The happiest moment for any couple is the
birth of their newborn, and ensuring that their little packet of joy is well tended to
and nourished, becomes their priority. A healthy child is a god given gift, and to ensure
it grows up to be a healthy adult rests in the hands of the mother.
From the time a child is born, advices always keep pouring from the old and experienced, mothers and caregivers,
as to what should be ideally fed to the infant, when and in what frequency? In a traditional Indian scenario,
with grandmas around, inputs on the do's and don'ts for the baby, recipes of different traditional porridges
being doled out for the infant is a common scene.
On the other hand, is usually the doctors, who end up listing out their long list of baby foods. This excess
and sometimes contrary information ends up infusing conflict of thoughts in the mother. Is a labeled and defined
commercial food apt for my baby, or should I follow what the oldies and the experienced suggest?... becomes a big
question for the new mother!
Food is what provides us with all the essential nutrients to grow and develop, and in case of infant food, it
becomes a critical aspect to aid in his/her wholesome development. The contribution of baby food in the development
of the infant starts from the time of birth and continues for few years and hence appropriate selection of a
combination of feed which suit the baby becomes essential, as some which suit one may not be beneficial for the other.
With a host of baby food available and advertised in the market from cereals to health drinks and instant porridge
mixes, the onus lies on the mother to select the appropriate food, taking into account the ingredients and also the
time frame for the feed. Lets take a look at some of the common traditional baby feeds touted best and also the
MOTHER'S MILK VS BOTTLE FEED
For any newborn baby, mother's milk is the first food advised to be continued for upto an year, or in case of
working mothers for a period of atleast six months. Mother's milk is an elixir for the baby as it is replete
in fats, vitamins and other micro-nutrients which are very essential for growth. Also, studies have shown that
breastfed infants tend to have higher intelligence and develop a strong immune system, making them less likely
to fall ill. However, the contents of the breast milk an important role and directly reflects the diet of the mother.
A diet rich in organic food, with the right quantity of carbohydrate, legumes and oils is essential for the mother,
to ensure the breast milk also becomes highly nourishing. Commercial food loaded with sugar, preservatives and bad
fat should be avoided at all costs. Rich in saturated fats, mother's milk aids in development of bones and muscles
in the kid. Also, vitamins A and D aid in development of nervous system, hormone production, etc.
After an initial period of six months, wherein breastfeeding is a compulsion, bottle feed can be started. A
balance in both type of feeds can also be continued to ensure the baby is well tended to. Care should be taken
here that the milk procured is free from preservatives and is pasteurised. Also, the milk should be boiled
enough to make it absolutely safe for the baby. Avoid use of flavoured additives.
TRADITIONAL PORRIDGE VS COMMERCIAL CEREALS
Introducing the infant to solid or semi-solid food generally begins after a period of 6 months, along with
recommendations from the attending pediatrician. In Indian scenario, the ragi/nachni or finger millet porridge
is most commonly fed to the infant as early as 28 days after birth. Mixed with milk and a little sugar, it is
easily digestible and is rich in iron and other micronutrients, essential for the kid. At a later stage, mashed
porridge made from boiled toor dal (pigeon pea) or khichdi (preparation from rice and lentils) with mashed
carrots or beans can be inculcated in his/her diet. Fruit purees and home made yoghurt can also be included.
The market today is replete with commercial cereals and ready to make porridge mixes for the little one. There
are conflicting thoughts on the introduction of rice cereal to the infant. Though one school says, rice is easily
digestible for the infant, the other researchers vehemently oppose stating, amylase production begins fully only
after 28 months and hence rice in the early diet may be more harmful than beneficial if introduced. Analysing
the contents of the commercial food is hence essential. It should ideally be organic, free of added sugars
and harmful preservatives and if multigrain; the nutritional value is increased
OTHER TRIED AND TESTED TRADITIONAL FOODS
Egg yolk is generally recommended for babies usually more than 8 months old as it is rich in choline required for
development of brain and nervous tissues. Yolk from boiled eggs are generally mixed with a pinch of salt and fed.
Organic butter, yoghurt and milk are excellent probiotics, which aid growth of good bacteria in the baby's tummy.
Among fruits,mashed bananas are usually fed first, as it is naturally rich in amylase and hence will be easily
digested. After an year, soaked grains and nuts are gradually introduced as porridge to ensure a complete nutritious
diet plan is provided to the child.
MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
Now, the major important question still remains; when is the right time to start solid or semi-solid food? This
cannot be generalised and hence it is always better for the mother to look out for some signs in the child:
Babies are smart. When they are ready, they generally open their mouth and lean towards solid food. If not ready,
they generally push their tongue out when spooned.
Also, they are highly sensitive to taste and texture, and hence trying out a few flavours before setting on
what your baby loves is a must.
Ideally the baby should be able to sit and balance or should be balanced to avoid
Testing the baby's reaction to any new food given is a must. Signs of non-acceptance by the baby's system
include bloating, diarrhea, development of rash, chest congestion, etc. Hence, care should be taken while
selecting the appropriate feed.
While introducing egg yolk or even nuts and grains, care should be taken to
look out for symptoms of allergy in child, before inculcating it in the routine diet.
Thus, when it comes to the debate of traditional baby food vs the commercial, always remember "Natural is always
better and balanced". Most of the commercial products are processed
which rips off the essential health benefits and in most cases, ceases to be organic. So yes, traditional
food at least in the initial days of the baby works best and our grandmother's tips win hands down compared
to the cosmetic varieties. So give your baby a "Healthy natural feed, which is easy, cheap and works wonders
for your gift of joy"!