Monday 14 March 2022


Complementary foods should be introduced at the right time, delaying beyond six months of age increases the risk of nutrient and energy deficiencies. As new complementary foods are introduced, infants accept and enjoy the new tastes and textures. At times, they may be fussy when new food is introduced, do not panic as it is very common even as an adult, we tend to refuse foods that are new to our taste buds. When a certain food is rejected, try other alternative, and try to identify if the refusal is due to the texture or the food itself. Try several food mixtures to know which suits your baby the most. Do not forget to introduce each food item singly, and wait for about 2 -3 days to watch out for any allergic reactions. Occasionally, give the previously refused foods to check the level of acceptability. Research has shown that food can be given 5-10 times before it can be adequately accepted by an infant.

Begin with a smooth puree or mashed food for the first few tastes. Foods can be offered from a shallow teaspoon or plastic spoon. Some infants may prefer soft finger foods for a start but do not restrict to finger foods only as that would not provide adequate amounts of nutrients needed.

Foods to offer

You can introduce any food for a start, but it is always encouraged to begin with mashed or pureed low allergic foods like cereals, root vegetables (carrots, potatoes etc) and fruits, often mixed with a little of either breastmilk or infant formula. One of the disadvantages of starting with fruit is that the infant may likely grow a ‘sweet tooth’ afterwards.

Other foods to include are iron-rich foods such as red meat, prawns, fish, eggs, peas, beans, and other suitable meat alternatives as well as iron-fortified breakfast cereals and green vegetables. To increase absorption of iron from plant-based foods,  give food rich in vitamin C at the same meal.

 Hard and crunchy foods should be avoided as infants at this age can bite off lumps but not yet chew them properly, which could lead to choking.

Different local foods to be given

Staples: grains such as maize, wheat, millet, sorghum, and roots crops such as yam, cassava, and potatoes

Legumes, nuts, and seeds such as beans, Bambara nuts, pigeon peas, soybeans, groundnuts, almonds, cashew nuts, sesame etc

Vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables such as mango, papaya, dark-green leaves, carrots, yellow sweet potato and pumpkin and other fruits such as banana, pineapple, avocado, etc.

Animal-source foods including flesh foods such as finely minced meat, dried meat powder, chicken, fish, fish powder, liver (1 small size per week) eggs, milk, and milk products

The small amount of oil or butter (not more than half a teaspoon per day) added to vegetables and other foods will provide extra energy.

Foods to limit

Sugar: it should only be added to homemade cooked fruits and puddings (if desired) in small quantities to reduce the tart flavour.

Salt and salty foods: most foods, breastmilk and infant formula naturally contain some sodium needed for infant growth. Exceeding the recommended sodium intake of 400mg (1g salt equivalent) per day may pose a health risk to the developing kidney.

Honey: it should not be given until one year of age to prevent Clostridium botulinum infection.  After 1 year of age, the gut is mature enough to prevent the botulinum bacteria from multiplying.

Liver: if offered, should be limited to one small serving per week because of the high levels of vitamin A.

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