The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding until the sixth month of life. Mother’s milk contains all the nutrients babies need to contribute towards a baby’s healthy development. If breastfeeding is not always possible, there are good baby formulas available.
Around the sixth month babies will need more nutrients than can be obtained from breast milk or formula, so it’s time to introduce solids!
The way in which food is first introduced to the baby’s diet will contribute a lot towards the future adult’s food habits. It is important to feed the baby healthy food in a variety of flavours and colours (at the correct time). Be patient and never force a baby to eat. Parents’ correct attitude will help to build a healthy adult.
Initially all food must be blended. Vegetable soup is the best way to start. Don’t be surprised if more food ends up on the floor and on the walls rather than in the baby’s mouth. Once they discover their hands, allowing the baby to feel the food is very important as touch is part of the baby’s development.
In the beginning it is also normal for the baby to reject solid food. If you aren’t successful the first time, try introducing a small portion of solids on another day.
At six months old
Possible ingredients for a vegetables soup:
■ Sweet potato
■ lettuce leaf
Salt should not be added. Once cooked, a small quantity of extra virgin olive oil should be added.
At the end of the main meal, feed the baby blended fruit which can be raw, cooked or baked.
Ripe avocado with banana and apple (blend and serve immediately):
■ ¼ ripe avocado
■ ¼ banana
■ ¼ raw peeled apple
Benefits: Avocados are a good source of energy, are rich in monounsaturated fats, folic acid, zinc and vitamin E, which help to keep babies’ immune system and skin healthy.
At six months, blended cereals can also be introduced. Breast milk can be added.
The baby can also be fed homemade porridge. E.g.: Cook 3-4 tablespoons corn flour in 200ml water, add one pear and blend.
When gluten is introduced, delicious oat porridge can be a good option. Cook oats in water. Once cooked, add banana and blend.
If possible, especially at the beginning, use organic food. These are grown without synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, so you can limit the baby’s exposure to these substances.
Avoid frequent use of commercial baby food. These may contain sugar or additives and may lead to delayed chewing and poor acceptance of new tastes and textures. Keep these for emergencies or when travelling.
Chicken or turkey meat followed by fish can then be introduced, cooked separately, added to vegetable soup and blended.
At nine months old
Around the ninth month, mashed food can be slowly introduced. Mash food lightly until the baby is able to eat small pieces of food.
New flavours and ingredients can be introduced (pulses, egg yolk). This is the correct time to give the baby a piece of bread or fruit (e.g: melon), so he/she has the opportunity to feel the texture and start trying to eat on his own.
Stewed chicken with beans: 1 portion
■ 30g chicken breast (seasoned with a squeeze of lemon)
■ ¼ small onion (chopped)
■ ½ tomato
■ 1 broccoli stalk
■ 3 tablespoons plain-cooked beans
■ 5ml olive oil
■ 1 dessert spoon chopped parsley
Cook the chicken together with the chopped onion in a little water, no salt. Add tomato and broccoli and cooked beans. Once all ingredients are cooked, add the parsley and cook for an additional two minutes. Add olive oil and lightly blend to the correct consistence for your baby.
Benefits: beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and fibres which help digestion.
Enjoy your healthy baby!
By Marina Augusto Estevão
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Marina Augusto Estevão is a dietician at the Hospital Particular do Algarve Group