How you feed your baby is determined by the type of parents you are
Introducing solid food: let the adventure begin!
Purée? Whole food? Organic? Family meals? Infant cereal? …What on earth are they supposed to eat when introducing solid food? Between what Google, your mom, Instagram and your best friend have suggested, no wonder you’re left unsure about what’s the most appropriate for your family and your child.
We get it – it’s confusing. We barely make sense of what to eat as adults, and we certainly want the best for our little ones. There are feedings trends…there are new research studies published… but it all comes down to one thing: your parenting style (duh. as with most parenting decisions).
You’ve heard of the new Baby-led weaning approach. You provide appropriate food: you are in charge of the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW. Your baby decides IF and HOW MUCH food to eat. You’re the brain, they’re the guts. Match made in heaven? Yes, but.
As much as this technique sounds magical, it really isn’t. Doesn’t it reflects what parents must have been doing before the era of “industrial” baby food came onto grocery store shelves?
What is recommended?
The Canadian recommendations about introducing solid food in a nut shell are:
- Introduce solid food when baby shows signs of readiness. Forget the whole story about age-related readiness – it is such a poor indicator of physiological readiness. Rather, look for signs like:
- holding their head up with control
- being able to lean forward
- sitting up with limited help
- turning their head to signify lack of interest
- grabbing objects and bringing them to their mouth
- showing interest in food you are eating
- wanting to imitate your behavior at the table
- Start with iron-rich foods like meats, meat alternatives and iron-fortified baby cereals.
- Progress in textures, forms and shapes. The goal is to offer family meals and snacks around 1 year of age following your family eating schedule. This will depend on your child’s developmental milestones and might not happen at exactly 1 year of age.
- Offer foods cooked with limited salt and sugar.
- Ensure food is prepared, served and stored safely.
- Encourage self-feeding with finger foods, where baby leads the way under your constant supervision. This responsive feeding ensures you respect baby’s hunger and satiety.
- Don’t delay introduction of allergens.
- Offer breastmilk up to 2 years of age or as long as you and baby feel so. Offer a daily supplement of vitamin D.
Ultimately, we want to “encourage parents and caregivers to be role models and instil lifelong healthy eating habits” starting with the introduction of solid food.
Spoon or no spoon?
When we keep in mind that the whole idea behind introducing solid food is to TEACH babies how to adopt a healthy diet, the HOW suddenly has less importance.
Whether you offer purées or soft finger foods first will depend on your parenting style. Babies will end up at the same place: eventually eating whole foods, taking part in family meals, developing a healthy relationship to food, and respecting their appetite (or at least, that’s the goal and we are here to show you how!).
There is no right or wrong way of feeding your baby as long as you do it safely.
What’s your family style?
What is your relationship with food? And your relationship with your body? How involved is your partner? What is the family dynamic like? Where do you typically eat dinner? Do you (and who?) prep family meals? Older siblings? Who sits at the family table most nights? … you get it. As many answers as there are eaters. That is why you will adopt an approach that ultimately will be unique to your family.
Trying to convince you of the best method to adopt is rather futile. What do we have to gain? We are not preaching here… we want to empower you and give you and your partner the skills, knowledge and confidence to make choices when it comes time to feed your family. We rather help you define what works best for you in a way that is sustainable for the whole family and over the long haul.
Back to your parenting style… we bet it is influenced by the personality of your child. Studies have shown that it highly influences which method parents will adopt. If you have a baby who would be described as “fussy”, or growing fast/slow, sleeping all night or not at all, all of this will influence your perception and how you approach feeding. Once again, there is no one-size-fits-all method. Baby led weaning, spoon feeding, a mix of both…
So if you are more nervous, using a good old spoon and serving purée might just be the perfect approach to feeding your child in a relaxed atmosphere where everyone enjoys their meal. Maybe it makes more sense to you to simply offer soft finger foods and let your child make a mess as they explore. It doesn’t matter…. it really doesn’t. As registered dietitians, we are here to support you in the method of your choice. Not to judge you. Not to convince you. We are here to help you do it right. So let’s start!
We are here to guide you as you determine how to introduce solid food, and what your family meals will look like.
- Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants – Recommendations from Birth to Six Months
- Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants – Recommendations from Six to 24 Months
- Brown A, Jones SW, Rowan H. Baby-Led Weaning: The Evidence to Date. Curr Nutr Rep [Internet]. Current Nutrition Reports; 2017;6(2):148–56.
- New baby? All you need to know about vitamin D supplement.
- Baby is ready to eat solids? Is baby-led weaning the right choice for your family?