A baby’s first few bites are more for development than for nutrition. This is your baby’s first exposure to food, and the start to his lifelong relationship with it. The first few meals teach important feeding skills, but also teach your baby that eating is a social, and enjoyable experience.
Follow these tips for fostering positive mealtime experiences:
1). Be happy! A smile goes a long way. If you are stressed from a long day in the office, or if you are stressed because your baby doesn’t like the food at first, it can make your little one feel more anxious at mealtimes.
2). Choose a time of day that your baby is awake and alert. If your baby is cranky, tired or sick, it is not the best time to offer him foods for the first time.
3). Choose a time when your baby is not too hungry or full. When introducing your baby to solids, an ideal time is at least 1-2 hours after his last nursing or bottle feed and at least 1-2 hours before his next nursing or bottle feed.
4). Limit distractions. While some music or singing may be helpful and enjoyable at mealtimes, avoid screens like TV, phones or tablets at meals. This can make your baby less focused on the food.
5). Maintain consistency. Have the baby eat in the same chair and at the same place on most days. Consistency is very helpful in establishing routines, even for infants.
6). Messy is good! Constant wiping food off of your baby’s face can be aggravating to him. Can you blame him?
7). Allow your baby to touch and play with small amounts of the food. This will make mealtimes more exploratory and playful.
8). Limit the pressure to finish meals. Your baby’s belly is small, and he doesn’t need a lot of food. You don’t want your little one to begin weaning off of milk or formula too early, before their feeding skills are better developed. So, once he turns his head away or shuts his lips, there is no need to try to get in one more bite.
9). Offer small portions. A few spoonfuls is a good place to start. It can be overwhelming for your baby to see a large pile of food. It is better to give small portions and to offer more once he has finished.
10). Begin family meals early. Babies will mimic your behavior at meals, so try to have them watch you, your partner and/or your other kids eat. This can be hard to do everyday, but even a few times per week helps.
Mealtime can be stressful for you and baby, however it is a new and exciting milestone. Check back for more ways to make mealtime fun as we explore the world of infant feeding this summer. Exciting recipes for baby’s first meals will be dished out each week.