Complementary feeding is the process of feeding foods other than mother’s milk for meeting his or her nutritional requirements. This process starts when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient for the infant, and hence other foods and liquids are needed.
But before starting complementary feeding for your baby, make sure you ask these questions to your paediatrician:
1. When Should I Start Complementary Feeding?
- If a child is exclusively breastfed, after 6 months.
- If a child is on formula or mixed feed, after 4 .5 months.
2. How Do I Know if My Baby is Ready for Complementary Feeding?
You know your baby is ready for solids, when he or she is:
- Able to sit up on your lap, and steadily hold their head up.
- Not pushing out their tongue as much, and instead becoming more accepting of food in their mouth.
- Reaching out for food when someone is eating nearby.
- Opening his or her mouth when you put a spoon near it.
3. How Should I Start Feeding Solids?
- Choose a time when the baby is happy.
- Provide a secured sitting or slightly reclined position, e.g. on the lap.
- Introduce a single food item at a time. One new food every 3 – 4 days.
- Make the food smooth and mushy by adding breastmilk or formula.
- Baby may only want a little at first. Give more as they get used to it.
- Babies take several tastes to accept new foods. Persevere, even if the baby rejects a food item at first. It can take at least 10 tastes for an infant to accept a food item.
- Continue to breast or formula feed on demand.
- Cooled boiled water can be offered from a cup with a spout or with a spoon after each meal.
4. What are Some Suitable First Foods?
- Cooked cereal mixed with breastmilk or water e.g. khichdi, ragi porridge, suji, oats porridge, etc.
- Vegetables – skins removed, cooked and finely mashed/sieved e.g. sweet potato, potato, pumpkin, carrot, zucchini, and peas.
- Fruit – skins and seeds removed, cooked if necessary, pureed and sieved e.g. steamed apple or steamed pear, raw banana, mashed chikoo.
- Meats – cooked, pureed and sieved e.g. fish, chicken.
5. How Much to Feed?
Make food smooth, pureed (use a blender, food processor, or sieve). Semi-liquid at first, then more paste like. Start with few teaspoons and build up to ½ to 1 cup.
- 6-8 months: 2-3 times/day
- 9-11 months: 3-4 times/day (1/2 cup of 250ml)
- 12-23 months: 3-4 times (1/4th to full cup of 250ml)
6. What are things to avoid while preparing food?
- Adding sugar, honey, salt or soy sauce to baby’s food.
- Giving foods that might make baby choke – nuts, hard raw vegetables, or fruit.
7. What about Trying New Food?
Offer each new food separately and offer for 3-4 days before introducing another new food. This allows any adverse reactions or intolerance to be identified. Once new foods have been introduced, mixed meals can be offered.
8. What to Give as Baby Grows
- Move from smooth food to foods with lumps and different textures. This will help baby to learn how to chew and talk well.
- By 9-12 months, fine motor control and pincer grip should have developed. Encourage your child to experiment with finger foods and self-feeding.
- Include baby at the table for family meals. Baby will watch you and the rest of the family. If you eat healthy food, baby will learn to eat healthy food too.
- By the time your child is one year old, they should be eating the same foods as the rest of the family. They should have at least 3 meals with 1-2 snacks in between.
- By 12 months full cream cow’s milk and whole egg may be introduced in your baby’s diet.
- Give small children plenty of time to eat. Let your child decide how much they want to eat.
- Offer milk or water after eating.
- Avoid sugary drinks and fruit juices.
9. Snacks That Can be Offered to the Baby
- Fresh fruit – apples, bananas, oranges or other seasonal fruits.
- Cooked carrot sticks or chopped cucumber.
- Cottage cheese
- Sandwiches (use brown bread).
- Boiled eggs
Remember that feeding times are periods of learning and love − talk to children during feeding, with eye to eye contact.
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