Hesperian Health Guides

The Best Food for Your Young Child

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The first 6 months

Give breast milk and nothing else.

BREAST IS BEST because breast milk contains the ideal combination of foods that the child needs, is clean, and is always the right temperature. Also, breast milk contains ‘antibodies’ from the mother that protect the baby against infections.

Therefore, breast milk is especially important for children more likely to get infections, such as a child with Down syndrome or a child who often chokes on her food and might get pneumonia.

Breast milk is healthier for babies than other milks or ‘formula’.

If the baby cannot suck, a mother can milk her breasts:

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and then give the baby her milk with a cup and spoon. See "Removing Milk by Hand" in Where Women Have No Doctor.

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WARNING! Avoid baby bottles whenever possible. They often spread infections. Cup and spoon feeding is safer.

After 6 months

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Continue breast feeding and also begin to give the baby other foods—juices and fruits rich in vitamins, mash of green leafy vegetables, beans (boiled, skinned, and mashed), peanuts (skinned and mashed), egg yolks, and other local staples such as rice, corn, plantains, or cassava.

Small stomachs need food often. Feed children under 1 year old at least 5 times a day—and give them snacks between meals.

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If the child has trouble eating solid foods, do not keep giving only milk or formula or ‘rice water’. Even mother’s milk alone is not enough after 6 months. Mash or grind up other foods to form a drink or mush.

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By 8 months to 1 year of age the child should be eating the same food as the rest of the family — even if it has to be mashed or turned into liquids.

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This page was updated:27 May 2020