Complementary foods should be introduced around the age of 6 months. A late introduction (after 6 months of age) can affect the baby’s growth and the development of their eating behavior.
After the age of 6 months, in a term baby, breast milk and commercial infant formulas are no longer enough to meet the energy and nutrient needs such as protein, iron, zinc and vitamins A and D.
As for iron, the infants have reserves for the first 6 months of life. After that, they need food to meet their iron requirements. Without it, they risk developing iron deficiency and anemia. These conditions affect the health and development of infants. They are, among others, associated with a reduced immune system and irreversible delays on the cognitive development (French only) of infants. Thus, the food to introduce first is meat, as it is rich in iron. For more information, click here.
On the other hand, chewing involves complex movements that are possible thanks to the maturity of the neuromuscular system, but also through exposure to foods that stimulate the development of skills for these movements. Health Canada recommends offering soft textures and finger foods from 6 months:
- Lumpy foods
- Foods cooked until tender and finely chopped
- Pureed foods
- Crushed or ground food.
At this age, it is important that baby begins to learn new textures as much as new tastes. At 8 months of age, the child should be able to eat textures other than puree, otherwise, at the age of 1 year, he will have difficulty accepting regular textures. The first year of life is a critical phase for the development of preferences associated with flavors and textures. Finally, at the age of one year, babies should be able to eat the same menu as the rest of the family, only with adapted textures (shredded soft food, crushed or cut into pieces).
In short, if complementary foods are introduced too late, children are not only at risk of nutrient deficiencies, but it can be difficult for them to accept different foods and textures, and they can become very selective in their diet. To learn how to act with a selective child, see the following case study (French only).