Positive early feeding experiences are integral for raising a healthy child and serve many purposes, including supporting development across many areas. Successful early feeding supports nutrition and growth, oral motor development, fine motor development, sensory development and integration (taste, touch, smell), participation in mealtime routines, and fostering positive relationships with food.
Here are a few tips to help you successfully transition your baby to solid foods. Remember, early achievements in feeding and positive eating experiences will give your baby a foundation for long-term feeding success.
A Baby’s Quick-Start Feeding Guide
- Your baby shows she is ready for solids when she sits independently with good head control, she mouths toys without or infrequent gagging, and she shows an interest in food. Usually around 6 months of age.
- Establish healthy mealtime patterns early. Sit together at the table for mealtime, turn off the television, have a no screen time rule at the table. That means adults, too!
- Make your baby’s first foods real food. Skip the rice cereal and offer real food such as bananas, avocado, sweet potatoes, and carrots. They can easily be pureed and thinned with breast milk or formula. Real food supports your baby’s nutrition and is more nutritious than rice cereal. Giving your baby real food early on also supports adventurous feeding in which she experiences eating from a variety of food groups, and is exposed to different textures, temperatures, and flavors. This helps create a foundation for balanced and healthy eating and can help avoid picky feeding later on.
- Continue offering accepted solids daily and don’t wait too long between foods.
- Don’t force feed your baby. You want to create stress-free happy eating experiences for your baby.
- Don’t give-up. It takes an average of six to ten tries (and sometimes even up to twenty) before a baby may like an unfamiliar food. Just because they don’t like the food today does not mean they won’t like it the next time.
- As long as your child is tolerating the foods well, introduce new and varied foods rapidly —different textures, flavors, temperatures every two or three days — to help create more adventurous and happy eating.
- Puree is also for play! Let your baby play with her food. Put some puree on the tray or table for your baby to explore with her fingers and play with. Messy eating supports sensory processing needed for feeding.
- Have fun with your baby and try to relax. Remember, in the beginning your baby is still getting most of her calories from breast milk or formula. So it is more about tasting, exploring, and creating positive, fun experiences.
Establishing nutritious and positive early feeding experiences with your baby is invaluable for creating a happy eater and promoting your baby’s development and health. We hope this quick guide can help get you started on the adventures of eating with your baby. Happy eating and parenting!
Want more on this topic?
Emerson Hospital’s Steinberg Wellness Center for Mind and Body is offering a two-hour course called Basics of Infant Feeding. This unique class provides valuable information on typical feeding development, including the motor development that supports feeding. The class covers types of foods and when to introduce them, how to offer your baby new foods, what to expect when offering solids, baby-led weaning, feeding equipment suggestions, cup and straw drinking, red flags for feeding disorders, recipe suggestions and more.
The class is taught by Abigail Brayton-Chung, MS, OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist and Marahu Falcon George, MA, CCC-SLP, a pediatric speech-language pathologist. They are both members of the Pediatric Clinical Feeding Team at Emerson’s Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies and have more than five years of experience working with infants, children, and their families to evaluate and treat various feeding and eating delays.
To register and for location, dates, and times please visit www.emersonwellness.org or call 978-287-3777.
Note: These suggestions are not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. If your baby is struggling with feeding, has weight gain concerns, or is having feeding difficulties along with developmental/motor delays and/or complex birth or medical history, please consult with your baby’s pediatrician regarding referral to a feeding team/feeding therapist, and/or other medical professionals.