Key practice: Complementary feeding

For every child, a nutritious and balanced meal

Complementary feeding

At six months of age, a baby needs more than breastmilk to continue growing. Therefore, start giving the child additional appropriate food at six months while continuing to breastfeed until the age of two years and beyond, as breast milk still provides beneficial nutrients to the child.

Why is complementary feeding important?

  • Good nutrition in the first two years of life is crucial. Therefore, to grow and stay healthy, young children need a variety of nutritious foods such as meat, fish, pulses, grains, eggs, fruits and vegetables, as well as breastmilk.
  • Foods such as mashed vegetables and chopped meat, eggs or fish should be added to the child’s diet as often as possible.
  • Starting at six months of age, feed babies freshly prepared energy and nutrient rich complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed the baby up to two years of age and longer.
  • A child’s stomach is smaller than an adult’s, so a child cannot eat as much at one meal. However, children’s energy and body-building needs are great. It is important that children eat frequently to provide for all their needs.

Examples of balanced baby foods

  • A thick porridge is made out of a flour of either maize or cassava or millet or soya. Sugar, oil, milk, groundnuts, eggs and fruits can be mixed into the porridge.
  • Mashed food is a mixture of a food like matooke, potatoes, cassava, posho (maize or millet) and fish, meat, beans or groundnut and/or simsim paste. Also vegetables like greens, pumpkin, carrot, eggplant, avocado or tomato should be mixed in the baby food.

Watch this video

Learn more about complementary feeding

Benefits of complementary feeding:

  • Complementary feeding ensures healthy growth and development of children through the variety of nutritious food introduced in addition to breastmilk.
  • Good nutrition, care and hygiene, especially in the first two years of life, are necessary to prevent children from becoming too short for their age (stunted).

Learn more

complementary feeding
  • At about 6 months, your baby is developmentally ready and needs other foods in addition to breast milk.
  • Continue breastfeeding your baby on demand, day and night to maintain his or her health and strength as breast milk continues to be the most important part of your baby’s diet.
  • When feeding a baby between 6 - 8 months old always give breast milk first before giving other foods. HIV positive mothers who have decided to stop breastfeeding should feed their babies at least 1 full NICE cup of milk every day. (A full NICE cup is 500 ml.)
  • Think of the following characteristics when giving complementary foods to your baby: F = Frequency, A = Amount, T = Thickness (consistency), V = Variety (different kinds of foods), A = Active/responsive feeding, and H = Hygiene (FATVAH).
complementary feeding
  • Continue breastfeeding your baby on demand, day and night to maintain his or her health and strength as breast milk continues to be the most important part of your baby’s diet.
  • When feeding a baby between 9 -11 months old always give breast milk first before giving other foods. HIV positive mothers who have decided to stop breastfeeding should feed their babies at least two cups at least 1 full NICE cup of milk every day. (A full NICE cup is 500 ml.)
  • Think of the following characteristics when giving complementary foods to your baby: F = Frequency, A = Amount, T = Thickness (consistency), V = Variety (different kinds of foods), A = Active/responsive feeding, and H = Hygiene (FATVAH).
  • From 9 months onwards, feed your baby 4 times a day (3 meals and 1 snack).
complementary feeding
  • Continue breastfeeding your young child on demand, day and night to maintain his or her health and strength.
  • In your young child’s 2nd year, breastmilk continues to make up 1/3 of his or her diet. HIV positive mothers who have decided to stop breastfeeding should feed their babies at least 1 full NICE cup of milk every day. (A full NICE cup is 500 ml.)
  • Think of the following characteristics when giving complementary foods to your baby: F = Frequency, A = Amount, T = Thickness (consistency), V = Variety (different kinds of foods), A = Active/responsive feeding, and H = Hygiene (FATVAH).
  • From 12 months onwards, feed your young child 5 times a day (3 meals and 2 snacks). 

Inadequate nutrition during this period can slow a child’s physical and mental development for the rest of his or her life.