Child Nutrition : Transition from Breastfeeding to Weaning

Child Nutrition : Transition from Breastfeeding to Weaning

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 8 Jul 2014 - 15:10


After the seven-month long foetal period (concerned with growth and differentiation of tissues and organs that began to develop in the embryonic period), the infant's first year sees rapid growth. The weight of a healthy child (3.2kg) doubles in six months. The weight becomes three times by the time the child is one year old.

Dietary adaptations become important as the child grows because the growth is rapid in the infancy stage. The mother’s milk is unquestionably the best food for the baby. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) mothers worldwide should exclusively breastfeed infants for the child's first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.

Why is breast feeding important?

Breast-milk is the natural food for the infant, it is important as it contains all essential nutrients which are needed for the infant; it provides the best nutrition and protects the infant from infections, because the mother’s milk contains antibodies. It is more easily digested and absorbed by the infant as compared to formula milk prepared from other sources.

The different types of breast milk are:

Breast milk at different stages of lactation is defined by different terms namely: Colostrum, transition milk and mature milk.

  • Colostrum

During the first two or three days watery and yellowish fluid that comes from the mammary glands differs from the regular milk, which is called colostrum. It is also the first immunisation to the infant.

  • Transitional Milk

Milk that comes after colostrum and which lasts for approximately two weeks is known as transitional milk. The content of transitional milk is high in fat levels, lactose, water-soluble vitamins, and contains more calories than colostrum.

  • Mature Milk

Mature milk is the final milk that is produced. The mature milk consists of foremilk and hind milk.

Advantages of Breastfeeding an Infant

  • Natural and perfect food for normal growth and healthy development of infants.
  • Reduces risk of infections.
  • Establishes mother-infant contact and promotes mother-child bonding.
  • Breast feed babies have been shown to have better cognition and IQ scores later in life.
  • Infant jaw is more fully developed as they work hard to extract milk.
  • Lower mortality rate
  • Reduces or prevents chances of allergic reactions
  • Studies suggest decreased risk to develop Obesity, Diabetes mellitus, Hypertension and Atherosclerosis in later life
  • Non adulterated, Bacteriologically safe and always fresh

Advantages of breast feeding to the mother

  • Mother can conveniently administer at any place and time.
  • Reduces risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. 
  • Promotes postpartum weight loss
  • Studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Reduce the mother's risk of developing osteoporosis in later years
  • Decreased requirement for insulin for a diabetic mother
  • Saves money – infant formula, the sterilising equipment and feeding equipment can be costly
  • Promotes psychological attachment
  • Acts like a Natural contraception


The term weaning comes from the word ‘wemian’ which means to accustom. It begins from the moment supplementary food is started and continues till the child is taken off the breast completely.

Why weaning is important?

As the infant grows the requirement of all the nutrients progressively increases. As a result there may be an imbalance or a gap in the nutrient requirement  as against the feeding of nutrients during the weaning because of decreased availability of breast-milk to the baby. Introduction of weaning food too late can lead to under-nutrition and increased diarrhoeal morbidity. Hence, for optimal growth in infants, introduction of adequate food supplements in addition to continued breast feeding, from the age of six months onwards becomes important.

Types of Supplementary Feeding:

1. Liquid Supplements:

Eg. Fresh fruit juice (oranges, tomatoes, sweet lime, grapes, etc) green leafy vegetable soup (begin with strained soup and gradually proceed to unstrained soup)

2. Solid Supplements - Mashed well before serving

Eg. Mashed vegetable like potato, carrot, green leafy vegetable, mashed banana, or stewed fruit pulp, well-cooked cereals in the form of porridge or khichdi, a small amount of hard boiled egg yolk to start with, minced and cooked meat or boiled and mashed fish.

3. Solid Supplements - Unmashed (Chopped or lumpy)

Eg. Small bits of solids like idli, bread, chapathi, rice, dhal can be given after the child gets used to semi solids. Small fruit slices instead of juices, chopped and boiled pieces of vegetables must be given.

Points to be considered while introducing weaning food

  • Introduce one food at a time.
  • Start with small amounts of food at short intervals frequently. 
  • Give slightly seasoned food.
  • Feed the child with freshly prepared food.
  • Feed complementary food on demand 3-4 times a day.
  • Start with thin consistency of food which can be gradually made solid.
  • To make food calorie dense add oil, butter, ghee to the infants diet.
  • General food handling precautions such as hand washing before and after  food preparation; careful cleaning of utensils; maintaining appropriate storage methods.


1. Khichdi

  • Rice - 35g
  • Green gram dhal - 10g
  • Leafy vegetables - 2t.sp
  • Fat - 2t.sp
  • Cumin (jeera)


Clean rice and dhal and cook them in water with salt till the grains are soft and water is absorbed. Leafy vegetables can be added when the cereal/pulse is 3/4th done. Cumin is fried in fat and added towards the end.

2. Malted Ragi Porridge

  • Malted Ragi - 30g
  • Roasted Groundnut - 15g
  • Jaggery - 20g


Malted ragi, roasted groundnuts and jaggery are powdered. Sufficient water is added and cooked.

3. Kheer

  • Vermicelli/ Rice -30g
  • Milk- 100ml.
  • Water – As required
  • Jaggery - 20g


Boil rice/vermicelli in water till half done. Add milk and bring to boil. Add jaggery and cook well.

Nutritive value

These recipes provide approximately 250 Kcals and 5 g proteins for two servings.




*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.