How To Provide Complementary Food Correctly For Your ChildTuesday, 5 June 2018
During the first 6 months of life, breast milk alone is adequate to fulfill the nutritional requirements of the Little One. After the age of 6 months, the Little One requires complementary food to fulfill their energy and nutritional requirements. The process of learning to eat is not only important to fulfill the daily nutritional requirements but can also reflect moments to train healthy eating habits. Therefore, parents should receive adequate information on the provision of complementary food. For parents to avoid the common mistakes in preparing complementary food for the Little One, the following points can be applied:
- Cleanliness is the key
One of the requirements for complementary food as advised by the WHO and UNICEF is that it should be safe in terms of storage, preparation, and provision. The immunity of the Little One at 6 months is rather vulnerable and therefore the provision of complementary food with equipments that are not clean can easily lead to a disturbance in the digestive tract.
To avoid this, the following things can be implemented when preparing complementary food:
- Wash hands prior to preparation of complementary food.
- Separate the cooking utensils for complementary food of the Little One with the cooking utensils for the family.
- Wash the cooking and eating utensils after use.
- Adjust the texture and consistency of the food to the ability of the Little One Often, parents do not notice the phases for food texture and consistency; however, these are very important because the oral motor abilities (basic skills pertaining to oral movements) develop at every increase in age. There are no specific rules in introducing the types of food to the Little One. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the correct provision of complementary food occurs when the food provided is safe, nutritious, and with a texture that suits the ability of the Little One. The texture and consistency can begin with food that is soft, smooth, and slightly watery. This can then be gradually changed to thicker food and eventually solid and rough food. As a reference, at age 6-9 months, the Little One is able to chew crushed and fine minced food, and at age 9-12 months, they are already able to consume soft and rough minced food.
- Balanced nutrition Nutritional balance is very important in determining the menu for complementary food. Complementary food should fulfill the daily nutritional requirements of the Little One that is unable to be provided by breast milk, such as carbohydrates or energy, fat, protein, as well as vegetables and fruits. The nutrition that is most lacking in the Little One at the age of 6 months is iron, and therefore parents should provide food rich in iron. The source of iron includes bovine liver, chicken liver, eggs, green vegetables, grains, and fruits. Lack of iron intake in the Little One can lead to anemia, which can affect the oxygen transport in the body. Provide complementary food in a variety so that the Little One is familiar with various flavour and texture of food.
- The correct method to introduce food to the Little One Different food types can be introduced one by one to the Little One. After the Little One is more accustomed, then food mixtures can be provided. Provide a gap of 2-3 days (if there is a history of allergy, the gap should be 4-7 days) for children to accustom themselves to the type of food being introduced. Parents can also observe whether the Little One experiences an allergic reaction. Begin with a small quantity, and increase this gradually with age.
- Select and manage food ingredients approtely
When preparing complementary food, selection and management of food products should also be observed. The following tips may help to prepare the ingredients for complementary food:
- For fruit puree, parents should ensure that they only process food for one meal at a time.
- Parents can prepare a smooth porridge and store it in a freezer to then be warmed when the meal time arrives. A clean food storage container should be used. When preparing the food, warm it by steaming. The maximum storage period is 30 days.
- Do not store the remaining food in the freezer. Therefore, parents can prepare food in accordance to the feeding portion of the Little One so the remainder is not wasted.