A Mother’s Guide to Successful Complementary Feeding

Your baby’s transition from exclusive breastfeeding to complementary feeding is an important milestone in both you and your baby’s lives. The ideal time to begin this process is when your baby is six months old since at this point your baby’s digestive tract is well developed and can handle foods other than breast milk. However, care should be employed when you begin this process as it’s often at this point that under nutrition usually develops in children; not forgetting that this is the point you lay out the foundation for your baby’s future eating habits.

So what should you start with? At 6 months, your baby should start feeding on soft porridge and well mashed foods twice a day, giving 2-3 tablespoons per meal, and at least two bottles of milk each day. Remember to introduce one food at a time to gauge your baby’s reaction to different foods. You can also add a teaspoon of oil and some vegetables to the mashed foods. It’s important to think outside the box and mix it up a bit when it comes to the vegetables introducing items such as broccoli, cowpea’s leaves (kunde) or amaranthus (terere) as most mothers often stick to the basics such as spinach. Also, always remember to offer your baby clean water to quench their thirst after each meal.

At 7 to 8 months, increase the frequency of mashed foods to 3 times each day, giving about half a cup at each meal. At this point, you can introduce plant proteins such as green grams, lentils and beans. These plant proteins should be soaked prior to cooking to prevent flatulence (internal gas build up) and should be introduced one week at a time in the order they are listed. Ensure that you introduce beans last as it is often harder to digest and can cause constipation. Once your baby is able to eat the plant proteins without any reactions, it’s time to introduce animal proteins in the form of lean minced meat, chicken and fish.

At 9 to 11 months, introduce finely chopped or lightly mashed foods or finger foods (foods the baby can pick up) three times a day with one snack. Increase the quantity of food offered to three quarters of a cup at each meal. It’s at this point that you are advised to introduce eggs to your baby’s diet. You can also begin to season his/her food with a little salt and varied cooking methods can be employed.

At 12 to 24 months, you can begin to offer your child family foods in chopped or lightly mashed form. Increase the frequency of feeding to 3 times a day with two snacks, one between each meal. Also increase the quantity of food offered to around 1 cup at each meal.

At 24 months onwards, you can introduce Weetabix as a cereal option. It’s often adviced not to introduce this before 24 months as it is high in fiber which can make your baby think they are full even when they are not. It also has anti-nutrients which can prevent the effective absorption of minerals and nutrients such as calcium and zinc.

It’s important to bear in mind that:
• Breastfeeding should be done after meals are taken.
• Always wash your hands before preparing food and feeding your baby.
• Your baby’s feeding utensils should be used exclusively by your baby.
• Leftover food should not be stored to be offered later.
• You can continue to breastfeed until your baby is 2 years old or longer if you prefer.
• Vary foods offered to your baby to ensure a balanced diet and a good appetite.
• Should your baby react to any meal discontinue it immediately and try to reintroduce it when your baby is older.
• A standard cup is on average about 250ml.

In case of any concerns regarding your child’s feeding be sure to contact your nutritionist or pediatrician.

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