Complementary feeding: what your infant really needs.


After the recommended 6months exclusive breastfeeding feeding comes complementary feeding, WHO defined complementary feeding is the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to FAMILY FOOD, the word is capitalized for those that think complementary feeding is just pap with milk or other forms of tin baby foods as experts confirm by 6months, an infants brain is ready for other foods. It is the 18months period between 6months and 2years, during which the breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants and therefore other liquids and foods are needed along with breast milk and also the digestive system is mature enough to digest the starch, protein and fat in non-milk diet.
Optimal complementary feeding depends in what, how, when, where and by whom a child is fed.


A complementary feed should contain a variety of nutrient-rich foods to ensure all nutritional needs are met, sufficient energy, protein and micronutrients are what the feed should contain to cover energy and nutrition gap so that together with breast milk , the nutritional requirements can be met. Breastfeeding should continue till 2years as it provides half or more energy needs between 6months -12months, one-third of energy need from 12 – 24months, breast milk is a great source of energy , nutrients and also provide protective factor. A young child’s appetite usually serve as a guide to the amount of food that should be offered, gradually increase food consistency and variety as the infant grow older adapting to the infant’s requirements and abilities.pureed or mashed foods with liquids like water or juice from fruits like orange, water melon and not store bought fruits which are sugar-filled should be fed at 6months by 12months, most children can eat same types of food with the rest of the family, taking lots of fluids is just as important as the feed to avoid constipation.
Children are nutritional vulnerable during this period and life-long feeding habits are formed which is why it is important to feed only nutritious foods and not sugar(biscuits,sweets,chocolates,sugary drinks e.t c) which are concentrated source of energy but has no nutrients, can damage children’s teeth, reduce children’s appetite for nutritious food and can lead to overweight and obesity which is a contributing factor to several health-related problems . Infants need the right foods at the right time to grow and develop to their full potential. According to UNICEF, the most critical time for good nutrition is in the brief 1,000day period from start of pregnancy until a child’s second birthday.
WHO recommends extra calorie in addition to the calorie gotten from breastmilk 6-8months old require extra 200 calories, 9-11months require extra 300 calories and 12-23 months require extra 600 calories, the need for energy is said to increase with age.
Lack of nutrition education of the care giver, food insecurity, conflicts, poor access to resources, poverty, marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to children are some of barriers to good nutrition.

Food should be given slowly and to encourage feeding the care giver have to be patient and take it easy with the child, do not force a child to eat respect their rejection so they will not translate feeding time to be war or frustration. If a child is always rejecting food, try an ensure the feeding utensils like plate and spoon is colourful, age appropriate attractive also make the food colourful too by adding vegetables like carrot, pumpkin, spinach, e.t.c. Ensure all the utensils used in food preparation and the feeding process as well as the care giver’s and baby’shands are thoroughly washed, as it has been observed that children are at hight risk of gastrointestinal infections during complementary feeding period.
Cook food thoroughly with clean water and utensils and at safe temperature, remnant should be properly stored by refrigeration and if not should be eaten within 2 hours after cooking so as to avoid multiplication of bacteria which can increase possibility of illness.
Good hygiene and proper food handling practices should be encouraged during this period as microbial contamination of complementary foods is a major cause of diarrheal disease, which is particularly common in children 6-12 months old. Age appropriate cups should be used instead of bottle with teats(feeder) to feed fluids as it makes transmission of infection easier and the teats might not be properly washed due to its shape.

As a caregiver one has to be observant of hunger signs a child displays, illness could reduce a child’s appetite for food, which will require assistance and encouragement to feed and if appetite changes, extra food should be offered. Food consistency and nutritional requirements increases as a child grows due to increased activities performed by the child.

Feed in a neat environment that is free from any for me of distraction, if you have a child like mine that gets distracted by the slightest noise while feeding you might want to switch off the television during feeding.

Feeding should be done by the care giver if not available then an adult with the patient of feeding an infant and has been briefed on how the particular child likes to be fed. Feeding should not be done by young children as I have seen a case that led to the death of the infant while being fed by his elder sister of 13years when the child refused eating she decided to force feed the traditional way where the child is laid on the lap with nose blocked the child aspirated and died which could have been prevented if the mother had fed the child because she claimed she have never force fed her child that way and doesn’t know where the elder sister learnt it from, she might have seen it somewhere else and tried experimenting .

Children are at high risk of undernutrition during complementary feeding as a result of inadequate nutritional quality of food, starting complementary feeding too early(before 6months) or too late, food given in small quantity than needed or not frequently enough. Here are some food ideas for complementary feeding , it should in pureed, mashed or semi-solid form until after 23months.

Scrapped mango/pawpaw.
Mashed banana.
Mashed potato,egg yolk ,grated carrot with vegetable oil to soften.
Mashed rice grated carrot with fish,minced meat/chicken.
Ewedu with fish/ minced meat and any super fluffy swallow.
Mashed yam, fish, grated carrot with oil to soften.
Blended okro with super fluffy swallow with any protein of your choice.
Homemade orange juice not bought from store.
Mashed beans with plantain

Being creative with food is one quality a mother should posses as you feed you come up with more ideas to make the food more tasteful, colourful and attractive, experiment with different combinations . The cost of buying some of these tin baby food which are not as nutritious as family foods should be a reason for one to have a rethink of what complementary feeding really entails.

NOTE: Spicy and salty foods are discouraged during this period. The food should be easy to make, liked by the child, easy to eat, raw materials for the preparation should be locally sourced and affordable.

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