Early childhood feeding – both milk feeding and solid foods – lay the foundation for lifelong healthy eating habits. This is a good time to evaluate your family’s eating habits and to decide if some changes are necessary. Eventually your child will eat what the rest of the family members are eating.
And the first weeks and months of introducing foods play a crucial role in longer-term eating success. Your child needs to get used to tastes and textures. You want meal-times to be a relaxing and fun time in your house, not a battle ground.
Make sure baby can swallow
The general consensus is that babies should start eating food between 4 and 6 months of age. Both starting too early and too late can have negative consequences. The most important thing is that baby must be able to swallow food efficiently. Small babies have an ‘extrusion reflex’, in which they use their tongues to push food or foreign objects out of the mouth. Your baby must be able to move food to the back of the mouth for swallowing. Starting solids before this reflex has disappeared can increase the risk of choking. This readiness often coincides with good head and neck strength, some experts feel baby should sit independently. When looking at this guideline few babies are ready for eating before 5 months. A speech therapist can provide guidance if you are unsure.
Type and variety
For the first two months of feeding, start baby with vegetables first, and then add fruits. And the grocery store shelf is the limit. Gone are the days where babies can eat a few yellow vegetables. You can give baby any vegetable or fruit, even things not traditionally reckoned as baby food like spinach and beans. Aim to introduce a new taste to baby every 2-3 days. This will also increase your little one’s likelihood to like a variety of foods later on.
Once baby has settled well on vegetables and fruits you can add starches and protein.
Protein for babies???
This piece of advice still causes raised eyebrows. But the truth is that baby needs protein to grow. Animal proteins are the main source of iron. The iron from animal protein is also better absorbed than from plant sources like spinach. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in children, and can cause long term damage to growth and development. Once your baby has gotten used to eating fruits and veggies, start blending in small amount of protein like beef, lamb, ostrich, chicken and fish.
Avoid bottles and pouches
These have been on the shelve for a long time, and the nutritional value is not nearly as good as home-made foods. It often contains additives and more sugar. Invest in a food processor like the BabyWombWorld Food Processor/Steamer/Blender/Bottle Warmer. If you want a healthy, convenient baby food option, consider a range like ‘Tummies full of Love’, which offers home-made frozen food specifically developed for babies at different ages.
Variety should grow, and so should texture
While your baby should start eating foods with watery, runny textures, this should change as time goes along. By 9 months you no longer need to blend all foods and can instead just squish it with a fork. You can also add textures like rice, pasta and blocks of bread. By 12 months baby should start eating finger foods.
Lastly, keep it interesting
You should not add salt and sugar to baby’s food. But it also doesn’t need to be bland and boring. Once you’ve progressed past the first two introductory months, get creative with natural herbs an spices. Your baby need exposure to taste, and this is an ideal way. This will especially help you with introducing protein, which tastes pretty horrific on its own.