We often hear breastmilk is best for infants and that babies at six months should be given complementary foods with continued breastfeeding. But, what is breastfeeding and how does it nourish the infants? What is the difference between breastmilk and milk formula? Is complementary feeding really that necessary at six months? These are just few of the many questions that mothers usually ask when it comes to providing nutrition to their babies.
Breastmilk is produced during lactation period and is the ideal food to infants for the first six months of life. Breast milk is safe, clean, and contains antibodies to help fight infections and illnesses. It provides sufficient energy and nutrients that the infant needs for its growth and development. Above all, breastfeeding is free and cost-effective for families that ensure health and survival for both the infant and the mother.
Ensuring that babies will be provided with the right nutrition in the growing years, the Philippine government issued Executive Order number 51 popularly known as the Philippine Milk Code of 1986. It is a law that regulates the marketing of commercialized infant formula and other related products to the first 6 months up to the 3 years of age of the babies. It also promotes the benefits of breast milk in infants and the health safety of mothers. This is because milk formula for infants has many disadvantages which include can’t respond to your baby’s changing dietary needs, not easily digestible, doesn’t help to increase intelligence, and does not have immunity-boosting qualities. Baby formulas are also expensive and can cause allergies to infants. Given the fact on the advantages of breastfeeding and the disadvantages of infant formula, next is considering foods to provide for complementary feeding for six months and above while continuing breastfeeding.
While the nutritional needs of an infant from age six months onwards can no longer be met with breast milk alone, additional foods are necessary to be complemented. To ensure adequate energy and nutrients, we expand the infant’s diet to including complementary “family foods” but this should not encourage the replacement of breastfeeding as breastmilk can still provide good amount of nutrients to the baby. In transition starting six months of age, we need to provide soft porridge in thin consistency just to condition the not-yet-familiar digestive system of the baby mixed with well-mashed fruits/vegetables and eventually shift to thick porridge enriched with other nutrients. For seven to eight months, provide mashed foods, finely chopped or thinly slice foods (finger food) for nine to eleven months and finally, soft to a regular diet for twelve to twenty-four months.
Complementary foods should provide sufficient energy, protein, and micronutrients to cover the overall child’s energy and nutrient gaps together with breastmilk to meet the baby’s optimal needs for nutrition. These can be addressed by providing at least four of the seven food groups in every meal of the baby on a daily basis that include 1.) grains, roots and tubers, 2.) legumes and nuts, 3.) dairy products, 4,) flesh foods (meat, fish, poultry and organ meats, 5.) eggs, 7.) vitamin-A rich fruits and vegetables, and 7.) other fruits and vegetables.
It is very important to pay attention to the overall nutrition of the infants as they are vulnerable to malnutrition and can affect their future. Be a part of solving the problem of malnutrition by acting responsibly as a mother, as a nutrition-provider and as a caregiver to the dependent baby. Nurture the gift of life and ensure that the right nutrition has been adequately provided by exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first six months of fragile period and initiate complementary feeding starting at six months with continued breastfeeding onwards!
NO II Joanna Marie E. Baltazar
- Importance of Breastfeeding and Complementary Feeding
- Complementary Feeding
- Breastfeeding and Complementary Feeding
- Infant and Toddler Health
- Executive Order No. 51