Overall and supporting messages
Overall message -detail 6 months
6-24 months
Communication summary
Further reading
20 Questions and Answers

Media information for National Nutrition Week 2011

Feeding Smart from the Start.
Overall and supporting messages.

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Overall message detail - 6 months of age

From six months of age your baby needs breastmilk and solid foods; to promote health, support growth and enhance development.  This is called complementary feeding.

From the age of 6 months an infant needs more energy and nutrients than can be provided by breast milk alone. At this age a baby’s digestive system is mature enough to digest a range of foods.

Complementary feeding is needed to provide energy and essential nutrients required for continued growth and development.  The nutrients in recommended complementary foods “complement” those in breastmilk, hence the name.

The recommended feeding practices during this time ensure that all nutrients are provided to the baby; including those that are currently seen to be deficient (iron, zinc and vitamin A). Contrary to popular practice, introducing foods like meat, eggs and liver in the early stages of complementary feeding is good practice; they are good sources of these nutrients.  

Breastfeeding still has an important place; breastmilk provides about one half of the baby’s energy needs from 6 – 12 months, and up to one third during the second year of life. Breast milk supplies nutrients in a form that are easily absorbed. Breast milk also supplies protective factors that are not available from food or other sources. These protective factors play an important role in overall health, as a baby’s immune system is still immature and cannot fight all infections.

After about 2 years of age breast milk is entirely replaced by family foods, although a young child may still sometimes suckle for comfort.  However, breast milk is still a good source of nutrients to babies in food insecure families.

From six months introduce new foods to your baby every few days
At six months of age babies are ready to learn to eat foods with different textures, consistencies and tastes. At this age babies:  

Good choices of complementary foods are rich in energy, protein, essential fatty acids and micronutrients (particularly iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate).  These will be supplied when breastmilk and a variety of suitable complementary foods are given to a baby.  Suitable foods include chicken, fish, meat, eggs, liver; dry beans and soya; fortified cereals, orange and dark green leafy vegetables and peanut butter.

The taste of a new food may surprise your baby; therefore introduce new foods one at a time i.e. every few days. The new food may have to be offered several times before it is accepted; it can be mixed with a favourite food at first to encourage your baby to try it.

Babies should be eating a variety of foods by the time they are nine months old.  Finger foods can be started from about eight months of age.

The consistency and texture of foods used must be changed from soft and smooth to include lumpy bits and firmer foods. These foods must be used in most meals by the time your baby is ten months old, as learning how to chew and swallow these foods fits into your baby’s developmental process before this age. It may seem easier to continue to use soft foods, but for optimal child development it is important to gradually increase the solidity of foods. A soft complementary food should be thick enough so that it stays on a spoon and does not drip off. Foods that can cause choking such as peanuts should be avoided.

Giving complementary foods too soon is dangerous because: