As advised by the WHO, after the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding, babies need to be introduced to food as a complimentary to breastfeeding. This is because the nutrition intake from breast milk alone is no longer adequate to fulfil the daily nutrition needs of the baby. This period starts from as early as 6 months up until the baby is 24 months old.
In that transitional period, according to WHO, children are prone to nutritional deficiency. Research shows that 2 in 5 children in low income country suffer malnutrition caused by inadequate complimentary feeding to breastfeeding. For further information, it is completely explained in WHO literature about complementary breastfeeding.
In order to meet child’s nutritional need, it is best to follow WHO’s recommendation by taking notice of frequency, quantity or portion, texture, food variety, hygiene in food making process. For daily meal frequency, moms can follow this guide:
- Age 6-8 months old: 2-3 times of main food, 1-2 times snack
- Age 9-11 months old: 3-4 times of main food, 1-2 times snack
- Age 12-24 months old: 3-4 times of main food, 1-2 times snack
For children who receive Breastmilk, daily calorie needed from complimentary food is:
- Age 6-8 months old as much as 200 kcal
- Age 9-11 months old as much as 300 kcal
- Age 12-23 months old as much as 550 kcal
Child’s nutritional intake also depends on variations in the menu of complimentary food being given. The more variety given, the more nutrient will be consumed. Nutrients that are important to be given among others are zinc, vitamin B6, iron, and also in several community population also riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin A, folate, and also vitamin C.
After the baby is six months old, breast milk alone will no longer meet all their nutritional needs. That it is important to make sure there is high micronutrient in complementary food. Food that is recommended includes red meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Dairy products such as cheese can also be given because it contains high calcium. Although in giving dairy products for the first time, make sure to identify whether the baby is allergic to cow’s milk. If yes, make sure to exclude dairy products in the baby’s complementary food. Also give vegetables and fruit which contain vitamin A, like broccoli, potato, carrot, banana, and apples.
Don’t forget that children also need fat. The body needs it because fat supplies the essential fatty acids that are needed in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamin and also as additional energy. For complementary food in breastfeeding, include olive oil in baby’s daily menu.
Giving complementary food that is not in accordance with recommendation and child’s needs can result in malnutrition. The effect of malnutrition is that child will be prone to disease and may experience delay in growth and development. So, make sure to always give nutritious complementary food for the baby’s optimal growth and development.