Complementary feeding

What is complementary feeding?

The first year of life is the period of rapid growth . Infants at this stage require energy and nutrients in order to grow well. Complementary feeding often called weaning is the gradual introduction of solid food to infants at the age of six months. World health organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months of age. Breastfeeding is essential for newborn as they are enriched with all the nutrients needed by the baby, also they contains essential antibodies which helps children to fight from infections like diarrhoea, respiratory illnesses and ear infection. It is important to start complementary feeding along with breastfeeding or formula feeding after six months because the milk alone is unable to provide all the nutrients needed for growing infants.

Stages of weaning

Babies are ready for weaning when their digestive system is strong enough to digest complementary foods. Early weaning to children may lead to obesity, kidney or liver diseases and other physiological disorders. However many parents wants to start weaning earlier , and for it four months is earliest age to start solids. There are three different stages of complementary feeding or weaning.

First stage (6 months)

The first stage starts when the babies are introduced new foods along with breastfeeding usually around six months . Infant is ready to wean when they are able to sit with support and start chewing movements. It is always essential to start weaning once a day and after a week or two gradually offer them twice . At this age the main source of energy is still the breast milk or formula milk. At first infant cereal should be introduced followed by home prepared and strained foods. It is important to introduce only one food at a time in order to identify any allergies or intolerance to particular foods. Introducing vegetables before fruits increase infant acceptance to strong flavour and prevent tooth decay.

Examples of first stage foods

  • Commercially available baby rice or homemade mashed rice and cereals
  • Mashed , well cooked potatoes
  • Mashed and steamed vegetables
  • Soft fruits , banana for example

Second stage (9-12 months)

At this stage the rotary chewing develops in infants and they are willing to accept more textured foods. The children at this stage are also learning to grasp things and taking them towards mouth. This indicates their readiness to accept finger foods.

Examples of second stage foods

  • Mashed pasta, vegetables and fruits with small lumps.
  • Well cooked chopped meals with rice or cereals.
  • Oven dried toasts, cheese sticks
  • Bite size vegetables
  • Soft diced fruits such as banana and peaches
  • Tapioca

Third stage (12 months and onwards)

At the end of first year, babies are able to hold the bottle or cup and try to take them to their mouth. They begin to self feed from a cup or bottle as they are able to rotate their wrist and raise elbow. Also because of the increased jaw movement they are able to chew foods. At this age it is essential to introduce chopped family foods to children and reduce milk feed to 1-2 feeds per day.

Examples of third stage foods

  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Chopped fibrous meat
  • Cooked cereals
  • Cottage cheese and yogurt.

Foods to avoid

  • Salt: Babies should not consume more than 1 gram of salt per day.
  • Sugar : Avoid adding sugar in foods and juices in order to prevent tooth decay
  • Nuts : Nuts an cause choking in young infants and can cause allergy in young infants. Gradually introduce nuts in ground form after one year.
  • Honey: It contains bacteria which can lead to infant botulism

Directions for infants food preparation

  • Use fresh fruits, vegetables or meats.
  • Wash your hands and utensils before cooking.
  • Cook food thoroughly in as little water as possible to avoid nutrients loss.
  • Do not add salt or sugar for foods intended for infants less than 1 year old
  • Add enough water for food to be easily pureed.
  • For children less than 10 months use formula or breast milk in cereals.

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