously and less effectively at the breast. The baby runs the risk of recurrent infection which is likely to result in malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory infection. Shorter duration of lactation and shorter duration of lactational amenorrhoea can reduce the inter- pregnancy interval.

Introduction of weaning food too late can lead to undernutrition and increased diarrheal morbidity. The child may be unwilling to accept new food. Though Indian babies are given supplementary foods, either they are introduced very late or given an adult form of diet. The age of introduction of supplementation is 3-5 months in the urban elite and middle income group. The supplementation is delayed in urban poor by 7-9 months and rural poor by 9-11 months.

Bulky adult diet, when given to infants, usually does not meet the nutritional requirement, particularly calories. Nutrient density of weaning foods of western diet is 1.0 Kcal/g of food whereas in Asia, the nutrient density is 0.25 Kcal to 0.4Kcal/g. Hence calorie dense foods like malted food should be given to infants. Weaning food should provide at least 10 percent of the energy as protein.

According to a NNMB (2000-2001) survey, about 43 percent of mothers started complementary feeding such as milk or biscuits in addition to breast milk during 4-6 months of age.

There are certain points that has to be remembered while introducing weaning foods; Only one food at a time has to be introduced, allow the infant to become familiar with the food before trying to give another, give very small amounts of any new food at the beginning, for example, one teaspoon full or less; at first strained fruits, vegetables and cereals are given; fruit juice should be fed only by cup not by bottle, when the baby is able to chew; gradually substitute finely chopped fruits and vegetables usually at 8 to 9 months.

Variety in choice of foods is important; Infants may object to taking some foods by themselves but will take them willingly if one is mixed with another, eg., may be mixed with formula, cereal or vegetable. Vegetables may sometimes be made into soup with little milk until the baby becomes accustomed to the new flavor; if, after several trials, the baby has an acute dislike for a particular food, omit that item for a week or two and then try again.

If the dislike persists it is better to forget about the food for a while and substitute another. The mother or anyone feeding the infant must be careful to avoid showing in any way a dislike for a food which is being given.

Thanks Giving

This article is written and submitted to The E Today by Shrushti Mehta.

We thank her for her research and analysis and hope to see the awareness about health and nutrition being spread ahead to larger mass of our citizens.

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