Infants are used to liquid food only, mainly milk, in the first few months of their lives. The method of induction is sucking, either from the breast or the bottle. Supplementary feeding indicates the introduction of slightly thicker and more varied food which requires the action of propelling the food to the back of the mouth with the tongue.
Supplementary feeding programme
Supplementary foods or weaning can be started when the baby is of 4 to 5 months of age. Semisolid food should be offered to the baby a teaspoon at a time. Remember that he is learning to swallow slightly denser food and may spit it out. This does not mean that he is not hungry or dislikes the food.
Once he masters the art, give small quantities three to four times a day. As the number of supplementary feedings increase, decrease the quantity of milk accordingly. The stomach capacity of a baby is small so by five to six months the amount of food should not exceed 20 to 25 tea spoons spread over three to four small meals.
Baby weaning foods
They are additional sources of essential nutrients like protein, iron, energy, Vitamin A and C. These are usually deficient from the diet which a baby is given. The foods with which a baby begins his journey to varied tastes are pulses, cereals, juices, fruits and soups, especially of leafy vegetables. Once these are tolerated and digested, foods of animal origin and milk products can be added.
Important things to keep in mind
- Start with one new food at a time, two to three teaspoons to begin with. After about a week something else can be tried.
- If the baby dislikes a particular food, omit it for 10 to 15 days. Then reintroduce it by mixing it in something else so that he develops the taste for it e.g. egg can be mixed with vegetable.
- All foods should be in the form of a smooth puree.
- Use a shallow spoon to feed the baby so that he can use a sucking action to some extent.
- Use as little of salt and sugar as possible. The baby may start liking salty or sweet food and refuse all others.
- Homemade food should be preferred as it helps to assimilate the family diet, making the baby familiar with common foods of the region.
- Food should be thin to begin with, graduating to semi solid.
- It should be fresh and prepared hygienically.
A baby’s appetite varies at times. If he is sleepy, excited or not well, he will eat less. Do not try to force feed but watch for signs of hunger. You cannot follow a rigid schedule, however a healthy baby will regulate his feedings in one to two months on his own.
While changing over or supplementing the supply of milk to the child, proper monitoring of the weight and stool of the child should be done. In case of weight loss of more than 7 to 10%, a doctor should be consulted. In case the child develops loose motions, the quantity of supplementary feed should be regulated.