Principles of Giving Supplementary Foods to Infants

Principles of Giving Supplementary Foods to Infants

The digestive systems of children, most especially that of newborns are underdeveloped and very fragile. Therefore, the food that enters their bodies should be carefully regulated and considered. This involves things such as how clean it is, the texture, how thick it is, how large it is, the ingredients used to make it, and its ability to digest easily. All these are to gradually and safely train the child to eat adult food, without hurting their delicate digestive system.

The best way to achieve this is to gradually change the nature and complexity of certain characteristics of the meals the child consumes. This includes things such as the texture of the food, the size, and the ingredients. For this purpose, some principles are to be obeyed because any mistake can lead to complications and possibly compromise the child’s health and well-being.

What Is the Appropriate Age to Start Giving Supplementary Foods?

Despite the advice of several health institutions which state “supplementary foods are to be given to babies that are up to 6 months”, growth in babies varies. The reason for this statement is that breast milk is the primary food given to babies and if supplement food is introduced too early, it might reduce the amount of breast milk the baby takes. It can also lead to allergies and diarrhea as the digestive system of the infant is not well developed enough to handle such complex and bulky food.

However, let it be noted that if supplement foods are not given quite early enough, the baby would not get the required nutrients and may become malnourished due to a deficiency of certain vital nutrients and energy. This may lead to further complications in the growth and development of the child. Some babies can be given supplement foods as early as 4-months when certain physiological signs are displayed consistently. The signs include:

  • The child sits upright without any support
  • The child does not push out solids with his tongue and has lost the tongue-thrust reflex
  • The child is willing to chew. This is seen as the child puts everything he holds in his mouth.
  • The child picks up objects with the thumb and forefinger (pincer  grasp)
  • The child tries to put food in his mouth by himself.
  • The child can straighten his neck voluntarily.
  • The child’s weight is two times his birth weight
  • Within 4 hours of eating 250ml of milk, the child is hungry again
  • The child finishes 1000ml of milk within 24hours.
  • The child can turn his neck freely.

To be certain if these signs signify that the child is ready for supplementary food the mother has to be vigilant as these signs must be shown consistently.

What Are the Principles of Giving Supplementary Foods?

The principles of giving supplementary foods are rules that must be followed by the caregiver in giving supplementary foods to ensure the process is as safe and smooth as possible. These principles show a gradual and orderly process that is based on the needs and maturity of the digestive system of the child. These principles are:

  • Start from simple foods to mixed foods. The first supplementary food to be given is rice noodles because it hardly causes allergies. This principle is simply saying that the foods you are giving should start as extremely simple before any form of upgrade. The best way to achieve this is to follow the adaptation method. That is, give a very simple food like rice noodles to the child for 5-7 days; before the seven days are over, the child must have gotten used to rice noodles. When no indigestion or any negative result is gotten within this 7-day range, you can then introduce another type of food with the same 5-7 days adaptation method. With this adaptation method you can then introduce many types of food or even mix, just make sure the child gets used to every food. But if negative feedback is given within these 5-7 days, stop giving any form of supplement food until the child gets back to normal. When the child recovers, you can start giving supplement foods again but start all over again from the smallest.
  • From a thin paste or puree to a thick paste or puree. As a child grows, so does the digestive system, and the scope of what it can accept is broadened. The appropriate trend is from liquid–semi-liquid-solid. E.g. a little water is to be added to rice noodles if it is given for the first time for it to be swallowed with ease, but as the child gets used to it and grows this becomes unnecessary.
  • From small-sized meals to larger-sized meals. When beginning the adaption process, the size of food accepted by the baby is extremely small, sometimes just a spoonful. The mother is to be patient as to when the child gets adapted to the meal, he would eat very much more.
  • From fine-textured foods to coarse-textured foods. The texture of supplement foods should first begin with juices or purees for adequate swallowing. But when the child starts developing teeth, the texture of food should be thicker and harder; vegetables should also be given at this stage to facilitate chewing.
  • Do not force eating. Babies are very picky with food and they might tend to reject some foods sometimes. When babies act like this, they should not be forced but the other should try a different food or juice.
  • Start with hypoallergenic foods and light-tasting foods. This reduces the chance of your infant developing a food allergy or rejecting a meal due to its strong flavor.
  • Feed only one new food at a time. The infant should be gradually exposed to new foods. This reduces the risk of overloading the infant and causing them to reject new meals.

Note: Adding supplementary food should be hindered when the weather is hot, or when the baby is sick. The baby’s supplementary food is to be made without salt. Proper hygiene is to be carried out to prevent every form of infection. Do not feed a baby leftover food.

What Are the Guidelines on the Foods, Ingredients, And the Age They Should Be Given?

When the requirements are given above for when to start giving supplement foods are observed and supplement foods are given, not all can be given at once. This would explain the foods that are to be given to different categories of babies according to age that is the supplement foods, alongside the required amount of breast milk, and other requirements.

  • 6-7 months. In most babies, this is when they display physiological signs that convince the mother that supplement foods can be given. Babies of this age are to be given breast milk 6 times a day and supplement food1-2 times a day. In this stage, the swallowing action of the child is trained. The supplement foods given at this are mostly starch, high protein foods like egg yolk, animal blood, flower tender tofu, vegetable juice, fruit juice, leaf vegetable, and cod liver oil. This is the beginning and here, the mother feeds the baby with a small spoon to train the swallowing action of the baby.
  • 7-9 months. Babies that are in this range of age are to receive breast milk 4 times a day, and supplement foods are to be given1-2meals a day, alongside a fruit. The supplement foods given at this stage include thick porridge, rotten rice, biscuit, noodles, bread, steamed bread, thornless flesh, liver paste, animal blood, minced meat and milk, purees, and cod liver oil. At this stage, the child should be learning how to use cups and bowls, and he is trained on how to chew.
  • 1012 months.  Children in this age range take breast milk 2-3 times a day, and supplement foods are to be given 2-3 times a day with fruits one time each day. The supplement foods given at this stage include thick porridge, rotten rice, biscuits, bread, steamed read, animal blood, thornless fish, liver, minced meat, milk powder, soy products, chopped vegetables, and cod liver oil.   At this stage, the child is expected to grab a spoon and start eating with adults                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Can I Make My Baby Like Supplementary Foods?

It is possible to make babies fall in love with supplement foods. However, this is to be given strategically because the baby can get used to one pattern of feeding. The advised strategic methods to follow include:

  • Feed the infant supplementary food when they’re hungry. Give the child supplement food when they are very hungry and are willing to accept anything.
  • Find out which meals they prefer. Another way to handle your child not eating some foods is to change your method of cooking and ingredient to something that’ll appease the baby. When you notice that your baby does not like this particular food, you can give him other foods and try them later.
  • Introduce new meals gradually. Do not give the baby too much at the beginning
  • Encourage them when they try new meals. Encourage your baby when a new meal is given.

In Conclusion

While introducing an infant to supplementary food remember that the fragile digestive and immune systems of infants are enough reason for us to maintain a very high level of personal hygiene. Anything entering the mouth of a child must be very clean, permitted by a doctor, especially if the child has other issues, and must follow the supplement food principle. All these are tailored towards the better growth and development of the child.

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