Introducing complementary foods to a baby may be a daunting task for most mothers but this does not have to be the case. This is an exciting time for your baby’s development and can be fun and eventful. There are a few things that can help ease the transition to complementary foods.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, followed by the introduction of Complementary Foods alongside breastfeeding. The WHO defines complementary foods as the process starting when breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants so that other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk.
When looking at the development of a healthy term baby, most babies will be ready for complementary foods between 4 and 6 months. Prolonging the introduction of complementary beyond 6 months may increase a baby’s risk of multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
For the prevention of allergies, the introduction of complementary foods should be at 57 weeks gestation i.e. When your baby is 17 weeks older than his/her initial due date. Introducing complementary foods before this time will increase your baby’s risk of allergies.
During this period the time you spend with your baby will help you in getting to know what your baby’s feeding cues are, like satiety. Babies start developing their taste preferences during this time but are born with innate preferences for sugar and salty tastes. Mothers can modify these preferences by offering a variety of foods including bitter vegetables. Try include different foods into your baby’s diet from the start progressing in texture from puree to soft so that your baby will eat family foods by 1 year of age.
A few other practical tips to help include:
- Avoid distractions during meal times such as television or cell phones
- Maintain a calm and pleasant attitude throughout the meal
- Limit meal duration e.g. 20 – 30 minutes per main meal
- Systematically introduce new foods (up to 8 – 15 times)
- Serve age-appropriate foods
- Encourage self-feeding
- Accept age-appropriate mess
- Make family meal times a priority.
Enjoy this time with your baby as it only happens once!
Alma van Niekerk
Registered Dietitian (SA)
26 April 2019