- Complimentary feeding is the process of introducing solid foods to your baby’s diet at around 6 months of age while continuing to Breast feed or Formula feed as normal.
Breast milk or formula milk provides all the nourishment your baby needs up until 6 months. Formula milk is the next best substitute for breast milk.
Babies begin with Transitional Foods, such as pureed single foods and move onto Modified Family Food while all the time continuing to Breast feed or Formula feed. In time they will fully transition to normal family foods.
The reason for introducing solids is that as babies grow and become more active at around 6 months, they need additional sources of energy and nutrition. At this age a gap develops between the amount of energy and nutrients needed by a growing baby and what can be provided and absorbed from breast milk or formula milk.
As your baby gets older this gap continues to grow and so the amount of solid foods required in your babies diet continues to grow until they no longer need breast milk or formula milk.
You should not feed a baby solids before their 5 month birthday, as it is not necessary, and could reduce a baby’s uptake of breast milk or formula milk resulting in no net gain in energy or nutrients and leading to constipation as fluid intake is reduced. Before this age, baby’s intestines’ are not sufficiently mature to properly cope with solid foods and the risk of diarrhoea, allergies, kidney damage and malnutrition is greatest.
This phase of your baby’s life will go by very quickly it will seem like one day you are mashing a banana and before you know it they are eating spaghetti with a fork! As this phase is short lived and only takes about 6 months, do remember to enjoy this milestone before it passes you by.
Take lots of photos of your messy baby with their 1st foods and make sure you get some photos with other members of the family during feeding time as well.
- There is almost universal agreement that complimentary feeding should not start before 5 months old and should not be delayed beyond the age of 6 months.
When advice and studies speak about 4 months +, they really mean after 4 months, which can confuse people as it really means when your baby is 5 months of age, for that reason we at Pip & Pear say 5 months on our Stage 1 Pots, so as to avoid confusion.
The risks associated with feeding too early start to diminish at 5 months of age and your baby should be fully ready by around the time they are 6 months old.
It is very important that you do start complimentary feeding no later than 6 months old as your baby will need the energy and nutrients from solid foods and a varied diet, in order to continue to grow at a healthy rate. It is also very important at this age that motor skills can develop through chewing, in order to lay the ground work for speech and language development and that babies learn to enjoy new tastes and textures in order to begin to develop healthy eating habits.
Every baby is an individual, but there are three clear signs, which together, show your baby is ready for solid foods alongside breastmilk or infant formula. It is very rare for these signs to appear together before your baby is six months old.
• They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady.
• They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so that they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth, all by themselves.
• The “tongue thrust reflex” has gone and they can now swallow food.
Some signs that can be mistaken for a baby being ready for solid foods:
• chewing fists
• waking in the night when they have previously slept through
• wanting extra milk feeds
These are normal behaviours and not necessarily a sign of hunger, or a sign of being ready to start solid food. Starting solid foods won’t make them any more likely to sleep through the night. Extra feeds are usually enough until they’re ready for other food.
Purées of stewed fruit and vegetables, with no added salt or sugar.
Baby Rice made with Breast Milk or Formula Milk.
Start with one teaspoon per day, increasing gradually to 2-3 teaspoons per day.
It is recommended that you introduce one new food at a time. In reality you are not going to keep doing this forever with every single ingredient and you will very quickly move on to combinations of flavours, but do take it easy in the beginning and look out for signs of any adverse reaction when introducing anything new.
If you think something isn’t agreeing with your baby you should seek medical advice, a dietician will then be able to advise you on alternative strategies.
In the real world your baby is only going to stay on single ingredients for a few weeks at most before you will want to start introducing some variety. Mashing a Banana or stewing an Apple or Carrot is very easy, but introducing combinations of flavours and making them consistent so your baby can grow to like them is where it starts getting complicated. That’s where we come in.
The early stages of weaning go by very quickly, by the time you get the hang of stewing an apple, your baby will probably be sitting up eating an apple out of their hand. There is no need to learn a whole new skill set which will be redundant in a couple of weeks.
The four most important things to remember are;
1. Be careful introducing a food that your baby has not eaten before.
2. Make sure it’s pureed or mashed enough that they are not going to choke on it.
3. If you’re not sure about something, look it up.
4. Quote some of the things you read about weaning to your partner, it will reassure her that you want to be involved.
Start with a spoon or two a day.
Choose a day and a time when you both have the time and energy for starting something new.
