Mother, Infant and Young Child Nutrition & Malnutrition Mother, Infant and Young Child Nutrition & Malnutrition - Feeding practices including micronutrient deficiencies prevention, control of wasting, stunting and underweight
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Home  »  India  »  Resources  »  Complementary Feeding Guidelines

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Complementary Feeding Guidelines

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First food for the baby

The staple cereal of the family should be used to make the first food for an infant. Porridge can be made with suji (semolina), broken wheat, atta (wheat flour) ground rice, ragi, millet etc, by using a little water or milk, if available. Roasted flour of any cereal can be mixed with boiled water, sugar and a little fat to make the first complementary food for the baby and could be started after completion of 6 months of age.

Adding sugar or jaggery and ghee or oil is important as it increases the energy value of the food. In the beginning the porridge could be made a little thinner but as the child grows older the consistency has to be thicker. A thick porridge is more nutritious than a thin one. In case a family can not prepare the porridge for the infant separately, pieces of half chapatti could be soaked in half a cup of milk or boiled water, mashed properly and fed to the baby after adding sugar and fat. Soaked and mashed chapatti could be passed through a sieve so as to get a soft semi-solid food for the infant.

Fruits like banana, papaya, chikoo, mango etc. could be given at this age in a mashed form. Infants could also be given reconstituted instant infant foods (see below for preparation) at this age.

Traditional foods for infants

Once the child is eating cereal porridge well, mixed foods including cooked cereal, pulse and vegetable(s) could be given. Most traditional foods given to infants in different parts of the country are examples of mixed foods like khichidi, dalia, suji kheer, upma, idli, dokhla, bhaat-bhaji.

Sometimes traditional foods are given after a little modification so as to make the food more suitable for the child. For instance, mashed idli with a little oil and sugar is a good complementary food for the infant. Similarly bhaat can be made more nutritious by adding some cooked dal or vegetable to it. Khichidi can be made more nutritious by adding one or two vegetables in it while cooking.

Modified family food

In most families there is a cereal preparation in the form of roti or rice and a pulse or a vegetable preparation. For preparing a complementary food for the infant from the foods cooked for the family, a small amount of dal or vegetable preparation should be separated before adding spices to it. Pieces of chapatti could be soaked in half a katori of dal and some vegetable, if available. The mixed food could be mashed well and fed to the baby after adding a little oil. If necessary the mixture could be passed through a sieve to get a semi-solid paste. Thus, rice or wheat preparation could be mixed with pulse and/or vegetable to make a nutritious complementary food for the infant.

Modifying your family's food is one of the most effective ways of ensuring complementary feeding of infants.

Instant Infant Foods

Infant food mixes can be made at home from food grains available in the household. These mixes can be stored for at least a month and enable frequent feeding of infants.

These are sattu-like preparations which are quite familiar in the Indian community. Take three parts of any cereal (rice/wheat) or millet (ragi, bajra jowar), one part of any pulse (moong/channa/arhar) and half part of groundnuts or white til, if available. The food items should be roasted separately, ground, mixed properly and stored in airtight containers.

For feeding, take two tablespoons of this infant food mix, add boiled hot water or milk, sugar or jaggery and oil/ghee and mix well. Cooked and mashed carrot, pumpkin or green leafy vegetables could be added to the porridge, if available. The infant can be fed with this food whenever freshly cooked food is not available in the family. The infant food mix could also be made into preparations like halwa, burfi, upma, dalia, and given to the child.

Protective foods

Besides modified family food and reconstituted infant food mixes, protective foods like milk, curd, lassi, egg, fish and fruits and vegetables are also important to help in the healthy growth of infants. Green leafy vegetables, carrots, pumpkin and seasonal fruits like papaya, mango, chikoo, banana, are important to ensure good vitamin A and iron status of the child.

Baby needs all foods after completion of 6 months of age namely cereals, pulses, vegetables. particularly green leafy vegetables, fruits, milk and milk products, egg, meat and fish if non-vegetarian, oil/ghee, sugar and iodised salt in addition to breastfeeding. In addition to breastfeeding, a diversified diet will also improve the micronutrients status of the child.

Energy Density of Infant Foods

Low 'energy density' complementary foods given to young children and the low frequency of feeding can result in an inadequate intake of calories. Most of the foods are bulky and a child cannot eat more at a time. Hence it is important to give small energy dense feeds at frequent intervals with a view to ensure adequate energy intake by the child.

Energy density in foods given to infants and young children can be increased in four different ways:

  1. By adding a teaspoonful of oil or ghee to the child's food. Fat is a concentrated source of energy and substantially increases energy content of food without increasing the bulk. There is no reason to feel that a child can not digest visible fat when added to food.
  2. By adding a teaspoonful of sugar or jaggery to the child's food. Children need more energy and hence adequate amounts of sugar or jaggery can be added to their food.
  3. By giving malted foods. Malting reduces the viscosity of foods and hence a child can eat more at a time. Malting is germinating whole grain cereals or pulses, drying it after germination and grinding. Infant Food Mixes prepared after malting the cereal or pulse will provide more energy. Flours of malted food when mixed with other foods help in reducing the viscosity of that food. Amylase Rich Flour (ARF) is the scientific name given to flours of malted foods and must be utilized in infant foods.
  4. By feeding thick but smooth mixtures. Thin gruels do not provide enough energy. A young infant particularly during 6-9 months requires thick but smooth mixtures as hard pieces in the semi-solid food may cause difficulty if swallowed. Semi-solid foods for young infants can be passed through a sieve by pressing with a ladle to ensure that the mixed food is smooth and uniform without any big pieces or lumps.

14 September, 2019

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