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When is the right time to introduce solid food?

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th August 2010 03:00 AM

CHARITY Businge, a first-time mother, is at crossroads. Her four-month-old baby has developed such a huge appetite that breast milk is no longer sufficient. She is wondering whether this is the right time to introduce solid foods.

CHARITY Businge, a first-time mother, is at crossroads. Her four-month-old baby has developed such a huge appetite that breast milk is no longer sufficient. She is wondering whether this is the right time to introduce solid foods.

By Agnes Kyotalengerire

CHARITY Businge, a first-time mother, is at crossroads. Her four-month-old baby has developed such a huge appetite that breast milk is no longer sufficient. She is wondering whether this is the right time to introduce solid foods.

Esther Babirekere, a paediatrician at Mwanamugimu Nutritional Unit, Mulago Hospital, says breast milk should be a baby’s main source of nutrition until six months. Introducing solid food before six months has risks because at that time, a baby’s digestion and metabolism is not yet ready to cope with anything other than milk.

At around six months, the iron stored in the baby’s liver begins to run out and the small amount present in the milk becomes insufficient. Babirekere says at this point, foods rich in iron become a necessity. “It becomes difficult for the mother to satisfy a baby on milk alone.

Tamara Nyombi, a nutritionist, says at about six months, babies start to chew and can easily cope with the soft texture of food, even before they get teeth. She discourages mothers from introducing too many foods at once when the baby has just begun the adventure into solid food. They could end up rejecting everything.

Nyombi recommends starting a baby on smooth foods, for example a teaspoon of grain or cereal with milk. Others are millet, maize flour or soy porridge mixed with milk and fruits like bananas, pawpaws and vegetables because they are easily digested.

Babirekere says a mother can add soft food like potatoes, matooke and pumpkin in fish, meat, groundnuts or beans soup. However, she warns against adding too much salt or sugar as these can cause dehydration, or a sweet tooth, respectively and trigger complications. Fruit juice can also be incorporated into a baby’s diet but citrus fruits like oranges should not be given because they are acidic unless diluted.

Nyombi says midday is the best time of the day to introduce solid food. “Most babies respond best after they have fed — when relaxed and calm. Nyombi advises others to give a baby one new food at a time and wait at least two to three days before another is introduced.

This gives a baby a chance to get used to a new flavour, at the same time allowing a mother the opportunity to identify allergic reactions such as wheezing, stomach upset and diarrhoea.

However, she says mothers should not be surprised in case of change in a child’s bowel actions. This is bound to happen after mixed feeding begins.

Nyombi says a mother should give little quantities of eggs and fish in the first year because of allergic reactions, though there is no evidence that introducing these foods after six months determines whether your baby will be allergic to them or not.

Finger foods
Milberg Kisembo, a nutritionist says: “At about eight months, babies love to feed themselves.” As soon as a baby begins to put things in the mouth, you can introduce foods which it can hold and chew.

When is the right time to introduce solid food?

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