Breast milk is THE best thing you can give to your little one. It gives your baby all the required vitamins, minerals, nutrients and much more. Especially, in the first 6 months when the baby is developing and growing at a rapid pace, breast milk is very crucial. But as your baby grows, her nutritional requirements also change and breast milk will not be able to fulfil them all. As per NCBI, breastmilk can fulfil around half or more of the child's nutrition and energy needs between 6 to 12 months of age, and only one-third of nutrition needs between 12 to 24 months.
This is where complementary feeding comes in place. It is defined as the process of including various solid foods along with breastmilk into your baby’s diet to make sure they receive optimum nutrition and energy. It occurs during the transition phase between exclusive breastfeeding and family-friendly foods i.e., 6 to 24 months of age. This period is called complementary feeding period because the foods introduced at this time complement an already existing breast milk-based diet.
WHO recommends introducing semi-solid or soft foods at the age of 6 months to ensure that the nutrients intake is sufficient for babies’ developing bodies. These foods should be diverse and nutrient-rich because this is the period where a lot of children develop nutrition deficiency. Apart from the types of food, things like the frequency of feeding, the way of preparing the food and the texture of the food should be taken care of too.
Frequency of feeding
In addition to breast milk, here’s how often you can feed your baby:
Between 6 to 8 months - You can start with feeding your baby 2 to 3 times a day.
Between 9 to 24 months - Feeding 3 to 4 times daily is recommended with the inclusion of nutritious snacks in between. (Reference - Rehydrate.org)
Texture of the food
By the age of 6 months, the digestive system of the baby is developed enough to digest the starch, protein and fats present in solid foods. Make sure you only give foods that are high in quality. Purees and mashes of fruits and veggies are advised because they are easier for your little one to swallow and digest.
Preparation of food
Foods should be prepared in a safe and hygienic manner by making sure no contamination of germs occurs. Things like washing your hands before and after handling the food, keeping the food preparation surfaces clean and wiping down food spills immediately goes a long way.
An important thing to note is that introduction of solid foods into your baby’s diet doesn’t signify the end of breastfeeding. Your baby might not take to solid foods immediately, so breast milk is still important during the initial years. It is actually recommended to breastfeed for as long as possible with the addition of nutrition-rich foods. But, after 6 months of age, baby needs more nutrition which the breast milk is not able to completely give. So, it becomes essential that the baby is given other nutritious food as well.
Note: This blog has been reviewed by Tinystep Medical Advisory Board
Disclaimer: All the information provided in the blog is for reference purposes only. Please do not consider this as a medical advice. Start Healthy Stay Healthy programme is for educational purposes only, in partnership with doctors. Always consult a doctor if you have any questions related to your own health or the health of your child.