Medical experts opined, in the month of July 2013, that complementary feeding for the infants should begin at the age of six months, apart from the mother’s milk. The medical experts explained that by this time, the digestive system of the infants become mature enough to process the complementary foods. It is also important to note that beginning of the complementary feeding to infants can also lead to under-nutrition as well as under-developed immune system.
Understanding Complementary Food
• Complementary food should be very appropriate, which means that it needs to have sufficient nutrition as well as energy.
•The complementary food given to the infants should be very smooth in texture and it should be easy to digest.
• It is important to note that infants, in particular, have high energy requirement, but also their stomach is very small in size. Hence, the complementary food given to them should be high in energy content. Energy requirements of the infants are very high during first year of the life of infants.
• Another important factor to be considered is that the diet should have good fat content because it is an important determinant for the energy density.
• In case, the appetite is poor, there is a need of higher proportion.
• Foods that have high energy density are very rich in fat, but are also low on the water content. These kinds of foods include eggs, ghee, cheese and butter. On the other hand, the foods that have high water content have lower energy density. These foods include porridge made using water, boiled rice, low-fat yogurt, fruits and vegetables as well as soups and stews.
• Feeding the infants with low-energy foods on a regular basis can cause an adverse effect on their stamina as well as physical strength.
• The complementary foods should therefore contain higher amounts of fibre, minerals as well as vitamins.
Source of the complementary feeding
• The medical experts explained that complementary feeding can be sourced from a range of food groups. This can enable a child to get vital nutrients, thereby ensuring optimum development and growth.
• The groups of food from which complementary feeding can be sourced include meat, fish and poultry products, eggs, fruits and vegetables, grains, roots and tubers, legumes and nuts, fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin A and finally, the dairy products.
• Giving complementary foods to a child from at least four out of these groups, everyday can ensure a well-balanced nutrition and optimum growth of a child.
Preparing the complementary foods for infants
• It is very important to note that the infants are highly vulnerable to infections. Therefore, their foods should be prepared while keeping in mind the vital parameters of hygiene and safety.
• Food-borne illness can take place in the infants in case the food is not properly cooked or is kept at a room temperature for a long time, or if the cooking equipment is contaminated. Also, illness related to food can occur in the infants in case the hands are not properly washed before the infant is fed.
• It is important to note that the best way to prepare the complementary food for the infants is to prepare it fresh. Or, it should be consumed in just one or two hours after cooking, especially during the hot climate.
• It is also important to ensure that the complementary foods are prepared thoroughly because high temperature during the cooking process is required to kill the bacteria.
• Lukewarm food should be fed to the infants.
• While introducing complementary foods to the infants for the first time, it is essential to note that the products which do not cause allergy to the babies should be chosen. The foods devoid of colours, artificial flavours, preservatives and harmful chemicals, should be chosen for complementary feeding.
Amount of complementary food required by the infants
According to the WHO report of complementary feeding called the Report of the global consultation convened jointly by the Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development and the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at Geneva from 10 to 13 December 2001, it was recommended that for the beginning, complementary foods should start at six months of age with small amounts of food and the quantity should be increased as the child grows older. During this time, it is also important to maintain the frequent breastfeeding.
The energy needs from complementary foods for infants with average breast milk intake in the developing countries are approximately 200 kcal per day at 6−8 months of age, 300 kcal per day at 9−11 months of age, and 550 kcal per day at 12−23 months of age.
In the industrialized countries, the estimates were different. These were 130, 310 and 580 kcal/d at 6−8, 9−11 and 12−23 months, respectively. The difference occurred because of difference in the average breast milk intake.