As babies grow and develop, their digestive capacity gradually improves and simple milk-based feeding cannot fully meet the needs of growth and development after 6 months of age, so babies need to gradually switch from pure milk-based liquid foods to solid foods.
Why add complementary foodsApart from meeting nutrient requirements, another important purpose of adding complementary foods is to develop your baby's chewing and swallowing skills and gastrointestinal digestive capacity, so that your baby can make a perfect transition to adult eating patterns after weaning.
Timing of complementary feedingGenerally speaking, depending on your baby's growth and development, you can try adding complementary foods from 4-6 months onwards. As a mother, it is important to remember that in addition to the key figure of 4 to 6 months, it is also important to pay attention to the following phenomena: your baby's tongue reflex disappears, he/she is able to sit up or sit alone, and he/she starts to show interest in adult food. When your baby meets all these criteria, it is time to add complementary foods!
How to add the first bite of complementary foodFor the first bite of complementary food, it can be either iron-fortified rice flour or red meat puree - the key is an 'iron-rich paste', although iron-fortified rice flour is more convenient for mothers.
Mothers should pay special attention to the word 'iron-fortified', not to the rice flour that they grind at home. Both iron-fortified rice flour and red meat puree are iron-rich foods designed to meet your baby's iron needs.
1. Add only one new food at a timeWhen enriching your baby's "complementary food bank", mothers should remember that each new food should be a single food. A single food can be a good indicator of whether your baby is allergic to that food and is a very important measure to prevent food allergies.
Only when several foods have been added separately and have been digested and absorbed well, should they be mixed.
Each time a new food is added, it is important to observe whether the baby's gastrointestinal tract tolerates it, which usually means that no allergic symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea or rashes occur. It is prudent to feed the food several times over a period of 2-3 days to determine if it is acceptable to the baby before introducing other foods.
2. From thin to thick, from less to moreThe same food is different depending on the age of the baby. The nature of the food should range from puree (red meat puree, rice flour, vegetable puree) - semi-solid (rotten pasta, minced red meat, soft chopped vegetables) - solid (diced fruit, vegetables, sweet potato cubes).
Remember that the purpose of giving a small amount of a new complementary food is not to fill your baby's tummy, but to see if your baby can accept the new food and if any allergies occur.
How to adjust the amount of milk after adding complementary foodsFrom 4 to 6 months when your baby starts to add complementary foods, the energy provided by complementary foods should approach 1/3 of the total energy in the food consumed as soon as possible.
At one year of age, complementary foods provide almost 1/2 of the total energy in the food consumed.
In general, babies need to drink 800-1000ml of milk a day before complementary foods are added, but once complementary foods are added, the amount of milk can be gradually reduced to 600-800ml a day and the number of feedings should be reduced accordingly and less frequently.
For babies aged 1-2 years, the dietary guidelines for Chinese residents recommend that they should maintain a daily milk intake of about 500ml, and rely on the rest of their "three meals" to meet their growth and development needs.
Supplementary feeding at different ages
Breastfeed exclusively, ensuring 800-1000ml per day, if this is not enough, use infant formula to supplement.
Add complementary foods around 6 months of ageMaintain a daily milk intake of 600-800ml, 4-6 times a day and 1 time a day for complementary feeding. Iron-fortified rice flour, red meat puree, egg custard, mashed potatoes and fruit puree. As the first month of complementary feeding, there is no emphasis on the amount of complementary food intake, aiming to introduce iron-rich complementary foods smoothly and to enrich the food variety as soon as possible.
Mothers should note that iron-fortified rice flour can be prepared with breast milk or formula milk in addition to water, thus increasing the nutrient density.
Ensure that you drink 600ml of breast milk or formula 3-4 times a day, with 2-3 complementary meals. At this stage, your baby's chewing and swallowing ability has further improved and you can gradually replace pureed foods with finely prepared foods, but they should still be processed accordingly according to the nature of the ingredients.
The intake of complementary foods also increases during this period, usually ensuring one whole egg, 50g of meat, poultry and fish per day, with staple foods, vegetables and fruit depending on the baby's appetite.
Foods commonly eaten can be
- Staple foods: rotten pasta, porridge (thick), rice flour (thick)
- Meat dishes (or protein-rich): minced meat, egg custard, chicken puree, fish puree, prawn puree, tofu, pea puree
- Vegetables: chopped broccoli, carrots (grated into a paste with small granules), pumpkin, mashed leafy vegetables (blanched in boiling water and ground into a puree)
- Fruits: apples, pears, bananas, strawberries, prunes, papayas, avocados, slightly firm fruits can be cut into small pieces
10 months to 1 year
Ensure 600ml of breast milk or formula, 3-4 milk feeds and 2-3 complementary feeds per day. This is the best time to introduce "finger foods", granular foods and foods that require some chewing ability are the most suitable for finger foods at this time.
Foods that are commonly eaten can be
- For example, cucumber sticks, banana sticks, apple sticks, chicken fillets, fish fillets, boiled eggs, toasted bread sticks, peas, corn kernels, carrot kernels, etc. The softness of the food should be gradual and finger foods should be arranged according to the baby's ability to chew and swallow.
Finger foods are not the only complementary food for babies at this age. The purpose of finger foods is to practise hand-eye coordination and chewing and swallowing skills, while other complementary foods should still be given in the same way as at 8-9 months, with coarser handling and processing, and granular and chunky food.
Over 1 year old
Babies over 1 year of age should be eating close to the adult pattern, with three meals and two points. The baby should be able to eat most of the foods that adults eat, although it is still important to keep them light. Salt and spicy seasonings are not recommended to be added to complementary foods. The amount of milk can be maintained at around 500ml.
Other kitchen condiments should also be reduced in quantity. The aim of complementary feeding during this period is to train your baby to eat on his own and to be able to eat independently.
Regular foods may be
- Maintain 1 egg per day, 50-75g with poultry, 50-100g of cereals, 100g of vegetables and 50-100g of fruit.
- Maintaining a milk intake of around 500ml is sufficient, and fresh milk, yoghurt and cheese can all be introduced into your baby's menu to enrich the form of dairy products.
The intake of milk and dairy products during this period becomes a supporting role, interspersed with the three meals. It can be given either as a snack or in the morning, at bedtime.
Supplementary food ingredients need special handling
1. Plant foodsRoots and tubers: wash and peel, cut into small pieces and boil or steam, then puree in a grinding bowl or blender (add water if appropriate). Potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, purple potatoes, etc. are recommended.
Fruit puree: peel and core, cut into small pieces and puree or scrape directly with a stainless steel spoon. Recommended are apples, bananas, kiwis, etc.
2. Animal foodMeat puree: remove the tendons from lean pork or beef brisket, wash and chop it into pieces, or use a cooking machine to crush it into minced meat, add the right amount of water and steam it.
Liver puree: buy pork liver from regular channels, rinse the surface under running water, cut the whole liver into two pieces and scrape out the liver puree with a knife on the cut side. Or steam or boil and chop into a puree. Pig's liver is a very rich source of iron, but due to its extremely high vitamin A content, it is not suitable for high frequency consumption; once a week is usually sufficient.
Fish puree: Wash, steam or boil the fish and take the flesh part and press it into a puree with a spoon.
Shrimp puree: chop or crush shrimp into a shrimp puree, steam or boil.