“Protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for six months… and appropriate complementary foods, with continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond.”
Complementing breastmilk with high-nutrient, energy dense foods, is not only a public health challenge, it is one that breastfeeding moms face everyday when their breastfed baby reaches 6 months of age.
Why is it important to keep on breastfeeding past 6 months ? Well, on top of being good for you, the mom (reducing your breastcancer risk, for example), and good for the two of you (I do not know anything that makes you bond with your baby like breastfeeding) continued breastfeeding provides health protection and disease prevention, and optimal development for your baby. Nutritionaly, human milk remains the most important “food” during the 6 to 12 months age span, providing nearly all the child’s energy and nutrients needs in an easily accessible, absorbable, secure and efficient way.
The discovery of new tastes, textures and colours is an exciting time, and provides the cast for life-long food preferences. In most cases, fortified food is not necessary and not recommended as long term effects of fortified food have not been studied. So try to stick with simple home-made food, like you would eat yourself.
If you are like most of my friends and decide to go the unpaved way of real-food-right-away (meaning no fortified cereals to start with), you probably worry about chocking. God, did my daughter choke on food. She was ready to eat, though. She could sit, hold her neck, she would ask and reach for the food, and put it to her mouth herself. At the very beginning, if a piece was too big for her she would spit it out (it was more like pushing it out with her tongue). She was never scared by it and I tried not to show any signs of fear as I wanted her to feel confident about food. By keeping a close eye at her when she handled food, and being always ready to do the Heimlich manoever if needed (it has never been), I felt that she was safe. We became increasingly and progressively daring.
A baby’s gums are extremely hard and able. Still, you may not want to start his first meal with a steak (ground beef is probably a much better option). At this time of year (Halloween is at the door), I find that squashes are great. Your child can hold a cube and eat it at his own rhythm, same with cooked carrots, and other vegetables. I loved bananas because they are easy to hold and not messy.
Introducing solids is a learning curve, both for you and the baby. Do what you feel is right, it most probably is !