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When should complementary feeding be started?

Maria Fernanda
7 min read

Previously, complementary feeding was known as ablactation. It consists of a transition process between breast milk to solid foods.

It is important that all parents know this stage that they will have to experiment with their baby. In this way, they can make better decisions and successfully meet challenges.

What is complementary feeding?

According to the Spanish Society of Pediatrics, they define complementary feeding as the process in which the infant is offered solid and liquid foods other than breast milk.

This process is essential, because there are research studies that indicate the consequences of an early incorporation of food, that is, before six months.

Also, there is relevance when there is an introduction of food at the right time, as long as the nutritional needs of each stage are respected.

When should complementary feeding be started? – Wellness and Health
Supplementary feeding

For its part, the introduction of new foods has to be a good quality process.

Then, it is considered that a complementary feeding is of quality when there was a successful lactation stage and, in the opportune time the foods are introduced with an adequate rhythm for the development of the child.

Characteristics of complementary feeding

The characteristics of a complementary feeding are based on the baby's energy requirements. Some features are.

  • Diet rich in protein of animal origin.

  • Intake of "good" fats. This helps for optimal neural development.

  • Introduce carbohydrates, preferably simple carbohydrates, since they are sources of other types of nutrients.

  • Avoid offering processed foods, sugar or industrial juices, due to their nutritional deficiency.

  • Cook food without adding salt.

  • Do not supplement with abundant fiber, because it interferes with the absorption of iron.

  • Avoid introducing gluten, at least, you should wait until after the eighth month.

What is the time of exclusive breastfeeding?

What is recommended by specialists is that exclusive breastfeeding is up to six months of age.

At the same time, complementary feeding should be incorporated at this time, while still providing breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding can be maintained until the moment that the mother-child binomial decides.

Now, if your baby was unable to breastfeed for whatever reason, there is not enough scientific evidence on when to introduce food.

However, an approach used by most experts is that you can start complementary feeding between the fourth and sixth month.

Likewise, it occurs with babies who were born before 37 weeks of gestation, that is, premature children.

Of course, the conditions for introducing food to a full-term child cannot be applied to preterms.

The reason for this is that the nutritional conditions are special and different.

Why is it important to wait until six months?

Before this time the baby's gastrointestinal system remains immature, especially to support solid and liquid foods other than breast milk.

It should be noted that it is not only necessary for the gastrointestinal system to do this, but also for the nervous, immune and renal systems.

When should complementary feeding be started? – Wellness and Health
Healthy food

In addition to this, the start of complementary feeding is related to the achievement of developmental milestones such as, for example, that the child is able to grasp the food with the hand.

In conclusion, that he has psychomotor skills that allow him to handle food safely.

How do you start complementary feeding?

Up to this point it has been reiterated that complementary feeding should begin at six months.

It is recommended that you start with the vegetables, offer them in the form of porridge or purées. In addition, it is advisable to introduce one vegetable per week.

This way, you can identify if you have a food intolerance. Additionally, you should not add sugar, salt or any other type of additive, so the infant adapts to the natural flavor of the food.

The number of times you offer food during the day and during the week varies.

Usually it can be once a day for four days, this can be up to 8 months. Then between month 9 and 11 they can introduce three meals a day.

Later, between 11 and 23 months you can add a meal. After you've offered a wide variety of vegetables, you start with animal protein.

What are the best foods to start complementary feeding?

There is no such thing as one food being better than another, the recommendation is that you supply foods rich in iron.

However, the purées and creams can be potato, sweet potato, carrot, among others.

This is an individual process, it depends on the socioeconomic conditions of the family, considering the nutritional value of the food.

When should complementary feeding be started? – Wellness and Health
Better Foods

When to incorporate allergenic foods?

Currently, there is no clear consensus on when is the right time to introduce foods that are highly allergy-inducing.

Likewise, there is no scientific evidence to show that delaying the introduction of these foods after six months has a relevant impact on avoiding the onset of allergies.

In conclusion, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the incorporation of these foods in the diet be gradual from the sixth month.

On the other hand, gluten is advised after the eighth month and in small quantities.

When to introduce cereals?

A good way to incorporate cereals is dissolved in milk or in purée. Also, they include rice, corn tortillas, oatmeal, among others.

The recommended time to start its consumption is between 6 and 12 months. At the same time, no sugar or salt should be added. Remember that you can incorporate them after trying the vegetables.

When should complementary feeding be started? – Wellness and Health
Cereal feeding

Risks of early complementary feeding

Perhaps mothers think that the more food they provide to the child, the better development will be, and the truth is that this is not the case.

A hasty introduction of food, that is before 4 months, has short and long-term repercussions.

Moreover, if there is no possibility of breastfeeding before this time, the best are the formulas indicated by the pediatrician.

In this sense, the short and long term consequences respectively are.

  • Greater predisposition to diarrhea

  • Choking

  • Risk of obesity, type 1 diabetes mellitus, atopic eczema

Risks of delaying complementary feeding

Also, there is a group of parents who delay the start of complementary feeding beyond seven months. Some risks are.

  • Nutritional problems, especially iron and zinc deficiencies

  • Food intolerances

  • Rejection of new flavors

Recommendations for offering food

When should complementary feeding be started? – Wellness and Health
Supplementary feeding
  • Create a schedule for mealtime.

  • Offer food in a quiet environment, avoid sources of distraction.

  • Establish a varied and healthy menu, according to family possibilities.

  • Accept and respect the rhythm of each infant. Allow them to be autonomous.

  • Do not set an amount of food that they should consume. Respect when they are already satisfied.

  • Include the child in the family environment during mealtime.

  • Maintain a proper posture when the child shows rejection of any food. Avoid showing an angry attitude towards the child.

  • Applaud the infant's goals achieved in relation to food.

A correct diet in the first months of life reduces the probability that in the future the child may suffer from some disease, mainly metabolic.

In this sense, it is essential that parents, during the neonatal stage and during breastfeeding, can establish solid foundations on the feeding of their children.

Thus, healthy eating patterns can be sustained in adolescence and adulthood.

Finally, the ideal is that the pediatrician should be the one who will guide you in this process, although there are mothers who prefer to do it alone.

Although if in the course of complementary feeding you have difficulties, you can go to the specialist, as they will provide you with the tools you need.