Hesperian Health Guides

Feeding an older baby

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 12: Caring for your baby > Feeding an older baby


When the baby is 6 months old, you can start giving her other foods in addition to breast milk. Always give the breast milk first, and then the other foods. It is good to start with a gruel or porridge made from your main food. These new foods need to be well cooked and mashed. At first they can be mixed with a little breast milk to make them easier for the baby to swallow.

After a few days, start adding other helper foods. But start with just a little of the new food, and add only 1 at a time or the baby may have trouble digesting them. Most important is to add foods that give extra energy (such as oil), and—whenever possible—extra iron (such as dark green leafy vegetables). For more information on feeding your baby healthy foods, see Where There Is No Doctor, Chapter 11, page 107.

Remember, a young child’s stomach is small and cannot hold much food at one time. So feed her often, if possible 5 to 6 times a day, and add high-energy helper foods to the main food.

The baby will be happier and calmer if you plan ahead and have everything ready when it is time for him to eat. If you wait until the baby is hungry and crying, it will be hard for you to stay calm while you get ready to feed him. When you get ready to feed the baby:

If you cannot see well

Always remember to wash and rinse your hands with soap and clean water.
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To feed a baby with your fingers
and without a spoon, give only a small
amount each time that feels no larger
than a pea or bean.
WWD Ch12 Page 265-2.png To feed a baby with a spoon
1. Use one hand to put a small amount of food onto a small spoon. Hold the spoon close to the round eating end, and push off any excess food from the spoon with another finger of the same hand.
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Sit the baby in a comfortable and safe place so he will not topple over. Put the food in a sturdy bowl or container and position it so the baby cannot kick it over.
2. Place the thumb of your other hand on the baby’s chin, just under the mouth. Using your thumb as a guide, put the spoon containing the food into the baby’s mouth.
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When the baby is old enough to feed himself, he will probably make a lot of mess at first. You may need to ask a family member, friend or neighbor to let you know where the food has been spilled so you can clean it up. Try to be patient. As the baby gets older and more sure of himself, he will spill less and less food.

a woman in a chair next to a baby's high chair, feeding the baby from a bowl in her lap.

If you have limited upper body strength and coordination

You may be able to feed your baby if you sit to the side of the baby. This way you will not have to reach forward so much to feed him. But if you cannot feed the baby yourself, you can sit as close to him as possible and talk to him while someone else gives him food. This will help him think of you as one of the people who gives him food when he is hungry.

When a baby is 1 year and older

When your baby is 1 year and older, he can eat the same foods as adults, but he should continue to breastfeed or drink milk whenever possible.

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Every day, try to give the child plenty of the main food that the people in your community eat, together with ‘helper’ foods that give added high energy, proteins, vitamins, iron, and minerals, so that he will grow up strong and healthy.

To make sure the child gets enough to eat, serve him in his own dish, and let him take as long as he needs to eat his meal.