Learning how to eat is quite a process. There are many different flavours and textures. There are different ways of eating; finger foods, spoons, forks, knives, chopsticks, etc. When your baby starts eating solid foods they go through a huge learning curve. Parents always ask me how much their babies should be eating at various stages and my answer is always, “It depends.” As adults our eating is basically the same day in and day out, however, kids’ eating is very up and down- a lot one day and hardly any the next- and that is normal for them.
We should want to encourage intuitive mindful eating in our kids, right from the start. After all, that is what they are born doing and it is very common that when solid foods are introduced it starts to get lost. What I mean when I say “encourage mindful intuitive eating” is that you want them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. They are the only ones who know where they are on that spectrum, and encouraging them to listen to their bodies is of the utmost importance.
I encourage parents to not focus on how much their kids are eating, this can not only become a point of stress but it also can become a place of pressure put on the kids. I always encourage parents to follow feeding expert Ellyn Satter’s “division of responsibility”, or as I refer to it “dishing out the control” –read more here.
Every baby develops at a somewhat different rate, and that is another reason why I encourage parents to not worry so much and follow the “food is for fun, under one” mantra.
The WHO recommends breastfeeding to two years and beyond (1). Up to one year of age, the majority of nutrients the baby will be getting is coming from either breastmilk or formula, or a combination there of. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you should not be offering food to your baby during this time. It does mean that your baby has a chance to learn to become a successful eater, and parents can sit back and relax and enjoy the process of your baby starting solids.
It is important to start solids during the first year. Not too early (the current recommendations are to wait until 6 months)(3), but waiting too long can also be a concern. As long as you have started the process of offering your baby solids foods before age one, so as to be sure that you are not missing their developmental readiness to accept different foods, and as long as you are offering foods that are high in iron, as around 6 months their stores will start to decrease (2), I don’t put too much focus on the “how much” and instead emphasize the fun.
One of the most important things is to focus on when feeding your baby, right from the beginning, is avoiding pressure (2). By looking at food under age one as a learning tool and “just for fun” I find it really helps parents avoid pressure. From around age one, kids start to have a more regular intake of food (3).
Parents worry, that’s what we do. So talking about starting solids as being fun is a big shift for many people. Instead of worrying about the mess, how much your child is actually eating, what they are and aren’t eating, etc. focus on providing varied textures of a different variety of foods and take some of that pressure and stress, off both of you.
Questions about how to avoid pressure when feeding your kids? Contact Jill, Nurture The Future’s Registered Dietitian at firstname.lastname@example.org
2- Ellyn Satter- Child of Mine- Feeding with love and good sense