Complementary food for babies
The term complementary food includes all foods that are not breast milk or infant formula. From a certain age on, more and more complementary foods should be fed in addition to breast milk. Complementary food plays an important role in the child's thriving and is gradually replacing milk formula. At the beginning, the complementary food is almost always given in porridge form, either as purchased porridge in jars or homemade.
When can I start feeding my baby?
Breastfeeding the baby is recommended for the first few months of life. If the mother is able to breast-feed and there are no reasons not to breast-feed (mother's medication, mother's illness), mothers are advised to breast-feed for about 6 months. At the same time, you can start to add complementary foods. The addition of complementary foods is recommended from the 5th month of life at the earliest and from the 7th month of life at the latest. However, the introduction of complementary foods does not mean that people should immediately switch to complementary foods and stop breastfeeding. It's a slow process of slowly increasing the number of complementary meals so that in the end they completely take off from breastfeeding. The first porridge is usually given at noon. Gradually, it then replaces the other milk meals.
Also read our article: Problems during breastfeeding in the mother
Supplementary food plan / supplementary food table
Complementary foods include all foods except breast milk / infant formula. When and which complementary food is introduced depends primarily on the age of the child. The table below lists essential foods and the recommendation from when they should be fed. However, the recommendations do not always match. In recent years it has been shown that many foods can be fed earlier than expected.
From 5th to 6th month of life:
- Rice flakes
- Oil (e.g. rapeseed oil / sunflower oil)
- Apple juice
- Meat (e.g. beef, lamb, poultry)
From 6th to 8th month of life:
- Cereals (whole grain flakes, oat flakes)
- Whole milk
From 9th to 10th month of life:
From 12 months of age:
How does a complementary food introduction work?
The introduction of complementary foods can begin between the 5th and 7th month of life. A few rules should be observed here in order to make it as easy as possible for the child and not to overwhelm him at the beginning. The baby is not yet used to swallowing food with a firmer consistency than milk and must be slowly introduced to the new way of eating. The introduction of complementary foods begins in the classic way with pure vegetable or fruit pulp. Of course, you can also mix fruits with vegetables. Examples would be an apple and carrot mash, a fruit mash made from banana and apple or a vegetable mash. With vegetables in particular, you have a relatively large number of possible combinations at the beginning and you can try out what the baby likes best. Can be mixed with carrots, parsnips, pumpkin, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower. If the eating of the first porridge works well after a week, a little potato can be added to the vegetable porridge. In the course of time, potatoes can also be replaced by pasta or rice. The next step up is adding some meat and some oil. High quality refined oil such as rapeseed oil or sunflower oil should be chosen as the oil. Lean poultry or beef are particularly suitable meats. As a rough rule, at the beginning of the introduction of complementary foods, only one ingredient should be added per week in order not to overload the digestive system of the little one. At the beginning of the introduction of complementary foods, the porridge should always be given at noon so that there is enough time to digest before going to bed. After about 4-6 weeks, a porridge should serve as the main meal in the evening. A whole milk and cereal porridge is recommended here. Fresh (pasteurized and ultra-high temperature) or long-life whole milk can be used. Whole grain flakes or oat flakes, for example, can be used as cereals. Some fruit juice or pureed fruit can be added to the porridge.
Read more on the topic: Baby nutrition - the recommendation for babies
About a month (7th - 9th month) later, breakfast is also offered in porridge form. The milk-free cereal and fruit porridge is recommended for this. It replaces the milk and cereal porridge and is fed morning and evening. The whole grain flakes (or other cereals) should be soaked in water so that they swell. Then semolina is stirred into boiling water, the ingredients are mixed together and pureed fruit is added. In addition to apples and bananas, peaches, apricots, mango and berries can now also be used. In the first few months of complementary food, neither salt nor sugar (not even in the form of honey) should be added. The number of sweet porridge should be limited to one per day if possible. In order not to make fruit puree too sweet, vegetables can be added to them. From the eighth month onwards, you can try not to just give porridge, but to chop or mash the food. Food such as pasta, potatoes and rice can be fed in increasing quantities. The little ones should be given something to drink in the meantime, preferably just water or unsweetened tea (lukewarm or cold!) From a soft sippy cup. Fruit juices can also be given, but should be diluted strongly at the beginning. From the 8th month on, foods such as eggs can also be imported. However, dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and quark should only be added after the first birthday if possible. From the 10th to the 12th month of life, the child can increasingly take part in family meals, although the food should of course still be cut into bite-sized pieces.
What do I start with - vegetables, porridge or fruit?
The introduction of complementary foods is typically started with a vegetable puree. Here you can choose from vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, parsnips, broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini. The ingredients should be pureed. A mixture of vegetables and fruits can also be offered, for example in the form of a carrot and apple mash. Typical types of fruit when introducing complementary foods are apples and bananas. If the child gets along well with the vegetable or fruit and vegetable porridge, potatoes and a little oil can be added slowly after about a week. The first porridge replaces the lunch meal. Whole milk cereal porridge should only be used from the 6th to 8thMonth of life.
Should I cook myself or give glasses?
