There is an excellent article by Adriano Cattaneo in Breastfeeding Review on infant and child feeding1 – where, how, by whom and why. Mr. Cattaneo is attached to the unit for health services research and international health of the Institute for Maternal and Child Health. Mr. Cattaneo makes some very important points:
- “We are mammals and thus we breastfeed.”
- World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations are to start as soon after birth as possible, breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and continue with the addition of complementary foods for 2 years or beyond (See WHO recommendations http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs342/en/).
- “We are mammals and thus we wean.”
Weaning is defined as the period between the first introduction of foods or fluids other than breastmilk and the last feed at the breast. Weaning is in part dependent on the availability of weaning foods.
- The timing of the introduction of complementary food is dependent on: a) the nutrient needs of the infant and, b) the ability of the infant to utilize these nutrients.
- Evolution and humans have made it so that these two conditions occur. simultaneously – roughly at six months of age. Unless we were to test nutrient levels, hepatic and renal function we need to rely on observation of the infant to know when he or she is ready for their first weaning foods or fluids.
- The “window of development” that indicates a readiness for complementary foods includes: the ability to sit up unsupported; infants’ interest in food – not just to play with; and the capacity to reach out, grab, put it in the mouth, chew and swallow safely.
- We learn by doing! Babies need to reach out for food, grab, take into their mouths, chew and swallow safely – this way they learn all the necessary skills!
- The nutrients needed by an exclusively breastfed baby are minerals (iron, zinc, iodine) and some vitamins. The first weaning foods should be meats, fish, eggs dairy products, nuts and pulses (grain legumes).
- For greater acceptance start with those foods infants are already familiar with – the tastes and flavors of the foods you ate when they were in-utero and while you are breastfeeding.
- Healthy and safe family foods are more nutritious than industrial foods. Industrial foods do not contain the flavor range of family foods. Infants started on them must learn the industrial foods and then make a transition to the flavors of home foods.
- Industry is business – they need to make money, they market wisely to stay in business.
- Cattaneo, Adriano. (2013). Infant and Young Child Feeding. Breastfeeding Review, 21(2) 7-9.