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Facts for Life

Nutrition and growth

Supporting Information


From the age of 6–8 months a child needs to eat two to three times per day and three to four times per day starting at 9 months, in addition to breastfeeding. Depending on the child's appetite, one or two nutritious snacks, such as fruit or bread with nut paste, may be needed between meals. The baby should be fed small amounts of food that steadily increase in variety and quantity as he or she grows.

Good nutrition in the first two years of life is crucial. Inadequate nutrition during this period can slow a child's physical and mental development for the rest of his or her life.

In order 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.

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.

Foods such as mashed vegetables and chopped meat, eggs or fish should be added to the child's diet as often as possible. A small amount of oil may be added, preferably vitamin-enriched oil.

If meals are served in a common dish, younger children may not get enough food. Giving a young child his or her own plate or bowl makes it easier for the parent or other caregiver to know what foods and how much the child has eaten.

Young children may need to be encouraged to eat, and they may need help in handling food or utensils. A child with a developmental delay or disability may need extra help eating and drinking.

The following gives information on how often and how much a young child should be fed:

6–8 months:

Children should breastfeed frequently and receive other foods two to three times a day. Parents should start with soft or mushy foods (such as porridge) and gradually increase the consistency (thickness) of food. Animal foods such as meat, eggs and fish can be given as early as possible, but they should be mashed, minced or cut into very small pieces. Start with 2–3 spoonfuls per feeding, increasing gradually to 1/2 of a 250-millilitre cup.

9–24 months:

Children should receive other foods three to four times a day in addition to breastfeeding. Give infants aged 9–11 months 1/2 of a 250-millilitre cup per feeding. Provide children aged 12–23 months 3/4 to 1 whole 250-millilitre cup per feeding. Give children 2 years and older at least 1 whole 250-millilitre cup per feeding. Foods from animals, such as meat, fish and eggs, should be included as much as possible.

By 12 months:

Most children are able to consume 'family foods' of a solid consistency. They can still be offered semi-solid foods, which are easier for young children to eat. Additional nutritious snacks (such as fruit, bread or bread with nut paste) can be offered once or twice per day, as desired, starting at six months. If the quality or amount of food per meal is low, or the child is no longer breastfeeding, give 1–2 cups of milk plus one or two extra meals each day.