Nursing Mothers Starting their Babies on Complementary Feeds

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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A baby can get all the nutritional contents suitable for them, including water, for the first 6 months from breast milk. But after 6 months, the baby will have additional energy requirements which breast milk can't totally provide while still on the breast milk. Now, choosing the right feeds to supplement the breast milk as a nursing mother depends on your culture, locally available foods and financial capacity.

However, it is important that nursing mothers ensure that any feeds they are giving their 6 months plus babies are rich in all the essential nutrients. The following can be used as complementary feeds for babies:

-Cereals like rice, maize and wheat which can be made into one meal or the other, for instance, pap from maize. There are also cereal-based canned foods that can be given to the baby after 6 months.

-Yam, potato, plantain and breadfruit can be cooked and mashed for the baby

-Animal products like meat, fish, egg, chicken should be added to any meal given to the baby

-Nursing mothers should also add groundnut, beans, carrots (which can be grounded or mashed as the case may be) to the baby's meal to ensure a balanced diet.

-Additional milk products like yoghurt and cheese should be part of the baby's food to supplement the breast milk.

These and many more foods can be added gradually to the baby's meal after 6 months and as the baby grows.

It is also important nursing mothers ensure:

1. They employ a very high level of hygiene in preparing these foods for their babies to avoid them developing diarrhoea due to food contamination

2. The foods are mashed or grounded to enable easy digestion by the baby's stomach and intestine.

3. Every meal given to the baby is balanced in all the nutrients to avoid them developing malnutrition.

4. Feed the baby with cup and spoon

5. Continue breastfeeding the baby up to the age of 2 years if possible.

6. The amount of meal given to the baby should be increased as he or she grows, and more food added as the baby tolerates more food options.

Nursing mothers should be aware that the baby may develop health problems during this period related to the complementary feeding. These include diarrhoea, constipation (difficulty with going to toilet) or vomiting. Whenever this is noticed, they should report to their paediatrician (children's doctor) for proper medical care of their baby and counselling on what to do to prevent such problems happening again.

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Published Tuesday, April 18th 2017

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