Complementary feeding is the process of giving your child foods in addition to breast milk. Breast milk is all that your baby needs to fulfil his nutritional requirements for the first 6 months of life. Beyond this the baby needs something in addition to bridge the gap between what breast milk can exclusively provide and what your growing baby actually needs. This is a very critical period during child growth and if not handled appropriately results in poor weight gain, malnutrition,stunting ,growth retardation, vitamin deficiencies and leads to fussy and picky eaters later in life. Poor nutrition makes child susceptible to lot of childhood infections and illnesses.
Initiation of complementary feeding is a gradual process requiring knowledge as well as patience. It starts with cultural ceremonies like anna-prashan but parents are totally at loss about what comes next??
By the ages of six months, the child’s digestive system gears up for different kinds of food other than breast milk. It also changes immunologically so that the body is prepared to receive and fight foreign substances. This is when your child is ready for soft and mashed foods like rice porridge,mashed babanas,mashed dal and puree of vegetables. It is important to introduce one thing at a time and slowly introduce variety as per child’s acceptance.At the same time food should be balanced so that baby gets all the nutrients which he needs in adequate quantity.Breast feeding should be continued as before and complementary feeds should not replace breast feeds.Consistency of the complementary feeds should be slightly thicker than soup first and gradually increased to more solid consistency.The texture should be smooth to begin with and gradually increased to granular and then chunky.
Salt, sugar, egg white and cows milk is best avoided in the first year of life.By 1 year of age your child should be able to eat everything that is made at home for others which is called family pot diet.
Starting too early might cause digestive issues and starting too late will cause nutritional deficiencies
What to give?How many times?What quantity?What should be the texture?Am I doing it correctly?What should I avoid?These and many such questions come commonly to parents minds.
Your pediatrician will work on a diet chart which will aid you in providing your child with nutritious foods.