Of course, it is best when parents know exactly what is in the baby food. Therefore, cooking the porridge yourself is the non plus ultra. However, since many parents do not have the time for this, baby food can also be given from the purchased jar with a clear conscience. The selection is large, so that you can also choose according to personal preferences. Care should be taken to ensure that the porridge you buy does not contain salt or sweetener flavors. On the one hand, the baby should not receive these so early in life, on the other hand, it will then be reluctant to accept porridge without these additives because they taste better. You should also pay attention to whether oils are added to the porridge. If this is not the case, a little oil should be added to the porridge. Overall, when buying baby food, care should be taken to ensure that the composition of the ingredients is as similar as possible to that of homemade baby food.
Should you warm the glasses or can you give them cold?
Most parents offer their babies the porridge slightly warmed. The adults usually take their main meals in a warm form. However, the porridge does not necessarily have to be heated. For example, if a child prefers to eat the fruit puree cold rather than warm, it can also be given cold. However, it should be ensured that it is not fed fresh from the refrigerator, it should at least be at room temperature.
What do you have to consider with a baby food warmer?
A complementary food warmer is a device that heats the porridge jars. Bottles can also be heated with it. It can be useful if, for example, there is no microwave in the household. The disadvantage of the microwave, however, is that you have to make sure that the glass does not get too hot. So you have to feel your way to the right settings first. With most baby food warmers you can set or display the temperature. This makes sense and has the advantage over the microwave that it can be heated to a specific temperature. There are baby food warmers with and without water. The classic variant works like a kind of water bath but with a specific temperature setting. In addition, some devices have a keep warm function. This can be useful if you want to warm the bottle in advance. There are also food warmers that can draw electricity from the car's cigarette lighter. This is of course a great advantage if you are often out and about with the child and want to provide food at the right temperature here too. It is important to purchase a device in which both bottles and jars of various sizes can be heated. Depending on the desired additional function (usability in the car, warming function, etc.), the prices differ between the different models. The prices are between 9 and 40 euros.
What is complementary food oil and what is it good for?
Ingesting oil with food is important for babies as it makes it easier for them to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. It also stimulates digestion and is high in calories. The vast majority do not recommend cold-pressed, but refined oils such as rapeseed oil or sunflower oil. Whether the oil is refined or cold-pressed is usually written on the bottle or can be found online. There are special complementary foods that save the work of looking for the right oil. However, they are also more expensive than normal rapeseed oils. In the end, the complementary foods contain nothing other than normal oils. You just have to pay attention to the above criteria when choosing an oil.
What are the signs of maturity that my baby is ready for complementary feeding?
There are various signs of maturity that indicate that you can slowly start adding complementary foods. Complementary foods are typically introduced between the ages of 5 and 7 months. If the child shows a keen interest in the parents' food intake, makes chewing movements when the parents can eat and can already sit, this is an indication that complementary food can soon be introduced. Even if the children repeatedly point their fingers or toys to their mouths, this is considered a sign of maturity. If the tongue reflex is still pronounced, the child pushes food that is put into the mouth out again with the tongue; it is still too early to introduce complementary foods.
Can you freeze complementary foods?
Yes, complementary foods can be frozen. This is extremely important for many parents as it saves a lot of time. Larger portions of baby food can be cooked and then frozen. You then only have to be reheated and the meal is ready to eat. However, there are a few things to watch out for when freezing: The porridge should be placed as fresh as possible, i.e. quickly after cooling, in a suitable container and frozen. When choosing the container, it should be noted that it is best to choose relatively small containers. Because the porridge must not be frozen again after it has been thawed. One possibility is the ice cube shape. Several cubes of porridge can be squeezed out here for thawing, the quantities are very easy to portion. The frozen porridge can either be thawed in the refrigerator overnight and then warmed up or warmed up while frozen. A water bath or microwave are suitable for heating. Different types of porridge have a different shelf life. While fruit and vegetable porridge can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months, porridge containing fish and meat only lasts 3 months and porridge containing milk only 2 months.
What to do if complementary foods lead to constipation
The introduction of complementary foods messes up the digestive system in many babies. It is therefore normal for the children's stool behavior to change somewhat in the first days and weeks due to complementary food. In the event of constipation, it is essential to ensure sufficient fluid intake, for example in the form of frequent breastfeeding. If the child has a stomach ache, regular, gentle abdominal massages can help. If this does not reduce the symptoms, you should consider whether the type of complementary food should be changed. For example, carrots are more likely to cause constipation symptoms in young children than other vegetables such as parsnips, zucchini or broccoli.
Which complementary food evening porridge is recommended?
The evening porridge is usually the second regular meal that is introduced. This occurs around the 6th to 8th month of life. First of all, cereal-milk porridge is recommended as evening porridge. Whole grain flakes, for example, can be boiled in milk for this purpose. The whole thing is pureed and pureed fruit is added. Another month later, the cereal-milk-porridge can be replaced by cereal-fruit-porridge without milk. The milk is exchanged for water and semolina boiled in water can also be added.
Which complementary foods are available without porridge?
