Motherhood

Best Practices On Feeding Babies Below 12 Months

If you are a new mom in doubts about feeding timelines or planning to be one and want to stay prepared, then you have come to the right place. This post discusses some of the best practices and tips on feeding babies below 12 months, and the types of food that need to be introduced in each growth stage.

From birth, all infants are nourished by breast milk. It universally provides all nutritional requirements needed in this stage, but after 6 months breast milk alone can’t fulfill all the nutritional needs and additional feeding is needed. So, the introduction of solid food items is a process gradually getting an infant adapted from breast milk to a variety of foods, until he /she can join with family food. Prior to starting complementary feeding, there are four main areas to be considered.  They are:

  • At what age should solid foods be introduced?
  • What foods should be introduced?
  • How should foods be introduced?

At what age should solid foods be introduced?

The best age to introduce solid foods is identified as 6 months. Until 6 months all infants should be exclusively breastfed. After 6 months breastfeeding should continue along with complementary foods. At six months of age, most infants begin to adapt to different food flavors and different food textures. The age of six months is identified as the time when an infant’s appetite and nutritional needs increase. At that time body stores of iron and zinc are falling and they need to supply via food. At this age, the feeding behavior has progressed to biting from sucking. The digestive system also turns to mature and prepare to welcome solid foods.

Being too early is not good…

Introducing solid foods too early may lead to several problems. It may cause under-nutrition because less time spent in the breast decline the milk production due to reducing the stimulation. Babies below 6 months still can’t accept the spoon because their reflexes may have not developed. They may develop food allergies also because of the immature digestive system.

Being too late is also not good….

Introducing solid foods too late is also not good. It leads to growth falters because of insufficient nutrition. Micronutrient deficiencies like iron, zinc can develop, and immune protection can be compromised. Some caretakers wait until teeth buds appear to start complementary feeding. Some infants delay this and they may cause above conditions.

What foods should be introduced?

In Sri Lanka introduction of solid foods starts with rice kanji. It should be started with the thick part, not the watery part of the food. Vegetables, fruits, meats, poultry, and fish should be added gradually. In here nutrient composition is important. Foods should be high in nutrient density.

The below table shows examples of foods for the relevant age category.

Age (months) Type of food Example
0-6 liquid Breast milk
6-7 Pureed foods Rice kanji, mashed potato, vegetable, and fruit purees, cooked and mashed meat/ poultry
8-12 Mashed and chopped foods, pieces of foods Cooked fish, minced meat, cooked vegetables and fruits, raw fruits like banana, mango, egg yolk, bread, cereals
From 12 months Family food  

How should foods be introduced?

Here are some tips on how should foods be introduced.

  • Introduce foods individually (one food at once)
  • Do not add salt, sugar or other flavorings.
  • You can mix water, breastmilk or infant formula with cereals.
  • Initially, introduce new foods no more often than each five to 10 days, this is done to avoid confusion of getting food allergy or sensitivity.
  • Once most foods have been successfully introduced, change the types of foods offered frequently to ensure that the infant receives a good balance of nutrients
  • The first introduces soft and smooth-textured foods. When they can hold things, ‘finger foods’ such as pieces of fruit, vegetables can be offered. Foods like meats can be chopped into small pieces. Use feeding bottles for breastmilk or infant formula
  • There are certain foods that are unsuitable for infants or to feed under care. Among them, honey, tea, nuts, and fruit juices are some of them.

Honey can contain the spores of Clostridium botulinum if not it has been carefully sterilized during processing. Tea contains tannins and that can reduce the bioavailability of iron and other minerals. Additionally, sugar is often added to tea and can increase the risk of dental caries. Nuts have the risk of inhalation and choking while peanuts can cause allergies. Although fruit juices contain all the nutrients present in fruits but not the dietary fiber, consumption of whole fruit is recommended instead of fruit juices.

According to the UNICEF feeding babies below 12 months with breast milk needs to be continued even after introducing other types of food. In fact, they urge to give the same amount of breast milk for babies between 6-8 months and to feeding babies below 12 months with breast milk whenever they are hungry as well.

As the infants are tender human beings, they need special attention always. Foods are the major determinant of their growth and it affects their overall development. So, nourishing them with a balanced nutritious diet is an earning to their later life.

You may also want to read:

  1. World Breastfeeding Week: 5 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mommies
  2. 5 Quick and Easy Tips To Help With Your Fussy Eaters
  3. Top 10 Sri Lankan Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
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Dewni Jayasuriya

Dewni Jayasuriya is a Nutritionist. She holds a Special degree, Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Nutrition from the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka. She is interested in dietary counseling, diet planning and is continually on the lookout for trends in modern Food Science and Technology.

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