Breastfeeding has been shown to improve infant, child and maternal health outcomes. It also helps to regulate healthcare costs. But the question is how long should breast-feeding last and when should parents introduce solid foods?
Multiple health-focused organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the World Health Organization (WHO), recommends exclusive breastfeeding. It means that the infant should receive only breast milk during the first six months of life for optimal nutrition and other health benefits.
Once solid foods are introduced, health professionals recommend continuing breastfeeding through 12 months of age and post that, as desired by mother and baby. Introducing your baby to solid foods is an energizing milestone. When you start introducing children to the world of solid foods, you are helping them to shape their liaison with food and establish a healthy eating style. The timing for introducing solid foods depend on the infant, but it is not recommended before the age of atleast four months.
Each child’s inclination for solid foods depend on their own rate of development. Signs showing a baby is ready to start solid foods include sitting up with minimal support, demonstrating good head control or reaching for food off other family members' plates. Check with your pediatrician before starting solid foods.
Solid foods may be introduced in any order. However, puréed meats, poultry, beans and iron-fortified cereals are recommended as the first foods. It is
especially required if your baby has been primarily breastfed, since they provide key nutrients. Only one new single-ingredient food should be introduced at a time.
Softer consistencies are very important when first introducing foods. Infants usually start with pureed or mashed foods around six months. As infants develop chewing and motor skills, they can handle items like soft pieces of fruit and finger foods. As the child ages, a variety of healthful foods is encouraged.
When deciding if you should wean your baby to a bottle or a cup, consider their developmental readiness. Between 7 and 8 months, most infants will drink small amounts of liquid from a cup or a glass when someone else is holding it. Older babies and toddlers often have the coordination to drink fluids from a cup by themselves.
If your baby is under 12 months of age and you are not continuing to breast-feed, wean from breast milk to iron-fortified infant formula. If your baby is 12 months or older, whole cow’s milk is appropriate.