10 Basic Concepts for Complementary Nutrition

10 Basic Concepts for Complementary Nutrition


1 Why do we begin giving solid foods


Mother’s milk is the most complete source of nutrition that exists and can exclusively feed a baby for their first 6 months of life. After that age, more or less, mother’s milk continues being an excellent source of nourishment but not exclusively and for that reason, complementary feeding begins. Iron, zinc and vitamin A are the elements that the baby needs the most of and therefore the baby begins diversifying their diet.


  1. At 4 months old or at 6 months old


Some companies that sell baby food insist that babies begin eating solid foods at 4 months old and they specify that on their products: “for babies 4 months old and older”.

At 4 months old babies should not begin complementary feeding especially because they are not ready to eat, they are not mature enough on a motor skills level or at an intestinal level to digest food.

The official recommendations, on the other hand, say that complementary feeding should begin once the baby is 6 months old. This type of recommendation is too general since not all 6 month old babies are ready to eat. The same way that babies start walking and talking at different ages, the same goes for eating.

Every baby should be considered individually to see if they are ready. Here are three things to be observed in your baby to see if they are ready to diversify their diet:

  • They sit up independently or with little help
  • They show interest for food
  • They no longer perform the extrusion reflex, when babies automatically spit out food placed on the tongue.

To consider your baby ready to begin eating, they should meet all three requirements mentioned above.


  1. For dessert?


Dessert is not a main part of a meal for an adult since dessert is something eaten on a whim or due to a craving. Mother’s milk, on the other hand, is the main source of nutrition for the first year of the baby’s life. This is why it is called complementary feeding because it’s function is to complement the milk, not substitute or eliminate the milk.  

If the baby is only drinking milk as a dessert, they may not be consuming the necessary calories and could impair the baby’s nutrition.


  1. What foods do we start with?


This is the million-dollar question! But it has no response – there is no best choice food to start with. The choice should be made based on various factors such as season, traditional foods, and what is eaten at home. The only ting to keep in mind is that the food you choose should be safe and healthy. You should avoid offering your baby foods with hard textures or too small that could be considered a choking hazard. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether you start with cereal, fruit, veggies or meat. Though it is important to keep in mind, once you introduce food into their diet you should also introduce water.


  1. With what texture


In the last 30 to 40 years kids have pretty much always been offered crushed and pureed food.  If you think about it, this doesn’t make much sense. Baby food is relatively new, they should move from the breast to a spoon, to food with an adequate texture – not pureed or crushed but in chunks.

Baby Led Weaning is a way of feeding that is based on the baby feeding itself independently. They should pick up the pieces of food and bring them to their mouths. This way choking is avoided since you are not forcing the baby to swallow foods. This is a way for them to practice and learn how to eat like adults.

At the same time, please note it is not recommended to give your babies juice whether natural or homemade. You may learn more about why in this article by dietician/nutritionist Julio Basulto. este artículo


  1. How many times a day?


When beginning complementary feeding, offering food one to two times a day is more than enough. It is possible that even some days due to logistics or other reasons you do not give food to your baby, only milk. This happens often but will occur less frequently as the baby shows more interest in food and they will begin requesting to eat.


  1. How much?


The same way most adults do not control their food in grams, it does not make sense to control our baby’s food that way. The amount of food needed is only known by the baby. Yes, it may seem strange that they should be the ones to regulate the amount they want to eat. Usually the amount is small. We cannot forget that starting to eat is a lesson that should be fun and laidback.


  1. What if he does not want to?


Normally babies take time in accepting the food being offered to them. It is important to never obligate them to eat or force them to ingest any food. If the baby, little by little, shows more interest and starts experimenting and trying food, then you can continue enjoying the process. On the other hand, if time goes on and even without obligating them, the baby continues to deny all food, it would be best to see your pediatrician to check the baby’s iron levels. Sometimes children with anemia are reluctant to eat.  


  1. Salt, oil, sugar and other condiments


Salt and sugar have no reason to be part of a baby’s diet. The later those two are introduced, the better.

Olive oil, on the other hand, is great due to the enrichment of nutrition it provides as well as being an excellent source of calories. Other condiments, except for anything spicy, are permitted and help diversify the food you give your baby.


  1. Eat as a family!


Babies should never eat alone for two reasons. First of all, the most obvious reason, that they are at risk for choking. The other important reason is so they can observe adults eating properly. Babies learn to eat by watching others do so.

Eating should be an enjoyable experience, relaxed, with family and with smiles… to avoid meal time becoming a battle of wills.   

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