Complementary Feeding: Beyond Nutrition

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In this article, we will summarize the key non-nutritional aspects of the introduction of complementary feeding. Intestinal maturation related to starch digestion is relatively complete by the time complementary feeding is recommended to be initiated. A much more complex maturation is needed, however, from the neurodevelopmental standpoint as the infants need to be able to hold their head and trunk and be able to coordinate tongue movement followed by swallowing. Issues can arise in infants with a history of medical problems as well as when caretakers cannot handle the initial difficulties or want to impose certain rigidity to the learning process. The introduction of complementary feedings is also part of the early steps in introduction to human socialization. In that regard, it sets up the infant to internalize and accept the diversity of food textures and food choices. Early refusal of some food items is common and should not be interpreted as being disliked. Multiple attempts should be made to incorporate new food items. To accomplish these dynamics, caregivers need comprehensive education and relevant information.

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