Using complementary feeding means in addition to breastfeeding your baby, you are also giving the baby a variety of nutritional dense foods in proportion to his/her size to meet the baby’s nutritional needs. This is because during this period, breast milk is no longer enough to meet the baby’s nutritional requirement. The following will guide you on how best you can practice complimentary feeding
1. Continue frequent, on-demand breastfeeding until 2 year of age or beyond.
Mothers usually feel tempted to withdraw breast milk when the baby clocks 6 months but you don’t have to yield to the feeling, this is because breast milk can provide one half or more of your baby’s energy needs between 6 and 12 months of age, and one third of energy needs and other high quality nutrients between 12 and 24 months. Breast milk still has higher nutritional quality than any complementary food. So just like the name implies, complementary foods should complement breastfeeding when a baby clocks 6 months or has already double his/her birth weight.
2. Do not force your baby to eat a particular food
Know that it is normal for your baby to reject new foods. Acceptance is more likely as your baby becomes familiar with new foods through repeated opportunities to taste them. So learn to experiment with different food combinations, tastes, textures and methods of encouragement. Feed slowly and patiently. Turn feeding times to periods of learning and love by talking to your baby during feeding, with eye-to-eye contact. Also try and minimize distractions during meals so your baby can concentrate more on feeding.
3. Practice good hygiene and proper food handling.
Ensure safe preparation and storage of complementary foods to prevent contamination and reduce the risk of diarrhea. Also avoid the use of bottles with teats to feed liquids as this is more likely to result in transmission of infection than the use of cups. Your baby should have his/her own plate or bowl and spoon and these utensils need to be appropriate for the age of the baby (not too small or too big). All utensils, such as cups, bowls and spoons, used for an infant or young child’s food should be washed thoroughly after meal. When food cannot be refrigerated it should be eaten soon after it has been prepared (no more than 2 hours), before bacteria have time to multiply.
4. Give energy and nutrient dense food
When complementary food is introduced, your baby may breastfeed less often and his/her acceptance of breast milk may decrease, so make sure the complementary food is very nutritious and energy dense. The food should be thicker than breast milk so that it will give more energy and should be rich in all nutrients. A complementary food should be thick enough so that it stays on a spoon and does not drip off. Generally, foods that are thicker or more solid are more energy- and nutrient-dense than thin, watery foods. The food should provide sufficient energy, protein and micro nutrients to cover a child’s energy and nutrient needs, so that together with breast milk, they meet all his or her needs Don’t just give cereals and starchy foods, add fish and meat products, dairy or milk products, legumes and fruits and vegetables, this will help your baby get adequate nutrients from foods
5. Start with small amounts of food and gradually increase food consistency and variety as the infant grows older
Usually, a baby’s appetite will serves as a guide to the amount of food that should be offered. Start with 2-3 tablespoonfuls per feed/meal and increase gradually to half of 250ml cup as your baby’s appetite increases during 6 – 8 months, feed 2-3times per day and depending on your baby’s appetite 1-2 snacks may be offered. Foods that can be given are pureed or mashed foods like porridge, and mashed fish and egg with little or no pepper or semi-solids like pap, if pap is given, the pap should be thick and enriched.
6. Increase the thickness of food and the number of times that the child is fed complementary foods as the child gets older.
As your baby grows older, increase the thickness of food and number of times meals are offered. Between 9 – 11 months, your baby can conveniently take half of 250ml cup and can be fed 3 – 4 meals per day and at 12 months or 1 year, your baby can eat the same type of food that is consumed by the rest of the family and can take almost the whole of 250ml cup. Also, ensure to include 1 – 2 snacks that are nutritious as in between meals.
7. During illness, increase fluid intake during illness and breastfeed more
Your baby’s appetite for food may decrease during illness, while the desire to breastfeed increases, so breast milk may become the main source of both fluid and nutrients. Your baby may require extra assistance with feeding to ensure adequate intake and to enhance recovery. The need for fluid also increases during this period, so the baby should be offered and encouraged to take more. Food intake is usually better if the child is offered his or her favorite foods, and if the foods are soft and appetizing. You can also give small but frequent meal to enhance food intake. If the child’s appetite increases with recovery from an illness, then extra food should be offered
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