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Baby Food

An Introduction
Consuming food is not just a physical act but it is also laden with a wealth of social meanings and history behind it. What is consumed by the rich or poor, young or old is regulated by society. Baby food refers to food given either as soft food or infant formula for children up to the age of two years. The food may refer to items that comes in various forms and tastes or may just be simply ordinary table food in a mashed form. The principle behind the use of the term of baby food is that it is easy to chew and ideal for babies who lack teeth and the experience of chewing. Baby food is charachterized by a high liquid consistency, softness in taste and ease in chewing. Today, many brands are involved in the segment of baby food yet mother's breast milk is considered the best and natural nourishment for the child.


A Short History of Baby Food
In different parts of the world, children are generally given a mixture of grains and liquid in a suitable combination. Earlier, infant food was generally prepared at home. Recipes for feeding children were grouped with invalid cookery as they are both considered easy to chew and highly nutritious. The commercial sale of baby foods has been said to commence from the era of the European Industrial Revolution. Formulas invented by scientists/nutrition experts were utilized in manufacturing baby foods. In Europe and America, commercial baby food became popular including precooked baby food. Criticism has been made as to the true nutritional value of the foods and their high costs. Demand for organic baby food cropped up in the 1970s and since

then, many companies have been manufacturing baby food. Frozen baby foods are also another area of demand but not many brands are supplying this form of baby food.

In different cultures, there are variations in food given to babies. While bland cereals are given to babies in the USA, in Japan, babies are given a rice porridge called okayu. Mashed fruits are given to young children in Sweden. Porridge is a nutritious food given to children and maize porridge is given to children in Africa. In many traditional cultures, especially in Asia, the first food given to children is considered as an auspicious occasion and is marked by celebrations. Annaprashan is a Hindu festival where the child is fed a special sweet dish.

Dry, ready-to-feed and frozen foods are the three different available types of baby food. Dry baby food could include rice or oatmeals, are mixed with a liquids like water or milk and fed to the child in

small portions throughout the day. An untapped market, frozen products are prepared by cooking and then freezing the foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen baby food is heat processed and prepared by lowering the cooking pattern temperatures by storing the product in a frozen than in a traditional form. it is considered a healthier form of food.

Stages of Feeding
As infants, the baby is fed on breast milk or formula as he does not have the ability to digest complex foods. Ideally, the child should be given foods with high liquid content or plain breast milk. Breast feeding is considered the best source of food for the baby as it reduces the risk of infections, reduces diarrhea and the risk of SIDS (sudden-infant death syndrome), and helps to protect against allergies, diabetes, and even obesity. With increased appetite, the baby will want to shifts to newer types of foods. Teeth is not required to shift to eating solid foods and foods which are difficult to chew should not be given such as hard candy and popcorn. At first, the baby should be fed simple foods and choking hazards should be watched for in all foods given. According to the WHO/UNICEF guidelines, from the age of six months solid food can be given to the baby. As the

baby's kidneys are not well formed at this stage, salt should not be included in the diet.

Foods given should be small in size as the baby lacks the back molars which is used to grind the food though they can easily bite off pieces of foods. The various foods should be slowly introduced one at each time and any type of allergies or negative reactions should be noted. Solid food can be given to the baby when he shows a visible readiness to eat ordinary food and share with the rest of the family. At nine months of age, the babies can learn to feed itself. Homemade foods are the best choices for a baby as the breast milk consumed by the child would have the small flavors as the foods eaten by the mother. Homemade baby food is easy to prepare, cheaper and will not contain any additives. A range of foods can be given to the child and the parent can directly ensure that the best ingredients are used. Fruits that can be given to the child include apples, bananas, custard apples, chikus, mangos, pears, plums,etc and vegetables to be provided include beet roots, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, French beans, green peas, lady's fingers, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, etc.