Until the age of 6 months, breastfeeding is the only food your baby consumes, and the best source of nutrition for an infant. It has the perfect blend of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to support the growth needs of an infant.
However, due to the rapid growth that occurs during the early years, your baby’s nutritional needs increase significantly after the age of 6 months, and breast milk alone is insufficient. This is also the age to introduce solid foods to your little one, by gradually giving them an experience of different tastes and textures.
The Transition to Solid Foods
Complementary feeding is the transition to solid foods, when breast milk alone cannot meet the nutritional needs. It can start around the age of 6 months, alongside breastfeeding, which can be continued until your baby is at least 2 years old.
The WHO recommends complementary feeding only after the 6 month mark, whereas the ESPGHAN (European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition) recommends that it can begin around the 4th month.
Always introduce solid foods alongside breastfeeding as breast milk can act as a buffer, protecting against food allergies to new food.
When Should You Introduce Complementary Foods?
Until the age of 6 months, it is sufficient if you exclusively breastfeed. Introducing complementary foods very early can lead to failure of breastfeeding, a decrease in breastfeeding habits, increased risk of obesity and developmental immaturities, and susceptibility to infections.
Starting complementary feeding too late can lead to nutritional deficiencies and undernutrition, which are common during this age. It can also make it difficult to wean your baby as they may not learn to accept new foods soon enough.
Appropriate Complementary Feeding
It is necessary to choose nutrient-dense foods such as fortified cereals, which fulfil the increasing nutrient needs. Your baby’s stomach is small, so nutrient-dense foods help you feed small quantities for optimal nutrition and keep your little one safe and healthy.
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.