Guide to Help You with a Complementary Diet
Feeding a baby seems easy, but in reality, it isn’t. In the beginning, a baby’s diet is based solely on milk. The only decision you have to make is whether to go with breast milk or formula. After six months, and on demand, a complementary diet begins. This is the stage when you might start to worry about providing a better diet, introducing water, and finding out whether any food allergies exist.
The complementary diet
Babies need breastmilk or formula in order to develop and grow (during the first year of life). Babies drink breast milk during their first 6 months (which can be prolonged and combined with a complementary diet after this point). A complementary diet must begin by the age of six months and never before the age of four months.
The object is not to substitute breastmilk, but rather to complement it. On demand breastfeeding is still important, but in order for babies to begin experiencing new flavors, it is important to offer babies new foods as many times as necessary. This should be done with patience and without negative repercussions if they refuse at first. Babies need to get used to new flavors, textures, moving their mouths to begin to chew, etc.
If a child refuses to eat a new food, whether it’s because of flavor or texture, don’t worry or get upset. This will negatively affect the good relationship your child has with food. If your child doesn’t want to eat something, it’s important to just take the plate away calmly and continue feeding as usual. Try the same thing the next day, and the next, until he accepts. If you’re patient, you’ll be surprised by the results.
What a complementary diet should look like
At 6 months, your baby doesn’t have the ability to chew on his own. Therefore, it is essential that you present new flavors through pureed foods. Semi-solid purees are now also introduced to help babies understand the movement of their mouths and not just to swallow without chewing. Little by little, and as your baby becomes more comfortable, you can begin to add pieces of soft food.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Each baby is unique and you need to know your child in order to know how he eats best. Not all babies accept pieces of food in their puree. They may refuse to eat or simply spit their food out. There are even babies who choke, with all the dangers this implies for their lives. Therefore, if you don’t consider your child ready for semi-solid foods, don’t worry. Just continue with purees. What’s most important is that he is well fed. He’ll learn to chew soon enough.
To begin a complementary diet, it’s important you also begin to introduce the use of a spoon. Purees and mashed foods should not be served in a bottle because this denies the child the possibility of learning to eat with a spoon. You can use a bottle to give milk or liquid cereals, but nothing else. Complementary diets are best when given with a baby spoon.
Beginning a complementary diet
New foods should be offered one at a time, and your pediatrician should provide a written guide for infant feeding with the the necessary steps to follow. Never introduce more than one new food at a time. This will not only be too many new flavors at once, but also, if any allergy or intolerance exists, you won’t know which food is to blame. Your child won’t accept the new food right away because first he should experiment with it.
Before giving your child a new food, you should observe that his poop is normal, he doesn’t throw up, that no strange spots appear on his skin, and that he doesn’t have any other symptoms. Each time you introduce a new food, you should take the same caution to make sure he is assimilating it well and that his body has no negative reactions. If any strange reaction does appear, you should consult your pediatrician as soon as possible and remove that food from your baby’s diet.
The types of food that you should give your baby will have a strict order to be followed because his stomach is still very delicate. Bring up any doubts you have about this order with your pediatrician to know what foods should be introduced first and what foods should be put off until a certain age.
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- D’Auria E., Bergamini M., Staiano A., Banderali G., et al., Baby led weaning: what a systematic review of the literature adds on. Ital J Pediatr, 2018.
- Aune D., Giovannucci E., Boffetta P., Fadnes LT., et al., Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cáncer and all cause mortality – a systematic review and dose response meta analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol, 2017. 46: 1029-1956.