3-6 months

Nutrition and Feeding - Food Introduction

Mothers can start introducing food to their babies by the age of 6 months.

Dalal Alkhamees
Pediatric Dietitian
Ministry of Health, Al-Amiri Hospital

Mothers can start introducing food to their babies by the age of 6 months old. Earlier introduction of solid food may increase the risk of illness in babies such as diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, weakness and weight loss, and this can be life-threatening.

When mothers breastfeed their babies frequently, it will give the baby all the nutrition requirements for his age, but when food is introduced earlier it will interrupt the baby’s requirements, because the baby intake will be from both milk and food, but food cannot be digested properly and will affect the baby’s nutrition absorption.  

When to Start Solid Food?

By the age of 6 months old, the breast or formula milk alone will not meet the baby’s needs, the baby needs extra nutrition from both food and milk for catch-up growth.

What is the Food That Should be Given First?

Always start with food that has less sweet taste:

  • Cooked oatmeal with breast milk or formula milk.
  • Mashed banana or avocados.
  • Mashed beans.
  • Cooked and pureed carrot, potato, sweet potato and peas.
  • Cooked and pureed meat or poultry.
  • Your baby does not need juice, unless having constipation (only 100 ml/day)

By the age of 6-8 months old, mothers can provide between 2-3 solid food meals/ days in combination with breast or formula milk, the amount of each meal consists of two tablespoons, requirements can be adjusted by the Dietitian’s help.

What is the Food That Should be Avoided?

  • Water is not allowed for infants less than 6 months of age. Breast milk or baby formula will provide all the nutrition and hydration requirements. Early introduction of water may cause toxicity and lead to other complications, except for very hot weather, the baby may need small amounts during the day. (After the age of 6 months old)
  • Herbs may cause allergic reactions and digestive system stress. (After the age of 6 months old and some herbs after the age of 1 year old)
  • Cow milk, because it lacks some important nutrients, and the protein in the cow milk is different from the breast / formula milk protein; as it may cause digestive system problems. (After the age of 1 year old)
  • Soymilk, it lacks important nutrients that the baby needs; as it may harm the baby. (After the age of 1.5-2 years old)
  • Honey may affect the digestive system and cause other symptoms. (After the age of 1 year old)
  • Dates can cause digestive system problems.(After the age of 6 months old)

What are the Special Instructions for the Babies with Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate?

  • According to your physician and dietitian, the best feeding method is applied to prevent any chocking and other complications. Either orally or by tube-feeding.
  • It is common for babies with cleft lip or cleft palate to have food coming out of their nose, and this is not harmful for the baby, he may sneeze to clear out his nose, but he will gradually learn how to move the food down.
  • Some food can also get stuck in the cleft palate; mothers can easily use soft cloth and water to clean the mouth and the cleft.  
  • Special cups can help your baby drink his liquids (breast milk, formula milk, water, etc.)
  • Offer food with a soft surface and use a small spoon with small quantities at a time.

Important Nutrition Notes

  • Make sure to provide iron/protein rich food from animal sources: meat, poultry, fish, and from plant sources: dark green vegetables, and beans. Fortified food can also provide the baby with iron requirements like: fortified cereals, biscuits, rice, etc.; especially post-surgery periods.
  • During the period of 6 months - 1 year of age, food requirements will increase, while (breast/formula) milk’s needs decreases gradually as the baby grows older. Breastfeeding can be up to 2 years.
  • Food texture will change as the baby grow, starting from soft, mashed, and pureed food, then upgrade to slices or minced food, then small pieces or cuts, and finally whole mixed food.
  • It is important to provide your baby with a variety of food, in order to give whole nutritional requirements.
  • To introduce new food, try one option at a time, for example: giving your child a fish for the first time, you can either serve it alone or in combination with food your child already eats. Wait 3 to 5 days to try another new food; this will help in making sure that your child is not allergic to a type of food. Allergic reactions include: vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rash.

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