Picking eating can be such a difficult and frustrating thing for caregivers to deal with and it is so common, especially with toddlers and young children. Of course, there are a lot of things you can do to improve eating if your child is stuck in restricted diet mode. But this post is about preventing the problem before it even begins. Maybe you have an older child who is picky and you want to try to prevent this issue with your new baby. Or maybe you have just heard your friends complain about their kids refusing to eat the dinner they just spent an hour preparing. Whatever the reason, being intentional in the way you feed your baby can pay off in the long run.
When your child is about 6 months of age and able to sit on their own, they are often ready to start eating something beyond breastmilk or formula. It is common for medical providers to recommend baby cereal as a first food, but this really is not necessary. Of course there are benefits to cereals, the number one benefit being that they are typically fortified. Many cereals are fortified with a variety of nutrients, but iron is often the reason this food is recommended by your baby’s doctor. Iron is essential to be mindful of starting at this age, so if you choose not to give your baby an iron fortified cereal, make sure you give them other sources of iron. Some great options include: Meats, eggs, tofu, oatmeal, beans, peas, dark leafy greens, and sweet potatoes.
Giving your baby the foods listed above rather than bland processed cereals provides your baby with an enhanced sensory experience. The taste and texture of these foods will help to prepare your child to be open to variety as they grow up. If you really want to give your baby a fortified cereal, try mixing it with other flavorful foods and switch it up on a regular basis to prevent them getting used to food being bland and smooth.
Baby led weaning is a great approach for many children. While to many people, the idea of baby led weaning means giving baby true solid foods from the beginning (such as a slice of avocado rather than puréed), it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. The purpose of baby led weaning is in the name–It is a feeding experience that is led by your baby. They are in charge and learn to feed themselves from day one. While I do think that giving new eaters food with more texture has many benefits, this approach does not work for every family. If you want to learn more, I recommend following @solidstarts on Instagram and downloading their free app. It truly is an amazing resource with great information. Either way, whether you offer your baby steamed carrot sticks or carrot purée as a first food, l recommend letting them use their hands to feed themselves as much as possible. Yes, it will be a mess at first…But it allows your baby to get used to the texture and to feel a sense of autonomy–two very important things to set up healthy, positive lifelong eating.
If you choose to start with puréed foods, making at least some of your baby’s food from scratch has benefits too as you can find more variety in the produce aisle compared to the baby food aisle and homemade baby food has more texture and stronger flavors. It is more similar to the real food since it is less processed and this can make for an easier transition as you begin to offer more true solid foods.
Most importantly, try to have fun with it and be creative! Go to the grocery store and pick out things you have never even tried yourself! Eating new foods can be a fun experience for the whole family and sets up a great culture around your dinner table to be open to new things.