When complementary food is introduced, everything that is offered to the child as a main meal is usually completely pureed. From around the 10th to 11th month of life you can try not to puree the food, but only to cut it very small or to mash it. In addition to the main meals, however, the child can be offered finger food from the introduction of complementary foods, i.e. non-pureed food on the hand. Various finger food ideas for babies can be found below.
What amounts of complementary food does my baby need?
Especially at the beginning of the introduction of complementary foods, many babies still eat very little complementary food. The rest of the meal should then be supplemented with the mother's milk familiar to the child. The more porridge the child eats, the less breast milk is needed for the meal. The aim is to gradually replace breast milk completely with complementary foods. After the child has got used to the new food, it will slowly take in more and more of it. The children should then consume around 200 grams of porridge per meal. It is then no longer necessary to complete the meal with breast milk. According to the Research Institute for Child Nutrition, babies between the ages of 7 and 9 months should consume around 190 grams of meat and vegetable porridge per lunch, including 100 grams of vegetables, 50 grams of potatoes, 30 grams of meat, 13 grams of juice and 8 grams of rapeseed oil. Between the 10th and 12th month of life it should be around 220 grams of meat and vegetable puree per lunch. Of these, 100 grams of vegetables, 60 grams of potatoes, 30 grams of meat, 20 grams of juice and 10 grams of rapeseed oil. From around the 6th month, the milk and cereal porridge is introduced as an evening meal. The child should eat around 240 grams of this by the age of one. This includes 200 grams of milk, 20 grams of cereals and 20 grams of fruit. The cereal-fruit mash that is introduced after and replaces the milk-cereal mash should be around 220 grams. Of these, 100 grams of fruit, 90 grams of water, 20 grams of grain and 5 grams of rapeseed oil.
Breastfeeding and complementary food - what should be considered?
Babies should - if possible - be fully breastfed at least until they are 5 months old. Depending on whether there are already signs of maturity, supplementary feeding can be started from the 5th month of life. However, as the introduction of complementary foods is slow and gradual, breastfeeding should continue. In the beginning, complementary foods did not replace a whole meal, so that you usually have to breastfeed in addition to the lunchtime porridge, but gradually the complementary food replaces the milk meals until they are completely superfluous.
Which complementary food spoons are recommended?
In principle, of course, a simple teaspoon can be used to feed the complementary food. However, there are special complementary food spoons that are smaller and narrower and therefore may be more suitable. The spoons are also made of relatively soft plastic and may therefore be more comfortable for the child than a teaspoon. Long-handled spoons are particularly suitable for the feeding parents, as they can also be used to reach the bottom of the baby food jar. Of course, this only applies to those who use baby food jars.
When should my baby start eating meat?
The first complementary food with meat is the vegetable-potato-meat porridge. However, the introduction will take place in stages. First start with the vegetable mash. If these are well tolerated and removed, potatoes and oil are added. Finally meat is added. Meat intake can begin around the 2nd to 3rd week after the introduction of complementary foods.
Are there complementary foods to drink?
No. Complementary foods are something that children should eat. The little ones are already used to drinking properly through their mother's milk for several months, now it is important that they slowly approach the food. From the supplementary feeding of complementary food, it is of course important to provide the child with something to drink in addition to breast milk. For example water, heavily diluted fruit juices or unsweetened teas.
Are there also vegetarian complementary foods?
Of course there are vegetarian complementary foods. The complementary food initially consists of vegetables and potatoes. Then meat should be added. The recommendation for parents who want to feed their children a vegetarian diet is to replace the meat with cereals. The second and third porridge (milk and cereal porridge and fruit and cereal porridge) are vegetarian anyway. Parents who are vegetarian and want to feed their child in the same way only have to find a substitute for the meat meals and possibly fish meals. Meat is an important supplier of iron. Therefore the iron has to be supplied differently. Grain products are ideal for this. These include, for example, oatmeal and whole wheat pasta. Vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron, so the porridge should be combined with vegetables containing vitamin C (cauliflower, kohlrabi, spinach) or fruit (citrus fruits) in both a vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet. A vegan diet should definitely be avoided for a child, as this deprives the child of essential nutrients.
What complementary foods are there for on the go?
The normal complementary food can also be fed in porridge form on the go. Nowadays there are complementary food warmers that also work, for example, via the cigarette lighter in the car, so that the meal for the child can be warmed here. The porridge from the jar does not necessarily have to be heated. The baby may also like fruit-based porridge at room temperature. Finger food can also be taken with you on the go, but is not a substitute for a full meal.
Which finger food complementary foods are there?
Finger food is non-pureed food that the children can also have when they are introduced to complementary foods. Possible finger food foods are fruits such as apples, pears, bananas or peaches and nectarines, bread, potato sticks (peeled, uncooked potatoes), boiled noodles, homemade pancakes, vegetables, such as boiled peas (only when the children can swallow safely and can no longer choke on them ) or cooked carrot pieces and cucumber.
When can my baby start eating fish as complementary food?
Fish used to fall into disrepute as a complementary food for children due to concerns that it could cause allergies. However, this hypothesis has now been refuted and it is clear that fish contains valuable ingredients, such as omega-3 fatty acids. The recommendations state that fish can be fed from around the 6th month of life.