Children have the same nutritional needs like those of an adult. They need a balanced diet of Carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. For those from 0-6 months, breast milk is adequate as it provides these nutrients in the right proportions.
As a child reaches the age of 6 months, their nutritional needs increase and there is demand for a little bit more than breast milk, this is when we introduce complementary feeds, this is also known as weaning.
Complementary, meaning as an addition to, not to replace breast milk, which should ideally continue until the age of 2 years. These complementary feeds are to be introduced slowly, one food item at a time since the baby’s tummy is not used to digesting them.
A child is ready for weaning when they show these signs:
- Sit and hold their head steady
- Seem interested in your food, you notice they reach out to take it from you
- Keep putting things in the mouth, even non food items
- Have the swallow reflex when you put a small amount of food in their mouth
The introduction of solids to baby is a huge milestone; it lays foundation for food habits, good or bad, and creates room for variety or rejection of certain food.
There’s no scientifically approved way to introduce solids. Mostly it is recommended that we start with pureed foods that don’t have strong tastes, like cereals or roots or tubers with vegetables followed by fruits then legumes and meats. This is to be served without added sugar or salt. Remember the rule of the thumb is to introduce one food item at a time, small portions and observe for 3 days before adding another item. It means after 3 weeks, you can start mixing things up. In this way
|Week 1||Food item||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|Sweet potato-boiled with a little oil added||3 baby spoons||5 baby spoons||10 baby spoons|
|Avocado||3 baby spoons||5 baby spoons||10 baby spoons|
|Week 2||Green banana -boiled with a little oil added||3 baby spoons||5 baby spoons||10 baby spoons|
|Avocado and Mango||10 spoons||To when baby is full, about 150 ml of puree||Boiled sweet potato +spinach …150 ml|
|Week 3||Green banana + carrots||To when baby is full, about 150 ml of puree||Avocado + banana…150 ml||Irish potatoes + mchicha|
By week 4, baby is having 2 meals, a light one which can be pureed fruits and then a heavier one which includes a carbohydrate, vegetable and a legume.
By week 5 we can now start adding a small portion of meats such as chicken, minced beef or mutton, organ meats like liver. But these have to be introduced in small portions and still observe the 3 day rule, for example introduce only minced beef for the first 3 days and no other new meat…then observe for allergies.
A few things to abide by:
- Breast milk or formula remains the primary food for baby, the solids are served once or twice a day
- Baby does not have to finish all the food prepared, about 150 ml of puree is enough
- No added salt or sugar
- No sieving food even food, mash or blend and serve whole
- Add healthy oil to boiled foods
- Ensure you give variety of food items from the same food group
- Mix only 1 or 2 grains in the porridge, more than that becomes hard for baby to digest