Babies are traditionally weaned off their mother’s milk at 6 months of age, though we know that ideally breastfeeding should continue until the child is 2 years old. At 6 months old, a baby can be introduced to other foods such as food mashed with a fork, blended into purees, and juices and soups, in addition to a mother’s milk. This is called “complementary feeding.”
For complementary feeding to be successful and for you to enjoy this stage in your child’s life to the fullest, the MyDiet TM team recommends the following:
- Offer your baby a variety of foods. Accustom your child to eating fruits, vegetables, meats, and cereals beginning at 6 months of age. Though still very young, your baby is forming habits and getting used to the taste of different foods.
- Introduce new foods one at a time to check your child’s tolerance for new foods and to find out if there are any allergic reactions. If your baby rejects a food the first time it is introduced, give it to him/her prepared a different way the next time.
- Maintain strict hygiene standards at all times. Keep your baby’s hands and feeding utensils clean. Store and prepare food hygienically. Wash all food in filtered or boiled water before cooking. Make sure food is fully cooked and refrigerate any leftover food.
- Watch your child. Although they can’t speak yet, babies’ gestures can tell us a great deal. Watch your child closely when he’s eating and respect any sign that he doesn’t want any more. Children have a small stomach and fill up more quickly than adults do.
- Children under 2 years of age have very small stomachs. It is better to give kids 3 small meals and 2 or 3 snacks a day rather than trying to give them a few large meals.
- Make mealtimes a relaxed time. Establish the right atmosphere at mealtimes. Make sure there are no distractions. Your child might take a long time to eat. Be patient.
- Modify the consistency of your baby’s food gradually. When you’re introducing your baby to new foods, prepare them in ways that are easy to eat. Start with semi-solid foods, such as cereals and purees. Move on to things your baby can hold with his/her own hands (such as cookies or crackers). Then give him solid food cut into small pieces that he can chew and swallow easily.
- Seek professional guidance if you have any doubts. Nutritionists and pediatricians can give you advice on how to best feed your baby. Don’t hesitate to consult them if you have any concerns.
Complementary feeding allows you to gradually learn your baby’s needs and how to interpret his/her reactions. Assess your baby's tolerance for each new food he/she tries, and continue to introduce new foods as possible.
If you can accomplish this, you can be assured that you are helping your child form good eating habits from the start.
*Nutritionist from the MyDiet™ Team, President of the Venezuelan Society of Nutritional Education
© 2016 HolaDoctor