After passing the exclusive six month breastfeeding period, babies are required to start consuming complementary foods. What do you need to know about giving complementary foods?
Complementary foods are food intake in addition to exclusive breastfeeding which is started to be given to practice chewing skills of the newborn. After 6 months, babies can be introduced to complementary foods. Giving complementary foods must be adjusted with the specified schedule, and given in stages. Giving Complementary foods too fast or slow can cause health problems in infants. Another thing to note is that mothers are encouraged to continue giving breast milk to babies because complementary foods is a side food from exclusive breastfeeding.
After 6 months, children need complementary food since breast milk is considered not insufficient for energy and nutrition needs for children. Good parenting knowledge is needed about complementary breastfeeding because this phase needs the whole understanding of the amount, composition and time of giving. This is done for avoiding children to experience malnutrition which results in disruption of growth and development.
The process of learning to eat in children is not only to meet nutritional needs but also as a moment to practice healthy eating habits and skills. In the process of eating there is also an interaction between parents and children that can bring the bond of parents and children closer.
Why should complementary food be given when the baby after 6 months?
Giving complementary feeding is related to the nutritional needs, abilities, and readiness of the baby’s organs to receive and process additional food. Too fast or slow can have undesirable effects on a baby’s health.
The effect of giving complementary food too quickly:
- Motoric babies are not ready and completed, increasing the risk of choking.
- The baby’s digestive system is not ready, indigestion can appear.
- Giving complementary foods too quickly has a risk of having allergies, eczema, and obesity.
The effect of giving complementary foods is too slow:
- Having a risk of disruption in growth, because the nutritional intake of exclusive breastfeeding does not meet the daily needs of the baby.
- Rejection of complementary foods, the baby becomes picky eater because it is not accustomed to complementary foods
Here are several signs that babies are ready to get solid food?
Breastmilk complementary foods can be started given if the baby has shown signs of being ready to eat. Mostly normal babies show the signs of being ready to eat at 6 months of age. Here are several of the signs of the readiness baby to eat. They are:
- the head is upright,
- has been able to sit with help,
- reflexes sticking out the tongue is reduced,
- interested in seeing people eat,
- trying to reach for food, and
- opening mouth if given with spoons/food.
How to provide good breast milk complementary food?
At the beginning of giving complementary foods, start with soft food with a smooth consistency/filter (runny at the introductory stage) and then thickened gradually. A bowl of runny porridge contains fewer calories and nutrients than a bowl of thick porridge for the same volume. Food texture is increased gradually. After the filtered porridge, it can be raised into coarse unfiltered porridge, finger food, soft food with chopped side dishes, and finally daily food such as vegetable soup.
WHO recommendation for complementary feeding
- Given on time
Complementary feeding must be given when the baby’s needs cannot be met by breast milk alone. Solid foods need to be introduced at age 6‒9 months to reduce the risk of eating problems at the age of toddlers. Besides, delaying the stage of solid foods also turns out to be related to the emergence of allergic symptoms at the age of 5 years. The consistency of complementary feeding starts from pulverized foods such as fine porridge at the age of 6 months, followed by daily food with a soft texture like rice porridge at 12 months of age. Furthermore, after the age of 1 year, children can start eating daily food.
- The substance of energy, nutrition, and minerals in complementary feeding can fulfill the needs of babies related to stages. This second condition can be fulfilled by using fortified foods according to the age of the baby.
- Safe; complementary feeding is prepared and processed cleanly, free of nitrate, salt, and sugar in sufficient quantities and is limited.
- The right way to give complementary feeding. The correct way of giving it including the application of a meal schedule, eating without distraction and coercion, a combination of types of food, and utilization of meal times to strengthen relationships with babies.
After knowing how breast milk and complementary feeding should be given, don’t forget to keep controlling the growth and development of the baby. By using the growth chart, baby growth needs to be monitored every month until the age of 12 months. Furthermore, the child is examined for length and weight every 3 months until the age of 3 years. Development can be examined by observing the ability of the baby or child to interact socially, attitudes and behaviors including how babies or children play, and the ability to express verbal and non-verbal language.
The complementary feeding guide by WHO is quite important to be considered by mothers who have babies,
since these guidelines contain processes that should not be abandoned and put forward more about the readiness of the baby to digest food.
Some mothers have given complementary feeding to their babies under the age of 6 months. babies experience empty energy intake and nutrients that cannot be obtained only by consuming breast milk
also, it causes the risk of death since the digestion organs of babies are not ready to receive solid food intake.
It is necessary to know if a baby only 6 months has an immune system still at least different from a baby with over 6 months ages. That way the baby will be susceptible to getting sick if there are unwanted bacteria and viruses attacking the baby’s body.
Start by getting the baby to eat together at the dinner table, teach the baby to learn to eat alone. Complementary feeding is given just a little and increases gradually. Also, avoid foods with additional seasoning.
Prohibition of giving complementary feeding
When introducing complementary feeding, try to introduce one by one the kind food. It is known whether there is an allergy or not. Further, other foods can be added.
Besides, some foods that must be avoided are:
- Hard, round foods, such as popcorn, peanuts, or sweets, because they risk causing the baby to choke.
- Pure cow’s milk and honey. Consumption of cow’s milk can cause iron deficiency, whereas honey can cause botulism poisoning.
- Fruit juice. Fruit juice can be introduced if the child can drink from a glass, but it is not recommended if the child is under 6 months old. Consuming mashed fruit or fruit juice can cause diarrhea and cavities.
- Fast food and packaged foods for babies, because they contain preservatives or other additives.