Your child’s health and nutrition is dependent on the appropriate feeding she receives from you, the care you show, your ability to create a good and clean environment for her, access to health care and so on. At 6 months, there are evidenced based information about how best to feed your child appropriately especially in the Nigerian context.
Feeding your child with a variety of foods appropriately from 6 months is very important to her growth and development. From 6 months (or even earlier) some mothers introduce cereals like the locally made Pap or the imported cereals. From this point, some continue to give cereals and Pap and once in a while introduce family foods. To create healthy meals that are diverse, you need to consider incorporating the following food groups into meals every day:
The grains we commonly consumed in Nigeria include Rice, Corn, Millet, Sorghum, Acha, Wheat, and Oats. From this category, Corn, Millet and Sorghum are most popular for making pap for babies after 6 months. Grains in combination with foods from other categories make good nutritious foods.
Roots and tubers
Some of the popular roots and tubers consumed in Nigeria include Yam, sweet Potato, Irish Potato, Cocoyam, Water Yam, and Cassava. Some of these roots and tubers are prepared differently according to different traditions. They can be combined with some of the vitamin A rich vegetables, fleshy foods and legumes to create nice healthy meals for babies. Some mothers use potatoes for their baby’s first foods and they are good for this purpose.
Legumes and nuts
Legumes are good sources of protein. In this category you will find the Cowpea(red and white), Soybeans, Pigeon pea, Lima Beans, Kidney Beans, Green Beans, Green Peas, Bambara nut, Groundnut, Almond nut, Cashew nut to mention a few. Nuts can cause allergies in some babies.
There are many fleshy foods that babies can eat. At the beginning many would require that you blend but as the child grows older, very soft fleshy foods as be given. We have meats, poultry and fish in this category. For Fish, mothers’ are often advised to be careful with sea foods (because of allergies and water pollution) and some fish from deep waters where mercury and other water pollutants can be found in high concentration such as shark, swordfish and even tuna. It is quite common for mothers in Nigeria to incorporate shrimps (commonly called crayfish) into their babies’ foods.
The chicken egg is the most commonly reared and consumed type of egg in Nigeria. Eggs are an excellent source of complete protein.
Babies from 6 months can be fed with egg yolks alone. The eggs are to be fully cooked to prevent food poisoning from salmonella. Some babies do have allergic reactions to eggs and it would be wise to watch carefully when feeding them with eggs. From 8-9 months, your baby can be fed with both the egg white and yolk.
You baby is already consuming dairy if she is taking breast milk or other milk. Babies need their milk every day. As they grow older, you can include fresh yoghurts, cheese as other dairy products into their meals.
Vitamin A rich fruits and Vegetables
An easy way to identify some of these Vitamin A rich fruits and veggies is through their colours. Many of the yellow and red fruits and veggies fall under this category. Dark leafy veggies also belong here. For Example: Mangoes, Carrots, Papaya, red and green Pepper, Tomatoes, Pumpkin leaves (Ugu), Jews mallow (Ewedu), Okra, Vegetable Amaranth (Tete, Inine), Lagos Spinach (Sokoyokoto).
Other fruits and vegetables
Apple, Garden Egg, Pineapple, Golden Melon, Watermelon, Avocado pear, Lettuce, Eggplant leaves, water leaf.
Do not be afraid to explore. The more you expose your infants to a variety of foods, the more she is likely to accept different foods you offer when she is a toddler and it becomes a part of her life. Start a good food culture in your household and you would be imparting something beneficial to their lifestyle in the future.
- 6 months is the recommended age to start complementary foods.
- Whatever food you feed your baby with, if you notice some adverse reactions, please stop given the child the food immediately and consult your paediatrician and dietitian. Some signs of these allergies include runny nose, rashes, swelling, itchy and watery eyes.