Complementary feeding, as defined by the World Health Organization, is “the process starting when breast milk or breast milk substitute alone is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of infants” so that “other foods and liquids are needed, along with breast milk”. Complementary food in this opinion, comprises therefore, all liquid, semisolid and solid foods other than breast milk and infant formula or follow-on formula that are fed to infants. Complementary food can be beverages, spoon-fed foods or finger food.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
• Breastfeed exclusively (no other foods or drinks) for the first 6 months of your baby’s life.
• After 6 months of age, continue to breastfeed and begin to add solid foods (this is when weaning begins).
• After your baby’s first birthday, continue to breastfeed for as long as both you and your baby are comfortable. Some mothers and babies continue to nurse into the toddler years and beyond
How to wean your baby?
• Weaning works best when it happens slowly, in its own time.
• You will need to substitute your milk with formula if your baby is younger than 1 year. If your baby is older than 1 year, you can stop offering the breast and drop one feeding a time, over several weeks.
• Start by taking away his or her least favorite feeding first. Nursing sessions that come before falling asleep or after waking are often the ones to go last. Wait a few days to drop another feeding.
• Talk to your child about weaning. Even young children can understand what you are saying and offer their opinions and ideas for how best to stop breastfeeding.
• Practise good hygiene and proper food handling
• Start at 6 months with small amounts of food and increase gradually as the child gets older
• Gradually increase food consistency and variety
• Increase the number of times that the child is fed: 2–3 meals per day for infants 6–8 months of age and 3–4 meals per day for infants 9–23 months of age, with 1–2 additional snacks as required
• Use fortified complementary foods or vitamin-mineral supplements as needed
• During illness, increase fluid intake including more breastfeeding, and offer soft, favourite foods.