Child Care: In What Forms Should Food Be Given to the Child?

Milk is the only food for babies

1. Breast-Feeding

• Breast-feeding has nothing but benefits:

– It provides the newborn baby with all the foods essential for its growth in a readily assimilable form*. It contains rich proteins, sugars, fats, mineral salts and antibodies which protet the baby against infection.
– This is the easiest and safest method of feeding a baby in all climates.
– The majority of women are able to feed their baby.

• So, human milk is the ideal food for any baby, but as it grows the baby will need new, more nutritious foods. We shall see how to introduce them to the baby little by little to avoid abrupt weaning.

• Women who are breast-feeding must have a balanced and varied diet. Drugs should only be taken on medical advice since some drugs pass into the milk and so can harm the baby.

2. Bottle-Feeding

• Bottle-feeding should only be used in very specific cases where it is absolutely impossible for the mother to breast-feed. Such cases are actually very rare : serious illness of the mother, complete absence of milk after several days.

• The mother will carry out mixed feeding if she works outside the home or is unable to produce sufficient milk, which is evident if the baby fails to gain weight as normal.

The use of a bottle, as you know, involves two major risks:

• Infection due to lack of sterilization and poor hygiene.
• Incorrect dilution of concentrated milk or of powdered milk.

Consequently, if breast-feeding is really impossible, you must make sure that the young mother is adequately informed and has the necessary ability (not just to understand these risks, which you can explain to her individually and simply) but above all to avoid them by means of rigorous asepsis.

1. Microbes can infect a feeding bottle by 4 different routes. You will see how to guard against infection in each case :

• Water

– Infected water contaminates the feeding bottle, then the baby.
– Therefore use water from a clean source, filtered water, or mains water.
– Boil the water for 10 minutes.

• Milk

– Use powdered milk at the rate of one spoonful per 30 g of water; if it is very hot, the baby can be given water to drink other than in the bottle, but never reduce the proportion of water; insufficient dilution causes fever and digestive problems.

– Warning : fresh cow’s milk does not keep well and must be boiled; curds themselves are nutritional; condensed milk does not keep well after the can has been opened.

• Equipment

– The bottle must be washed immediately after use then carefully dried.

– The bottle and teats must be sterilized by boiling for 10 minutes before use. Make the mother understand that once sterilized, she must not touch the teat or inside of the bottle. Before preparing a bottle, the mother must always wash her hands thoroughly with soap.

• The prepared bottle

The prepared bottle must be given immmediately to the baby.

Mothers must not prepare bottles in advance, and they must not keep an unfinished bottle to give to the baby at the next meal. An unfinished bottle is an ideal place for microbes to find everything they need to grow.

3. Dilution errors

• Mothers who have not been adequately instructed often use too little milk in relation to the volume of water, or too little water.

– In the first case, the baby will have an inadequate nutritional intake, it will stop growing and fail to thrive.

– In the second case (too little water in relation to the quantity of powdered milk), the infant will have digestive problems and sometimes a slight fever. Remember that in tropical countries, particularly during the hot season, care must be taken to give babies who are not breast-fed enough to drink.

• Babies who are bottle-fed correctly, with the hygiene precautions listed above, can grow normally.

Milk is the food for a baby up to 4-6 months

1. Breast-feeding only should be the rule :

– It is entirely suitable for the infant.
– It can be carried out at any time and anywhere.
– It reaches the baby at the optimal temperature and without risk of infection.
– The nursing mother requires a rich and varied diet.

2. Bottle-feeding should be practiced only by mothers who are unable to breastfeed :

– Take care with the water : use only boiled water.
– Take care with the milk : use only powdered milk; keep the box properly closed.
– Take care with the dilution.
– Take care with the equipment : sterilize the bottle and teat by boiling for 10 minutes.
– Take care with the prepared bottle : give it to the baby straightaway; do not keep left-overs.

4. Cereals

• Cereals can be given from the age of 4-6 months to supplement the milk diet. Cereals provide vegetable protein and mineral salts (calcium and a little iron).
Cereal is included in the composition of baby food.

Fresh vegetables

Fresh vegetables provide vegetable proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and mineral salts. You should advise young mothers to use them as soon as the baby is 6 or 7 months old.

The mother should boil the vegetables she can get in water for about 2 hours. She should try to vary the type of vegetable chosen fairly regularly.

The cooking water forms the vegetable broth. Mixed with cereal, it should initially be given. The mother will then learn to make the food progressively thicker by adding mashed cooked vegetables to the broth to give a soup, then a vegetable puree. Or, the mother can take a few vegetables from dishes prepared for the whole family and mash them finely with a fork or vegetable mill before giving them to the baby.

Well-cooked legumes (chickpeas, lentils, dried garden peas, haricot beans or broad beans) can be added to the vegetables.

6. Fruit

Fruit is essential for children. From the age of 4-6 months, regularly taking fruit juice or mashed fruit provides essential vitamins. Children can continue to eat mashed then whole fruit.

7. Cheese

Yoghurt and curds, as well as cooked cheese, will provide the baby with the calcium it needs for its skeleton to grow.


• There is no such thing as a standard diet for any child in any country. There are, however, simple rules to follow regarding local foods. Your experience will have taught you what needs to be given to each child for it to grow properly

It is advisable to continue breastfeeding as long as possible, at the same time introducing from the age of 4-6 months new foods such as milk, fruit juice, vegetables, etc.

The baby can then be safely weaned very gradually.

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