What is the difference between feeding and overfeeding?
There is a concept called aggressive nutrition which is followed by a premature baby so that the baby can grow at par with the full term babies. But the downside of aggressive feeding is that the baby might put on excessive weight and become obese. As the catch-up growth rate for premature babies is higher and they tend to put on more weight, parents should opt for response feeding. Adequate gaps should be maintained between feeds.
Despite growth rate being satisfactory, some parents always feel that their babies are “thin”. Parents should not judge the growth rate by the looks of the baby. If the baby is active and maintaining a good growth according to the WHO charts then the child should not be overfed. Obesity has acquired epidemic proportions these days and babies suffering from obesity since early childhood are prone to hypertension and diabetes in later life.
What are the myths and facts related to food?
Fruits do take more time to digest, so if you are giving fruits with any cereal, the fruit will take longer to get digested and may cause some gas production. Hence, it is advisable to give fruit as a meal in itself. In India, we have a conception that some fruits are hot or cold, but that is a myth. Bananas are said to cause cold, but banana contains phosphorus that allows the baby to have a good motion. And though it is said that oranges or lemon should not be given during an episode of cold, they actually have Vitamin C and are beneficial during a cold episode. Fruits should be given based on the age of the baby. Initially, between 6 to 8 months, soft, mashed fruits should be given, and after 8 months the texture of the fruit should be chosen as per the teething occurrence. 9 months onwards the baby can be given crunchy fruits like cubes of apple, pear or mango.
When can the baby be started on non-vegetarian food?
Non-vegetarian food items can be started by 9 months of age. Initially, only the yolk of a boiled egg should be given as the white part takes longer to digest. Chicken and fish can be introduced from the age of 11 months and onwards. Though the latest American recommendation is that babies can be given high protein food items 6 months onwards, we do not recommend the same in India. Our advice is that between 6 to 8 months babies should be given only basic cereals and fruits, vegetables and non-vegetarian items should be introduced subsequently.
How should protein intake be maintained in a vegetarian family?
Chicken, fish, eggs are all sources of high protein. Vegetarian diet comprises of lentils, beans and other sources of protein. A baby will not be deprived of high protein by following a vegetarian diet.
How can food allergies be identified? If the baby is having the allergic reaction to any highly nutritive food item, what should be done to supplement that?
Vegetables and fruits do not cause allergic reactions. It is only when high protein food items are introduced to a baby’s diet that allergies can show up. Often, babies are found to be allergic to egg, a particular fish or some oils. The symptoms of the allergic reaction include loose motion, bloating of the stomach or rashes all over the body especially around the mouth and the anal area. If any or all of these symptoms is seen in the baby, the mother should discontinue any new food item that has been introduced to the baby’s diet and seek treatment for allergy. The item can be reintroduced after some time or avoided altogether. Sources of protein can be substituted by changing from one food group to another.
How should a fussy eater be handled?
Most of the babies accept food readily in the infant and the early infant stages but tend to be fussy eaters when it comes to accepting something new. The parents have to be patient and keep introducing the food several times for the baby to accept it. If the same food is introduced repeatedly with gaps in between, the child will accept it after initial resistance. Toddlers are quite fussy, so the parents have to make the food colourful and interesting by serving food in colourful plates and by decorating food with small pieces of fruits and vegetables to make it look attractive and appetizing.
What is the nutritive value of milk?
Milk has calcium and it is essential for growth and development of bones. After one year of age, apart from breastfeeding, cow’s milk should be given to a baby.
Though plain unsweetened milk is best for babies, milkshakes can also be given during snack time. Commercially available supplements can be added to milk and served during breakfast.
How should good food habits be inculcated in a child?
Feeding time should not be a punishment for the child and the parents should not encourage bribing the child to make him/her eat. The thumb rule is that feeding should happen in a friendly environment for the baby to develop responsiveness towards food. The child should be able to relate to what he or she is eating by making it visually appealing. Force-feeding has to be avoided and the adequate gap should be maintained between meals so that the child can feel hungry before settling down for the next meal. Proper hygiene has to be maintained at all times, beginning with how the food is prepared to how it is stored and fed to the child.
Does the appetite level differ from one baby to another?
Yes, it does and hence, the food requirement is also different from one baby to another. The physical appearance of a baby depends on the constitutional structure of the parents. A physically small or tiny baby does not, by default, mean that the baby is lacking in nutrition. If the growth rate is within the parameters defined in the WHO charts, and the baby is healthy and active otherwise, there is no cause for panic or alarm. If the baby has been feeding in smaller quantities all through, and there has been no sudden change in pattern, it just means that the appetite of the child is low and should not be a cause of concern. Parents should abstain from force-feeding a child with low appetite. If the child is a fussy eater, food should be given in smaller quantities at regular intervals. In case the child stubbornly refuses to accept a particular food item, parents should try feeding some other food item after a short interval. Rejected food item should be reintroduced sometime later. Adamancy on the part of the parents can make babies fussy. Variation in meals and patience in parents are two factors that help in generating responsiveness towards food in babies.