Complementary feeding and infant growth


As at 2011, World Health Organization, UNICEF and many national health agencies recommended weaning until six months of age before starting a child on food, however, individual babies may differ based on their unique development progress. A good way to know when to introduce baby food is to watch for signs of readiness in the child. Sign of readiness include the ability to sit without help, loss of tongue thrust and the display of activities, interest in food that others are eating, baby may be started directly on normal family food if attention is given to choking hazards, this is referred to as baby-ted weaning, because breast milk takes on flavor of food eaten by the mother. These foods are special good choices (Dewey, 2003).

As a global public health recommendation, the World Health Organization recommends that infants should be exclusively breast fed for six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Most six months old infants are physiologically and developmentally ready for new foods (Crocetti, Dudas & Krungman, 2004).

The early introduction of complimentary food may satisfy the hunger of the infant resulting in less frequent breast feeding and ultimately less milk production in the mother (Satter, 2002).

If there is family history of allergies one may which to introduce only one new food at a time, leaving a few days in-between to notice any reactions that should indicate a few allergy or sensitivity. This way if the child is unable to tolerate a certain food, it can determine which food is causing the reaction, the readiness time for complementary food is 4-6 months of age (Sullivan & Birrch, 1994).

Complementary food

Complementary food is any soft easy consumed food other than breast milk or infant formula that is made special for infants, roughly between the age of 4-6 months and two years. The food comes in multiple varieties and taste, it may be staple food that the rest of the family is eating that has be mashed or otherwise broken down, or it can be purchased ready made from producers (Klemman, 2004).

Types of complementary food

  • Iron fortified infant cereal
  • Fruit juice
  • Protein rich foods
  • Eggs

Iron fortified infant cereal: Is an appropriate first complementary for infant because it is easy to digest and contribute important nutrient such as iron and zinc to the diet (Crocetti, et al.,2004).

Fruit juice: In recent years fruit has become a popular beverages to offer infant readily accept it (Crocetti, et al.,2004).

Protein rich food: Protein rich food are gradually introduce to infant between 6-8 months of age, if an additional source of iron or zinc is needed and the infant is developmentally ready, protein rich foods may be introduced before 4 and 6 months (Bronner & Bentley, 1999).

Eggs: Egg yolk can be introduce to the infant, but egg white and whole egg (because it has egg white) are not recommended until one year of age, because they contain proteins that may cause hypersensitivity (allergic) reaction in infants(Crocetti, et al.,2004).

What to consider when giving complementary foods

Nutrient content: Similar to the best homemade foods (Klienmman, 2004).

Appropriate texture: Food should be formulated to contain recommended texture based on age or stage of development (Klienmman, 2004).

Variety of taste and ingredients: Food should be made available in many flavors and with a large variety of fruits, vegetables and other food.

Food combination in recommended proportion: Food should be properly combined and formulated to be acceptable to infant and provide the right proportion of ingredient (Goldberg, Novotny & Kieffer, 1995).

Less pesticide contamination: Baby food should be made from produce that is lower in pesticide residues and other chemicals that are fruits and vegetables purchased markets for adult use (Klienmman, 2004).

Convenience for home use: Commercial baby foods should be ready to use right out of the containers (Dietz & Stern, 1999).

Convenience for travel: Container of baby food should safe, easy to store and convenient for travel (Mennnella, Jagnow and Bauchamp, 2001).

Stability of ingredients: Commercial baby food should be guaranteed to contain what is listed on the label and will remain unspoiled for the stated time (Mennnella, et al.,2001).

Exact knowledge of ingredients: Every ingredient included must be listed on the label (Mennnella, et al.,2001).

Hygiene: Manufacturers should follow strict quality control standards and monitor the cleanliness of preparations and cooking areas, the storage condition of the suppliers, ingredients and the clean up procedures after cooking (Mennnella, et al.,2001).

Benefits of complementary food

  1. To ensure adequate energy and nutrients.
  2. To prevent stunting growth in the first two (2) years age.
  3. To prevent infant and children from becoming undernourished.

Nutritional value of some homemade complementary foods

  1. Millet
  2. Guinea corn
  3. Corn


Basic macronutrients and calories

Nutrient                                      Amount

Protein       –        –        –        –        6.11 g

Carbohydrates   –        –        –        41.19 g

Fat-total     –        –        –        –        1.74 g

Dietary fiber        –        –        –        2.26 g

Calories     –        –        –        –        207.06


Guinea corn

Basic macronutrients and calories

Nutrient                                   Amount

 Protein       –        –        –        –        5 g

Carbohydrates   –        –        –        36 g

Fat-total     –        –        –        –        1.6 g

Dietary fiber        –        –        –        4 g

Calories     –        –        –        –        163


Basic macronutrients and calories

Nutrient                                   Amount

Protein       –        –        –        –        9 g

Carbohydrates   –        –        –        74 g

Fat-total     –        –        –        –        4.7 g

Dietary fiber        –        –        –        5.1 g

Calories     –        –        –        –        365

Preparation of some home-made complementary food

There are ways of preparing some homemade complementary food; millet, guinea corn and corn. Soak the corn in water for three (3) days, you can be changing the water for three days, grind it and filter then allow it to get settle and you get your corn food which is called pap but popularly known as Akamu. You can apply the same method for Millet and Guinea Corn.

In conclusion you can fortified your baby complementary food by adding enough milk, Karofy and grinded crayfish and prepare it yourself to avoid food contamination.


Bronner, Y. L. & Bentley, M. E. (1999): Early introduction of solid foods among urban African-America. Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics 5(7): 67-75.

Crocetti, M., Dudas, R. & Krungman, S. (2004): Parental belief and practices of early introduction of solid foods. American Journal of Paediatric 44: 469-81.

Dietz, W. H. & Stern, L. (1999): Making peace at the table and building healthy eating habits for life. New York: Villard Books.

Goldberg, D.L. Novotny, R. and Kieffer, E. (1995): Complementary feeding and ethnicity of infants in Hawaii. Journal of Clinical Nutrition 67:34-49.

Kleinmman, R. E. (2004): Complementary feeding. Paediatric Nutrition 34: 103-115.

Mennella, J. Jagnow, C. P. & Bauchamp, G. (2001): Prenatal and postnatal flavour learning by human infants. Retrieved from on 13th February, 2015.

Satter, E. (2002): Child of mine: Feed with love and good sense. Dublin: Bull Publishing.

Sullivan, S.A. & Birch, L. L. (1994): Infant dietary experience and acceptance of solid food. Journal of Paediatric Nutrition 34: 271-277.

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