The World Health Organisation says that after the first six months, “to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.”
This simply means this is the ideal time to introduce solid foods in your baby’s diet. Soft food like mashed vegetables or cereals can be given, bit by bit, to provide the nutritional value that the baby needs which breast milk alone cannot provide at this stage of a baby’s life.
By six months, the quantity of breast milk produced reduces, as also its nutritive value. The milk becomes thinner and is inadequate to satisfy a hungry baby. According to Dr Sakeena Samar, Paediatric Nutritionist, Santosh Hospital, Bengaluru, solid complementary foods, cooked at home, should be introduced to a baby in very small quantities. To start with, one or two tablespoons per feed are enough. She suggests that in the initial stage, the baby should be given mashed rice, oats, suji, ragi, potato, carrots or soft fruits like banana. It is always advisable to choose food items that are locally grown and available. Though commercially available semi-solid baby foods can be given, these cannot replace home-cooked food.
In the case of premature babies, more nutrition is required in the first six months itself. Breast milk is not sufficient for them. So, breast milk for preterm babies has to be fortified. Fortifiers are added to the expressed breast milk. The ratio is 1 or 2 gm of fortifier added to 50 ml milk. This should be given to the preemies once or twice a day as advised by the doctor. As in the case of normal babies, solid food should be introduced to the preterm babies, too, after six months.