When your baby is 6 months old, breast milk alone is no longer sufficient to fulfil his increasing nutritional needs. Your baby needs complementary foods (ie foods in addition to breast milk), so that he continues to receive adequate energy and nutrients to support his growth and development.
It is a good time to introduce complementary feeding at 6 months of age because baby’s digestive system is now ready to handle semi-solid foods. Physical clues to tell you that baby is ready for complementary foods include:
- He has started to develop teeth, with the first tooth appearing at about 6 months, and four front teeth at the top and four at the bottom by 9 months.
- He is able to bite, munch and chew food.
- He can control his tongue better.
- He likes putting things into his mouth.
- He feels hungry soon after breastfeeding.
What to give?
As your baby has not yet been exposed to foods other than your breast milk, you will want to introduce new foods to his diet slowly, allowing him time to get used to new tastes and new textures. Ensure the foods are nutritious, and provide sufficient energy and nutrients for your baby.
- Introduce one new food at a time. Allow several days for baby to get used to it before introducing another. This helps him to learn how individual food tastes by itself, and also allow you to detect any allergies that may arise.
- Introduce a little amount of food on the spoon before a milk feed.
- Baby may accept new food better if you mix it with breast milk.
- Start with iron-fortified rice cereal, as this will provide additional iron to him at a period when his iron stores are low.
- Once baby gets used to a variety of foods, vary what you give him every day to ensure all his nutrient needs are met. (Note: This may only occur at around 9 – 10 months of age.)
- Increase the amount of complementary food and feeding frequency gradually, eg feed 2-3 times a day at 6-8 months, increasing to 3-4 times a day at 9-12 months.
- By the time your child reaches his first birthday, he should be able to join in family meals.
- Do not add salt or other salty seasonings before the age of 1 year.
- Do not add sugar or oil unnecessarily.
- Do not give foods that baby can choke on, such as nuts, seeds, or whole grapes.
Mums, don’t forget to….
- Continue to breastfeed as often as before, and for as long as your baby wants.
- Practise safe and hygienic preparation, handling and storage of food to reduce the risk of food contamination that may cause diarrhoea in your baby.