Guidelines to Introducing Complementary Feeding

February 15, 2021
The guidelines to introducing complementary feeding have been amended to include new support and recommendations following recent scientific advancements. What should you know?

Feeding an infant is an act of love. It may also be necessary to include essential nutrients to help the little one’s growth. Although there are universal questions regarding scientific evidence and the baby’s safety, each family should enjoy the moment. But it’s also important to pay attention to the recommendations. That aside, how can you introduce complementary feeding?

Guidelines to introducing complementary feeding

This is a well-trodden path; complementary feeding has been subject to multiple changes regarding the most appropriate times and opportune moments for it.

Specialists have revised the advice regarding prematurely moving the infant onto foods that complement breast milk as it can potentially cause allergies to develop, and it’s vital to ensure the baby is ready for it.

Keep reading: Weaning Your Baby: How to Start to Introduce Food

Feeding a baby.
You shouldn’t prematurely move your baby onto complementary feeding, because they may not yet be mature enough for it.

The Breastfeeding Committee for the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (Comité de Lactancia Materna de la Asociación Española de Pediatría) highlights that:

“Complementary feeding (CF) is considered a process wherein the baby is offered, in addition to breast milk, solid foods or liquids different from breast milk or baby formula. This will be as an addition, not a substitution. In recent years, the guidelines for introducing complementary food have changed many times. There are many noticeable differences to the advice from the previous generation.”

Similarly, and according to the same source, parents should continue feeding the child breast milk exclusively for the first 6 months of age. After this, they can add other foods, providing, of course, that they follow the guidelines and continue feeding the child breast milk as and when the mother and child want.

Additional recommendations

It’s important to remember that not all babies will be prepared to begin complementary feeding at the same time. It’s also essential that the parents and health professionals are aware of the baby’s developing abilities.

The Valencian Pediatrics Society (Sociedad Valenciana de Pediatría (SVP)) recommends that parents shouldn’t delay in introducing their child to solid foods beyond 8 or 10 months, in order to avoid food-related problems in the future. This is reflected in a feeding recommendations document regarding children at breast-feeding or preschool stages, presented at the open day for the 2018-2019 Valencia’s Medical College Academic Course.

You may also be interested in: How to Make Healthy Meals for Your Baby: Ten Options

Some comments and additional support 

There’s new information regarding complementary feeding in babies’ diets:

“The food parents give their child should be high in nutrients, vitamins, and micronutrients. It should also be rich in energy, iron, calcium, protein, calories, and minerals that support the baby’s growth.” 

Regarding the amount, the same source notes that “although during the breastfeeding period the baby will eat every three to four hours, when including complimentary feeding, these times will be extended.”

However, although there’s no defined amount of frequency for the portions of food that the baby should eat, there are foods that specialists recommend against. Additionally, they suggest that any new foods are added naturally and progressively. This is so the baby can discover new textures, temperatures, and flavors.

A baby having complementary feeding.
Food that you introduce to your baby should be high in a number of essential nutrients. You must ensure there’s an adequate supply of vitamins, minerals, and proteins, among others.

To summarize

  • It’s vital not to rush or anticipate when thinking about when to introduce complementary feeding.
  • Count on the support of authorized professionals to guide you on this. However, don’t dismiss the opinions of close family members – they may be able to help!
  • Be cautious about certain trends you may have seen about complementary feeding – or other aspects of your baby’s development. The current Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) technique, or baby-guided complementary feeding, is a key example of this. One of the main worries here is the issue of choking.
  • With that in mind, the American Academy of Pediatrics noted in a 2016 publication that “they require further study in order to guarantee that the parents or carers know how to give the baby safe foods within secure feeding environments.” 
  • Asociación Española de Pediatría
  • Sociedad Valenciana de Pediatria
  • Fangupo LJ, Heath AM, Williams SM, et al. A Baby-Led Approach to Eating Solids and Risk of Choking.
    Pediatrics. 2016;138(4):e20160772