The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) published a document titled “Guiding principles for complementary feeding of the breastfed child,” which summarizes some key elements to ensure an appropriate nutrition of infants.
Among the most important recommendations highlighted by the document are:
From birth until six months of age:
- Breastfeed exclusively(that is, offer only breast milk and no othertype of liquid or food) for the first six months of life. Women who are having problems breastfeeding their infant should ask their health care provider for a referral to speak with a lactation consultant.
At six months of age:
- Introduce one new food at a time (to make sure it is well tolerated) and continue breastfeeding. The current recommendation of the WHO is to continue breastfeeding until two years of age.
- Be aware of the infant’s signals of hunger and satiety. Don’t force him/her to eat. Feed your child patiently and encourage him/her to try different foods with varied colors and textures.
- Increase the amount of food provided progressively, according to the child’s hunger.
- Minimize distractions during meals. Teach your baby to enjoy each meal time and to focus on his/her food. Talk to your baby and make eating times moments of loving and sharing.
- At six months of age, offer mashed and pureed preparations. As the baby grows, increase the consistency of foods and gradually introduce solid foods that the baby can hold with his/her own hands (“finger foods”) and eat by him/herself. As he/she acquires more skills, encourage him/her to eat by him/herself, but always assist the infant during meals.
- Be aware that some foods more commonly cause choking, especially those with a spherical shape, like grapes, nuts and seeds. You can still provide these foods, but you may need to modify them by cutting them up in very small pieces or pureeing them.
- By the first year of age, your baby should be able to eat practically the same foods as the rest of the family. The more varied your meals are at home, the easier it will be for your baby to get all the nutrients he/she needs. Still, it is important to cut the foods up in the appropriate sizes, or puree them, to avoid any chance of their choking.
- Keep in mind that your baby has a smaller stomach, so if you frequently offer him/her non-nutritious foods (like salty or sugary snacks and candies), you might be preventing him/her from eating more nourishing foods. Avoid the baby’s consumption of juices, sodas, and coffee.
Finally, consult your pediatrician and/or dietitian if you have a specific question regarding the nutrition of your baby or the correct way of introducing solid foods. Ongoing monitoring of your child’s growth (through measuring height and weight) is the best indicator of the adequacy of his/her nutrition. Your health care provider can help you learn how to do this accurately, and track it over time.
World Health Organization / Pan American Health Organization (2004) “Guiding principlesfor complementary feeding of the breastfed child.” Retrieved on August, 2008 from http://whqlibdoc.who.int/paho/2004/a85622.pdf
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