The best way for a baby to learn to take foods is from a spoon. Introduce the spoon to your baby’s mouth gradually so that he can suck the food from it. Your baby might like to hold their own spoon so always have two spoons on hand.
Babies have to learn to swallow food. Your baby may seem to be spitting the food out. This does not mean he does not like it, he is just getting used to spoon feeding. Offer your baby food that is smooth, soft and lump-free. Remember, if your baby is still taking full milk feeds, he may reject spoon feeds as he is full.
Once you have had a couple of goes with a spoon or two a day, you can start practicing before you give a Breast or Formula Feed and your baby is more hungry. Don’t worry if your baby hasn’t eaten much in a meal or a day, what they eat over a week is more important.
Ideally your baby should begin to share in your family mealtimes. It is important that you introduce your baby to foods and tastes that you may not like. Your baby will have different preferences to you and should not be denied a varied diet.
It is a good idea to introduce new flavours in combination with familiar flavours. It’s also a good idea to use foods and tastes baby is already familiar with, when introducing thicker and lumpier food.
Never put rusks, cereals or other foods into the bottle. This makes the feed too concentrated and may be harmful to baby.
You are going to get a lot of people giving you advice and telling you how they used to do it.
It can be difficult when people say “I did it with my child and it didn’t do them any harm”.
In that situation it’s easiest if you don’t disagree, just say something like
“I might do that / I didn’t know that / I never thought of that” and then change the subject.
Later when you have had time to think about it you might agree or disagree,
but either way you have saved yourself an argument.
When preparing meals for the rest of the family, remove your baby’s portion
before adding seasoning (salt, pepper) and use a hand blender to turn it into a purée.
By preparing homemade foods you know exactly what your baby is eating. It is good for your baby to become used to eating homemade foods from an early age.
When preparing meals for the rest of the family, remove your baby’s portion before adding seasoning (salt, pepper) and use a hand blender to turn it into a purée. This way you can easily make up a batch of baby food while cooking dinner at the same time. Use your old Pip & Pear pots for easy freezing and portion control. Do not add salt or sugar to baby’s food.
If you are going to cook for your baby, do take the time to read up on what is currently considered best practice;
Baby Nutrition, Allergies, Food Handling & Storage, etc. It’s not too difficult, but the standard of care in cooking for babies is higher than cooking for adults.
Your baby will have different tastes to yours, so remember to offer them foods that you might not like to eat yourself.
Use masking tape for easy labels, they stay on in the freezer and don’t leave a mess when you take them off; write the name of the food and the date it was made.
If you have older kids you can get them to draw smiley faces on the label.
To soften your baby’s food you can use;
• Breastmilk or Formula milk
• Vegetable water – with no added salt.
• Cooled boiled water
• Cow’s Milk after 6 months
Do not use; stock cubes, gravy and packets or jars of sauce, as these contain a lot of salt.
Different fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, so the greater variety you feed your baby the better, but don’t worry if they only eat a couple of varieties. You can keep giving them small amounts of other fruits and vegetables every so often, so they can learn to like the taste.
There are 4 basic stages of development in learning to eat solids:
• Stage 1 – 5 to 6 months Purée
• Stage 2 – from 7 months Mashed
• Stage 3 – from 10 months Lumpy
• Stage 4 – over 12 months Cut up
The progression of a baby’s diet from breast milk to family foods is relatively fast and smooth. Remember your baby can decide for himself how much food he needs. So don’t feel you have to give them the whole portion if they aren’t in the mood for it.
Younger babies have a “Tongue Thrust Reflex” which is an innate safety mechanism to prevent babies eating things before their body is ready. It will go away at around 5 or 6 months of age.
If you start weaning before 6 months of age you should be careful to wait until around 6 months of age before introducing allergens.
Babies who start spoon feeds at 6 months of age should be able to move quickly from Stage 1 puréed foods to Stage 2 mashed, lumpy and finger foods. Developmental cues that babies are ready for thicker purees and mashed foods include; sitting up without support and being able to transfer objects from one hand to the other.
Some days you might think your baby will never progress to the next stage but don’t worry it’s just a bad day, things will move along faster than you think.
It can take up to 10 or even 15 tries before your baby will really start to like a new taste, the things that you would really like your baby to eat are always the things they dislike most. Keep offering them tastes of new foods and eventually they will develop a taste for them. You don’t have to make a fuss or have a battle every time, you just want them to have a taste each time.
As your baby begins to reduce the amount of breast milk in their diet, mum’s fertility will begin to go back to normal if it hasn’t already done so.
