Children older than 6 months should be introduced to complementary feeding, which is also called as ‘Infant and young child feeding’. This is not something very difficult, but requires some minimum knowledge of child feeding practices.
Here is some short WHO and UNICEF guiding principles for the complementary feeding of breastfed child:
- When your child is older than six months, start complementary feeding;
- However, continue breastfeeding your child until the age of two;
- Start with small amounts of food, and increase the quantity as the child gets older;
- Gradually increase the food consistency and variety as the infant grows older, adapting to the infant’s requirements and abilities;
- Increase the number of times that the child is fed complementary foods as the child gets older.
At least four out of seven food groups should be given to the children:
- Grains, roots and tubers;
- Legumes and nuts;
- Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese);
- Meats, fish, poultry and liver/organ meats;
- Vitamin-A rich fruits and vegetables;
- Other fruits and vegetables.
Feed a variety of nutrient-rich foods, to ensure that all nutrient needs are met.
The minimum number of meals is defined as:
- Two times for breastfed infants 6–8 months;
- Three times for breastfed children 9–23 months;
- Four times for non-breastfed children 6–23 months.
- Meals’ include both meals and snacks (other than trivial amounts), and frequency is based on the caregiver’s report.
- Use ‘Responsive feeding’, which means the following:
· Feed infants directly and assist older children when they feed themselves. Feed slowly and patiently, and encourage children to eat, but do not force them;
- If children refuse many foods, experiment with different food combinations, tastes, textures and methods of encouragement;
- Minimize distractions during meals if the child loses interest easily;
- Remember that feeding times are periods of learning and love. Talk to children during feeding, and maintain eye-to-eye contact.
To prepare safe food, you should:
- Keep your hands, surfaces and food clean;
- Separate raw and cooked food;
- Cook thoroughly;
- Keep food at safe temperatures;
- Use safe water and ingredients.
Good complementary foods are:
- Rich in energy, protein and micronutrients, particularly iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate;
- Not spicy or salty;
- Easy for the child to eat;
- Liked by the child;
- Locally available and affordable.