Complementary Foods

Breast milk or formula should be the primary source of nutrition for babies under 1 year old. The first foods we introduce to our babies are often called “complementary foods” because the idea is to introduce foods that complement breast milk/formula, not to simply replace milk.

Introducing solid/table/first foods should start when babys mouth and gut are ready to tolerate digesting them. Baby’s tongue thrust reflex should have disappeared, baby should be able to sit unsupported for at least the length of a meal, and baby should be using a pincher grasp to be able to bring their own food to their own mouth. This usually happens around 6 months, although for some it’s a little younger and others a little older. Food choices should be about exposing baby to a full palate of flavors and a wide variety of textures that add to baby’s feeding experience without taking away the nutrients and energy found in milk. The goal of complementary feeding is NOT to try to fill baby up with as much food as possible to cut back on giving breast milk or formula. It’s about baby gradually increasing the amount of foods eaten from your family’s unique diet across multiple months.

Cooked sweet potatoes, mashed avocado or banana, purée canned pears or peaches, and cooked carrots are wonderful first foods and simple to make. Next offer foods from your family table first (in the appropriate purée or cooked and cut form). Your baby has already been exposed to what you eat on a daily basis through your milk and they’ll have a higher likelihood of preferring those foods. Many foods marketed for babies, like rice cereal or oats, don’t actually add any nutritional value to baby’s diet. Read jarred food labels carefully for preservatives and sugar. There’s also a risk of filling your baby up with low calorie jarred foods which then decreases the amount of nutrient dense milk they will want to drink.

Remember: just as every family eats different foods and has their own unique way of doing meals, so does every tiny human. If you’re concerned about your littles eating habits, request feeding therapy with an occupational therapist at your next pediatrician appointment.

Remember:
⭐️ The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2 years of age
⭐️ Breast milk never loses its nutritional value and is good for children at any age
⭐️ From 7-9 months babies need about 250 calories from food a day
⭐️ From 10-12 months babies need around 450 calories from food a day

Where are you getting your feeding advice from?

Feeding “advice” we would never tell an adult:

⌚️It hasn’t been 3 hours yet. You can’t possibly be hungry again

⏱It hasn’t been 3 hours yet. You can’t possibly be thirsty again.

🧊You need to drink all 64oz of your daily water intake in 4 equally portioned cups. If you can’t drink 16 ounces in one sitting, something is wrong with you.

🍽Clean plate club. Finish everything on your plate regardless of how full your stomach feels.

🍏Eat food purely for their nutritional value. 🍦Never have food simply for the comfort or enjoyment of it.

🔦Eat alone in a dark room and never with anyone else

💡How could you get so distracted while eating? Focus and pay attention.

🪑Eat until you’re done then leave the table immediately. Don’t hang out at the table for longer than needed.

🛌Never eat a bed time snack

🛏Wake up in the middle of the night thirsty? Too bad. Go back to bed you can have some water in the morning

⏰You have 15 minutes to eat. Tic toc. When the clock hits 15 you need to stop whether you’re done or not

🍴3 meals, 2 snacks. That’s it. 7, 9, 12, 3 and 5. Hungry or thirsty at a different time? Here’s a pen cap to chew on

🍔There’s only one way to eat and if you don’t eat like me and my family you’re doing it wrong

Do you get where I’m going here? Too often we analyze the science of breastfeeding instead of considering the art of feeding and eating. We try to make a literal formula for how our baby should eat when some times we have to appreciate feeding for what it is: an enjoyable and pleasurable sensory experience that is social and includes more than just calorie intake.