The best food for the newborn baby is mother's milk. Breast milk is free from contamination and adulteration and supplies nutrients in almost correct amounts and propositions needed by the infants. It also provides an opportunity for close contact and emotional satisfaction of both mother and child. Breast milk contains immunoglobulins (protective proteins) that protect the child to some extent against infections.
Some mothers practice giving boiled water, fruit juices or glucose water, which is not essential. With breast milk there are less serious illness and allergies. Babies who were breast-fed have lesser chance of developing asthma in later life. The infant of less than 34 weeks has poor sucking and swallowing reflexes. In such cases expressed breast milk can be given.
During the first 3 months the mothers diet should be given great importance. She must have a well balanced diet. Major handicap of breast milk is deficiency of iron. Till three months of age iron store in the baby is sufficient for the requirement. After three months iron has to be supplemented.
Food for 3 - 6 months
Nutritional supplementation starts during this period .The infants diet pattern is gradually changed from exclusive breast milk to breast milk with cooked solid foods. One can start supplementation with cereal foods provided the food is cooked soft and mashed to a thin consistency.
The new foods should be first introduced at lunchtime and extended gradually to other meals. When you start any food item give for at least one week, preferably two weeks before starting any another food item. Initially there may be mild indigestion.
Ragi powder, suji, and raw plantain powder can be cooked in milk with sugar and can be given. Make sure not to feed these in bottles, which will delay the child to eat the solid food and have more chances to develop lose motion. Rice can be cooked soft and mixed with curd and can be given. When child gets used to this, khichdi (rice and moong dhal) can be given. Soups and strained vegetables and fruits may be gradually introduced during the supplementation period. The fruits and vegetables will correct the deficiency of iron in breast milk. Fruit must be fully ripe.
The well nourished infant doubles his birth weight by 5 months of age.
Food for 6 - 12 months
At 6 months of age the babies start liking the solid food and probably would have started eating cereal and a variety of fruits and vegetables. By this time babies want to play with food and eat by them self. This must be encouraged.
First teeth of the baby erupt during this period. They will have irritation of gums and will like to put anything which they can get hold in their mouth. This will lead to higher incidence of lose motion during this period. To minimize this, a toast or biscuit can be given to the baby to suck at it and chew at it with their bare gums.
The child can be given boiled and mashed potato plain or mashed with the addition of a little salt and lemon juice. Other vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, pumpkin, and spinach can also be mashed and given with minimal spices. Idli,dhokla, chapathi soaked in milk can be given. Eggs can be given during this period. Weekly 3 - 4 eggs are sufficient.
By 9 -10 months, you can start giving fish, chicken, liver and meat. It should be cooked very soft and mash the pieces with your fingers to be sure there are no bones. Milk intake will go down with the introduction of solid foods. As long as the baby takes at least 500 ml of milk and is active and gains weight satisfactorily there is nothing to worry.
The rate of weight gain reduces during this time comparing to first six months. Baby reaches thrice the birth weight by end of one year. Children who are brought up on a variety of foods are healthier than those brought up just on milk, biscuits and fruit juices. A mixed balanced diet will also protect the body from deficiency diseases eventually the diet can be brought in line with the dietary habits and taste of the family.