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Introducing complementary food to babies: Nutritionist shares tips

Complementary food items for babies usually refers to cereals, fruits, vegetables in small amounts that can help in their development and healthy growth. The rule of 1000 days in child development refers to the first nine months of pregnancy and the first one year after child birth. It is a crucial period of child’s development and the food items fed to the expecting mother and the baby should be carefully hand-picked. Speaking to HT Lifestyle, Dr. Latha Sashi, Chief Nutritionist, Fernandez Hospitals said, “When breast milk (or infant formula) alone is no longer sufficient for nutritional and developmental reasons, complementary food is required. Exclusive breastfeeding (only breast milk) is sufficient for a baby up to 6 months of age. Solid feeds that supplement breast milk, or complementary feeds, must be introduced gradually into the infant’s diet.”

She further added that the ideal time to introduce complementary foods to babies is at the age of 6 months. The tongue’s side-to-side development starts at the age of 8-12 months. If complementary food is delayed, the child may later face difficulty in chewing or consuming solid food items.

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Dr. Latha Sashi further shared a few general instructions that should be kept in mind while slowly introducing complementary food items to the child’s diet. They are as follows:

Slow pace: Introduce only one food at a time.

Intervals: A single-ingredient food is to be chosen and introduced at weekly intervals.

Acceptance: Persist with the feed started till the baby starts accepting. The baby may spit the food initially and then start accepting the feed. It may take a week or 10 days for the baby to get used to and start accepting one complementary feed.

Small amounts: Give very small amounts of any new food at the beginning.

Consistency: Use a very thin consistency when starting solid foods after 6 months, but gradually increase it to semi-solid (porridge) consistency by 7 months and then move over to solids.

Calories: To provide more calories from smaller volumes, food must be thick in consistency (thick enough to stay on the spoon without running off, when the spoon is tilted).

Cleanliness and hygiene: Observe hygiene practices while preparing and feeding the complementary feeds.

Commercial feeds: Avoid using commercial feeds for the baby.

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