You play a very active role in your child’s experience with food, and your goal is to make the experience healthy, safe and fun.
The Ministry of Health Malaysia, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Paediatrics recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months. Complementary feeding should start at around six months.
This is when you can start introducing baby to complementary foods but still continue to breastfeed him through to the end of the first year and longer if desired. Solid foods should never be introduced before four months of age, as his digestive system is still developing and is not mature enough to digest them.
Signs that show that your baby is ready for his first bite:
- Your baby should be able to sit up with minimal support and hold his head up on his own.
- He learns to control his tongue and starts to make chewing or munching movements.
- His teeth start appearing.
- Gets hungry quickly between feedings or require more frequent feeding.
- He should show signs of interest in food and open his mouth when it is offered.
- He should be able to move food from his mouth into his throat. He will learn this process when complementary feeding starts as it is a different skill from sucking milk from the breast or bottle. If you offer a spoonful of semisolid food to your baby and he seems to push it right back out of his mouth, give him a bit more practice, but also consider waiting another week or two. He just might not be ready yet.
Getting started on complementary foods
From 6-8 months
Start your baby off by introducing him to one type of food at a time. Try not to mix different foods together. It may take him between three and seven days to get used to the taste and texture of a new food. This also allows you to observe if he is allergic to any particular food. After this period, you may introduce a different type of food to him. Give him complementary foods two to three times a day as his main meals with one or two nutritious snacks in between. The texture of his foods should be liquid, pureed/blended, or mashed. Make sure you start off with a more liquid texture in the beginning and gradually change it to a more solid texture as the months pass.
From 9-11 months
From 1-2 years
At this stage, he should be eating four to five meals a day with one or two nutritious snacks in between meals. You may feed him with bitesized pieces, or small cubes/ chunks of soft foods. Starting from his first birthday, he can basically start having family food (i.e. any food you and the rest of your family eats). However, care has to be taken to ensure that his food is served in smaller chunks.
Did you know?
Research indicates that it is important to expose children to a wide variety of flavours and textures. Many babies and toddlers need to be exposed to foods multiple times before accepting them. Babies and toddlers are more likely to eat foods they see their peers and parents eating. Don’t be discouraged if your child refuses to eat. You may need to offer the same food up to eight times or over a period of time before he accepts it.
Moving on to ‘real’ solid foods
Compared to babies, children between the ages of one to five years grow more slowly. Even their appetites can change on a daily basis. As long as your child remains energetic and is growing, he is probably getting sufficient nutrients and energy. From the age of two years onwards, your child should be ready to join the rest of the family for regular meals.
However, you should still take precautions not to feed him foods that he may choke on or spicy foods that may cause discomfort in baby. He may need between four and six meals and snacks a day. A typical day’s serving should include a variety of nutrient-dense foods (foods with a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories) that support his growth and development. By making it a habit from young, he will continue doing so once he grows up.
Essential nutrients for your child
Make sure that the types of food you feed your baby with are appropriate to his stage of development. They must be nutritious foods that can provide him with sufficient energy and nutrients such as:
- protein (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, legumes, etc.),
- iron (e.g. red meat, liver, prune juice, dark green leafy vegetables, etc.),
- zinc (e.g. oysters [cooked in porridge or soup, never raw], chicken, beef, legumes, etc.),
- calcium (e.g. milk and other dairy products. However, some kids may not eat enough dairy food. Alternate sources for dairy typically contain less calcium and may be absorbed less efficiently. They include beans, salmon, soybeans, tempeh, and tofu.),
- vitamin A (e.g. dairy products, liver, and eggs. Other sources include carrots, pumpkins, papaya, etc.),
- vitamin C (e.g. orange, papaya, tomato, guava, etc.), and
- folate (e.g. dark green leafy vegetables, peas, orange, etc.).
As your baby grows, both the frequency you feed him and the food portion can be gradually increased. As soon as he gets used to a variety of foods, you can vary what he eats every day. Always make it a point to include vegetables and fruits.
Evolving needs and appetite
It’s important to keep in mind the dietary needs of your baby as he grows; his meals should evolve as he grows in order to be able to cater to his growing energy and nutrient requirements. Portion sizes should increase accordingly. On top of that, the variety, taste, and consistency of his food should also be adapted slowly over time to reflect the foods that he will eat as an adult.