Semi-solids should be given when you have time and are not in a hurry. Your impatience is perceived at once by the baby and he too becomes finicky and difficult.
The baby will make a face and probably put out his tongue and spit out the food. This is natural because he is learning to swallow something other than milk and does not like it. It is really a matter of convenience and what the baby likes. Only remember that the baby will not want to eat a new food when he is no longer hungry.
On the other hand, he will not suck at the breast vigorously if he is not hungry. Giving semi-solids in between breast feeds may be most appropriate. If the baby is on a bottle-feed, then semi-solids can be given as part of the feed, either before of after the milk feed.
The baby may lap up one thing one week and not look at it the next week. He too can get bored with a food just like we all do. So you must be ingenious and give him something different.
All babies are different and just because your neighbour’s baby sits placidly while this mother pushes food into his mouth, there is no reason why your’s should or will do the same.
What food to introduce and when
As mentioned earlier, four to six months is the time to introduce semi-solids. It is just as well to remember that babies can be fed perfectly well with foods available at home or those which are easy and quick to cook. Suji makes very good kheer, roast a little in a saucepan (tawa), add some milk and sugar, and the kheer is ready. Ordinary wheatflour can be used in a similar way. Ground rice can be used to make phirni. Start with one or two teaspoons and gradually increase the amount till the baby is eating about half a cup.
After a few days, some fruit can be started at another time of the day. Mashed banana is an excellent food and most babies love it. Ripe mango, papaya or chikoo can be given in the same way. Apples and pears can be stewed and then given to the baby.
Many cereals are available in the market. They are convenient, do not need cooking, and hence save time. However, they are expensive, and certainly do not have any special advantage over home-cooked cereals. Do not make the cereal too thin or try to give it with a bottle. The cereal is to be eaten, not drunk.
Six to Eight Months
A variety of foods can be started, such as mashed vegetables, dal, khichri, egg, etc. start one at a time. All seasonal vegetables except those with a sharp taste like radish and turnip can be given. The vegetables should be boiled or steamed and then mashed in the water in which they have been cooked. The excess water should not be thrown away. A pinch of salt and a little butter improve the flavour and energy density. The vegetable puree should contain some green vegetables, beans, peas, etc. These are rich in iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B and C.
Well-cooked and mashed dals like masur, arhar and moong can also be given. Many mothers only give the water on top of the dal. That has no food value. The value is in the dal. Around this time you can start with egg, but if it is not customary for the family to eat it, the baby too can do without it.
Start giving the yolk of half-boiled or a full-boiled egg and gradually increase the quantity of yolk. The white portion can then be added. This precaution is taken because some babies are allergic to the white of egg. The egg can be given separately or added to the vegetables, dal or cereal. It can be cooked in any form which the baby likes.
If the baby develops a rash, or cries as if he has abdominal pain, or vomits or just turns pale, stop the egg at once. It is not a common occurrence but it is good to be on the lookout.
By this time the breast milk has become less or you may have discontinued it altogether. A cup of milk three to four times a day can be given along with solid food.
Eight to Ten Months
Several household foods can now be tried such as rice, dal, chapati softened in dal or gravy, curd, panir and south Indian foods like idli, dosa, upma, pongal, curd rice, etc. fruits like apple or apricot can be given without cooking. The food need no longer be mashed very fine; and the baby can be given the household food without chillies or spices. The child will want to eat by himself and you should encourage him to do so.
In their anxiety to see that the baby gets enough food, mothers insist on spoon-feeding the child rather than encouraging the baby’s own efforts. Later on, they may complain that the baby just does not feed himself. To begin with, it can be a joint effort by the baby and the mother. He will mess around of course and in the beginning the food will be more on his hair than in his mouth. But he has to learn and the sooner he starts, the better. A good bib (preferably long sleeved to protect the woollies in winter) is essential to prevent the clothes from being soiled.
Ten to Twelve Months
If you are a non-vegetarian, you can introduce fish or minced meat. By one year of age the baby is eating almost everything that is cooked in the house and no special cooking is necessary. Tomato skins and seeds as well as seeds of vegetables like bhindi, pumpkin, etc., can cause irritation and may be avoided if they tend to cause any digestive problems.