Breast Feeding or Bottle Feeding should continue as normal and should remain the primary source of fluid, nutrients and energy. No other drinks are necessary at this time.
Small amounts of puréed complimentary foods can be given once or twice a day after Breast or Bottle feeding in order to avoid disturbing fluid intake too soon. Once or twice a day will be enough to allow your baby to learn the necessary skills of eating and to begin to enjoy trying new tastes.
A purée is thick pulp made by blending the fruit or vegetables in a liquidiser or rubbing them through a sieve. Add breastmilk, formula milk, cooled boiled water or water from cooking vegetables to the purée to get the right consistency.
Be careful not to make too much of a game out of messy eating or you will accidentally teach your baby
how to get “Negative Attention”. Try not to react when things do get messy.
Act like its normal and no big deal, then they are unlikely to get distracted or pick up bad habits.
Puréed meat, peas and beans
Puréed fruit and vegetables
Gluten-free cereals such as baby rice
Puréed, and of a soft consistency without lumps.
Start with a thin purée and make thicker as baby learns to take food from a spoon.
Cool boiled water (if necessary)
Do not give
Don’t add Salt or Sugar to your baby’s food.
No Gluten-containing foods such as bread, pasta, wheat, rye, oats, barley and breakfast cereals, before 6 months of age.
No Cow’s milk or dairy produce such as; Yogurts, fromage frais, cheese, before 6 months of age.
Don’t give whole nuts or peanut-containing products at this stage.
No Eggs before 6 months of age.
Breast Feeding or Bottle Feeding should still continue as normal and remain the primary source of fluid, nutrients and energy. However you might notice that they don’t need the same frequency of feeds and they may not drink quite as much. No other drinks are necessary at this time.
Savoury foods should be the norm and sweet dishes should be low in sugar such as mashed fruit and pureed fruit rather than foods using fruit concentrate.
A few weeks into the complimentary feeding period, babies should be having between 2 and 3 small meals a day, selected from a wide variety of foods.
You can use the same foods as in Stage 1, and you can now include:
Minced or mashed to a less fine texture
Continue to give breastmilk or bottles of formula milk as normal.
Cool boiled water (if necessary)
Try giving an occasional drink in a lidless beaker at mealtime, but expect to have spills.
Do not give
Cheese made with raw milk (Unpasteurised)
At around 6 months your baby will begin to grab things and try to put them in their mouth. Let them try to feed themselves, with your help, even if it means messy fingers. Your baby will also enjoy finger food for chewing practice! Try slices of peeled apples, banana, fingers of toast or bread, sticks of carrots, cheese cubes.
Do not leave your baby alone when feeding, in case of choking.
Breast Feeding or Bottle Feeding should move to after meal time but should still continue as part of the normal routine gradually giving way to a varied diet. The intake of fresh cow’s milk and cow’s milk products can be gradually increased from the age of 9 months.
Foods should have a chopped or mashed consistency, with meats being minced. Finger foods such as cubed fruit and vegetables, toast, cheese and soft meat should be included at most meals to encourage your babies to feed themselves. Meals made up of high-fat foods alone should be avoided.
At this stage your baby should be having 3 meals a day along with about two snack size meals.
Increase the variety of foods in your baby’s diet. Most family foods are now suitable.
Chunky mashed texture and food chopped into bite-sized pieces. Serve some finger foods that your baby can pick up and feed himself.
Continue to give breastmilk or formula milk
Cool boiled water
Well-diluted unsweetened pure fruit juice at mealtimes
Do not give
Children eat slowly so do allow for the extra time and attention needed at family meals. Now is the time to build and reinforce healthy eating habits. Don’t force your child to clear their plate, this habit can lead to obesity.
Children need encouragement when learning to eat properly and adults need patience. Adults need to help and encourage children to learn good eating habits and young children should always be supervised when eating.
The best way to teach good eating habits it to lead by example so adults should be aware of their own behaviour at the table and try to modify their own bad habits, having children can be a great motivator for living a healthier life, so do try to set a good example by exercising portion control and eating a varied diet with less salt and sugar.
Correct portion sizes for growing children can be complicated so do check regularly that you are giving the correct size portion at meal time. Regular small meals are ideal for young children and so in addition to three main meals a day your child may need one or two snack size meals per day such as a yogurt, piece of fruit or bread.
Sources: World Health Organisation / Health Service Executive Ireland / HSC Public Health Agency Northern Ireland / NHS Public Health Agency UK