Starting your baby on solids: Getting it right
The doctor told her that Aahan was suffering from anaemia due to the deficiency of iron. Nishita could not understand how this had come to be. It was distressing and made her think that she had failed her duty as a mother. Despite taking care while feeding her kid and notwithstanding the fact that she had tried to take into account all possible factors that could have affected his transition from breast milk to solid food, something had gone wrong somewhere.
`For a mother who wants to introduce solid foods, the choices are not always easy to make. However doing it with lots of attention can ease the transition. Breastfeeding is the ideal feeding practice but as a mother looks to introduce her child to solid foods after the age of six months there is a chance that nutritional deficiencies like iron deficiency may develop. The prevention of deficiencies in infants and toddlers hinges on healthy feeding practices. Therefore a lot of factors have to be taken into account while planning a dietary regimen for children` says Dr. Anjan Bhattacharya, Pediatrician, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata.
The underlying problem
Nishita`s experience mirrors the experiences of a large number of Indian mothers. An incomplete understanding of the growing nutritional needs of a baby six months onwards contributes significantly to the development of nutrient deficiencies. It has been observed that from six months on, babies do not get sufficient amounts of various nutrients like iron, protein, zinc, vitamins and calcium from mother`s milk alone.
`When the doctor told me that Aahan had Iron deficiency anaemia, I was really scared. He said it was probably because he was not getting enough nutrients in his diet. That set me thinking and I started poring over books trying to understand what I could possibly do to salvage the situation. I found out that my understanding of the nutritional needs of my baby had been woefully inadequate. I knew next to nothing about the importance of complementary foods. For me starting my baby on solids had just been a random process. Well! Thanks to my new-found wisdom that has changed now. Aahan`s iron deficiency has been taken care of and he is healthy`, says a beaming Nishita.
If you are a mother and your baby is approaching 6 months of age you need to start thinking. Six months on, the nutritional needs of your baby are huge and you need to ensure that your baby gets optimal amounts of nutrient rich foods. You may also want to consider the fact that at 6 months of age (and for quite sometime after that) baby stomachs are of the size of their fists i.e. quite small and it is not possible for them to consume large quantities of food. Therefore it becomes important to provide them a nutrient dense diet i.e. a diet that ensures optimal nutrition even in small quantities.