A healthy diet is the most decisive factor in the growth and development of infants. The most beneficial food during the first six months is indisputably breast milk, but there are other important points that we need to be aware of during the breastfeeding period and the transition to supplementary food.
In addition to its nutritional value, the protection it offers against disease and its contribution to a healthier life are just a few extraordinary aspects of breast milk. This is why no supplementary food — including water — is recommended during the first months of life. It is important to pay attention to certain facts and recommendations in order to provide adequate nutrition for healthy development and the prevention of disease in later years.
What to do if your breast milk is not sufficient for the baby
A nursing mother can produce up to one liter of breast milk in a day, thus they have to pay special attention to their diet in order to ensure that their milk is of the highest quality. This is why nutritionist Nil Şahin Gürhan warns nursing mothers not to use excessive diet programs in order to get rid of extra weight put on during pregnancy and recommends that they consume plenty of fluids and various nutrients. Gürhan also suggests that nursing mothers avoid spicy foods since the flavor of the food that the mother consumes is transmitted to the milk. She also notes that there is no particular food that will increase the amount of breast milk the mother produces.
The amount of breast milk produced is an issue that often concerns nursing mothers. When new mothers feel that their breast milk is not sufficient for the baby or that the baby is not consuming enough, they sometimes decide to give their babies supplementary foods such as fruit juice or formula. However, the introduction of supplementary foods in the first six months not only reduces the breast milk’s nutritional value and leads to gaining weight in an unhealthy way; it also damages the baby’s digestive system. Explaining the importance of avoiding supplementary foods within the first six months, Gürhan tells mothers who think their breast milk is insufficient to consult a pediatrician in order to find the best alternative to breast milk. Cow’s milk is not recommended for infants because it can cause intestinal problems such as constipation, acid reflux and may lead to kidney damage.
There are some points that you need to be mindful of when introducing supplementary foods to your baby’s diet. Since different artificial formula brands have different effects on infants’ intestinal systems, pediatricians recommend that mothers consistently use only one brand of formula. In addition, preparing powdered formula with cow’s milk or adding more powder in an effort to make the formula more nutritious can cause health problems.
When should you introduce supplementary foods?
The transition period to regular food is between the sixth and twelfth months. After the sixth month, mothers need to begin to introduce supplementary foods into their baby’s diet. Infant nutrition is enriched with the addition of puréed vegetables and fruit, vegetable soup, blancmange and so on, in conjunction with breast milk. Parents should introduce a small amount (e.g., about one to two teaspoons) of a new food at first and then gradually increase the size of the portions. The most frequent problem that parents face in this period is an issue of appetite. Babies who especially like the taste of breast milk may have difficulty adapting to the flavor and texture of new foods.
Parents should not force their baby to eat certain foods, since just as adults prefer one food to another, babies have different food preferences. When parents let their baby sit at the table and observe their behaviors, it can help the baby to develop good eating habits. Introducing supplementary foods properly may also help to prevent disease.
Delaying the introduction of solid foods may cause obesity
Beginning in the ninth month, babies’ swallowing and digestive systems become developmentally ready to handle solid foods. Since a one-year-old baby should be fed like an adult, the introduction of solid foods beginning in the ninth month prepares the baby for the upcoming stage of development. However, some parents who have accustomed their babies to puréed vegetables and fruit between the sixth and ninth months continue to nourish the baby with only purées beyond this period. This causes inertia in the stomach and blocks the development of the sense of taste. Moreover, because the baby’s digestive system does not develop well, the risk for obesity appears to be greater in the future. When warning parents on this issue, Gürhan also suggests that they feed their babies with sugar-free, salt-free and spice-free foods.