Introducing Solids - Comlimentary Feeding

When your baby is 6 months old, it is the time that solids should be gradually introduced in addition to breastfeeding. The food given should be nutritious, adequate and not contaminated. After the age of six months breastmilk alone cannot meet the needs of growing child.
The 6-11 month period is an especially vulnerable time because infants are just learning to eat and must be fed soft food frequently and patiently. Care must be taken to ensure that these foods complement rather than replace breastmilk. For older infants and toddlers, breastmilk continues to be an important source of energy, protein ,vitamin A and vitamin C .Therefore, breastfeeding should continue upto the age of 2 years with appropriate complementary feeding after 6 months.

Early or late age of introduction of complementary food
Giving complementary food too early or too late could lead to malnutrition and other problems.
If given too early the infant may not be ready to digest the food properly and it may also reduce intake of breastmilk thereby losing out on appropriate energy intake for its growth.
Early introduction of complementary food replaces breastmilk by food which is usually less nutritious.
It increases the risk of diarrhoea and other infections.
Introduction of complementary foods too late results in an inadequate intake of energy and protein leading to poor growth, and stunting as well as iron and other nutrient deficiencies.
Energy intake can be increased by continuing breastfeeding and increasing food portion size and feeding more frequently with more energy-dense food. The diet should include cereals, staple roots, fruits, vegetables and animal products etc.

Development of infant feeding abilities
By 6 months an infant can voluntarily control suckling and swallowing, and biting movements begin. The tendency to push solids out of mouth also decreases.
By the age of nine months a child can use the lips to clear a spoon and use the tongue to move food between the teeth. At this age solids can be chewed.
This implies that from about 6 months a child can eat soft and starchy foods such as cereals. By 9 months infants can be given mashed and chopped foods.
Taste, consistency , texture and types of complementary food are important in order to ensure that child accepts solid food.
A child's first food should be based on cereal like suji or fruit like banana, thicker than breastmilk, and should be bland in taste and mashed or strained to homogenize.
Consistency of food gradually needs to be changed from liquid to semisolid and then to solid with advancing age of the child.
Initially, a baby might spit out the food.That does not mean he does not like it.

Tips You Can Use for Introducing Solid Foods
1 Relax while feeding your baby.
2 Only one food should be introduced at a time.
3 Offer homemade local family food. Avoid spices and chillies.
4 Babies who are given family food are more likely to adopt to these later. It gives babies a psychological advantage if they are fed on family foods. There is no need to cook separately, the family food can be modified in consistency, taste, spices etc.
5 Commercially processed foods are seemingly convenient but are not better than homemade foods and they are costly as well.
6 Food should be served to your child on a separate plate or in a bowl. This will give you a fairly good idea of the quantity of food your child has eaten. It also encourages your child to learn to feed himself .
7 Variety should be introduced in your child's diet to make it more appealing.
8 Your child should never be forcefed. If the child dislikes a particular food, it should be removed from his diet for some time and re-introduced at a later stage or mixed with another food that the baby likes. If your child shows a persistent dislike for that food, it should not be forced upon. No food is indispensable and some other substitute can always be given.
9 If a food makes your baby sick or he turns pale, it should not be given, as he may be allergic to that food.
10 Your child needs active feeding i.e., you or caregivers should encourage the child to eat, by talking, playing, paying attention and showing interest, love and affection.

Type of Complementary Foods
Cereals: Rice, Wheat, Jawar and millets. They form an important source of energy, iron and protein and also supply a certain amount of fat.
A thick creamy porridge made from cereals in water/milk/milk water mixture can be used to feed your child. The porridge should be thick (too thick to be given through a bottle) and concentrated but soft. Some oil or fat (or sugar) is added to help swallow and digest. Care should be taken to ensure that the porridge is not watered down or made unduly thin which will further reduce the energy content.
Legumes: Lentils, Bengal gram, red gram, horse gram, moong dal, arhar rajma, lobia, etc. They are also a good source of Vitamins and minerals in addition to proteins. When eaten with cereal staples, they are just as nutritious as animal foods (meat, fish, milk) but are much cheaper.

Foods from animals like eggs, meat, and fish are all nutritious. They are rich sources of energy and provide high quality protein, vitamin B12 and iron and are easily digestible. Eggs should be initiated in a half boiled or full boiled and mashed form. Meat of all origins needs to be properly cooked, chopped very finely, pounded or mashed before it can be given to your child. However, socio-culture beliefs of vegetarianism and high cost limit their use.

Milk and Milk Products: All types of milk provide high quality protein . Milk is rich source of vitamins ,calcium but it is a poor source of iron . Animal milk products may be avoided during first year to reduce allergies, asthma especially in the families who have allergy and asthma. If your infant is recieving breastmilk ,he does not need extra milk give him other types of foods.

Oil or fat helps to increase the energy density of the food and helps in absorption and metabolism of Vitamin A. It can be used during initial cooking of the food or after it is ready, and helps in swallowing and digestion.

Sugar or jaggery (gur) is added to improve taste and to provide additional energy and minerals.

Vegetables & Fruits. Vegetables help to increase the vitamin (especially A, B and C) and minerals (especially iron) contents
of the complementary foods. The dark green or yellow vegetables are particularly good sources of vitamin A. Tubers and starchy roots like potato, sweet potato and colocasia (arbi) are rich in carbohydrates. These should be well cooked and properly mashed and are best given along with the cereals.

Fruits add to variety and taste. They can be given after mashing either alone or with cereals. The fruits like banana, mango, papaya, pear, plum, peaches are good sources of vitamin A and citrus fruits provide vitamin C besides minerals. But fruits contain no proteins and are not a good source of energy. A lot of money should not be spent on expensive fruits.

Commercially avaliable Complementary Foods
Commercially available complementary foods are convenient, but these are usually six to ten times more expensive than family foods. They do not have the variety of taste and textures, as home prepared foods and also interfere in the development of taste of home made food. Commercial food cannot compete with homemade foods or indigeneous foods in any aspect. Manufacturers of these foods mostly give misleading information about using their products when baby is 4 months old where as it should be six months.
Another major disadvantage of using commercial food is that almost all these products are milk based which is not very good to give babies during this period.
More important is the fact that your baby needs fresh foods, which other members of the family are eating. It will give higher satisfaction to your child as he is sharing the same food which others are eating.
Age related guidelines for complementary feeding
6-9 Months
¯ Continue breastfeeding and give semisolids after breastfeeding.
¯ Give home based food to your child. Mash all food.Give semi solid food.Do not over dilute.
¯ Gradually increase the amount of foods.
¯ Add a little vegetable oil for increasing energy density and green leafy vegetables for vitamins and iron.
¯ Feed 2 to 3 times in a day as your baby has a small stomach and will eat only small amounts at a time.

9 to 12 Months
¯ Continue breastfeeding.
¯ Give almost every thing cooked at home ( softened and without spices).Introduce chopped or pounded food.
¯ Gradually increase the quantity.
¯ Vegatables and seasonal fruits can be added. If you are non-vegetarian, fish and minced meat can also be added.

12 to 24 Months
¯ Continue breastfeeding.
¯ Besides variety, quantity of food is very important.Give roughly half the amount that you eat.
¯ Give about 50 gm green leafy vegetables to your child to avoid anaemia and vitamin A deficiency.
¯ Continue feeding even in case of any illness in the baby.
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