Originally published: Oct 2nd/2018; Updated: June 4th/2019
Food Before One is Just for Fun?
Have you heard the old saying “food before one is just for fun?” And have you wondered if it’s true? Well it’s not exactly true. Of course, eating should always be fun and pleasant.
But saying that food before one is JUST for fun is not exactly accurate…
Before one, baby is learning to eat: it should be fun… but it’s more than just for fun!
Why do we progress from milk to solid foods?
Why does the whole “food before one is just for fun” misconception exist? One reason is that, milk provides most of baby’s calories and nutrients during the first year. This includes breastmilk and/or formula.
The notion that food before one is just for fun, is not only dated… it’s wrong.
At around 6 months of age when baby is ready, it’s important to introduce solid food. Eating solid food helps meet your baby’s nutritional needs even if milk is a major component.
The nutrients from food and the act of eating itself help baby’s physical and mental development. Not to mention the social and psychological aspects of eating with the family. The introduction of solids helps establish family dynamics including the household food environment.
Transitioning to solid foods
A few quick and easy signs that your baby is ready:
- Able to hold his/her head,
- Sits upright with minimal help
- Can turn their head side to side?
When your baby is ready, choose the feeding method that works for your family.
There’s traditional feeding, baby-led weaning, or an hybrid of both. Enjoy the milestone as you embark on the solid food adventure!
You don’t HAVE to do baby-led weaning, and you don’t HAVE to go the traditional route.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods (more on this here). You may have heard good and bad things from both methods.
What is most important is that the method you choose feels right for you, baby and the whole family. A non-stressed parent is always key in establishing a positive feeding environment. This is more important than the method you choose.
Food before one is not just for fun. Milk will continue to have an important place in your baby’s diet, but solid foods are offering multiple advantages beyond nutrition.
Food before one is just for fun? No, baby needs iron around 6 months of age
When baby is ready to start solid food, offer iron-rich food at least 2 times a day. This is a great example of why we don’t favour the “food before one is just for one” idea.
The iron store that baby built up during pregnancy lasts for about 6 months. On top of that, breast milk and formula milk do not provide enough iron to meet baby’s needs. So, when baby turns 6 months old, offering iron-rich foods is important!
In fact, offering iron-rich foods first is a priority. Why? Well at this age baby has a small stomach, and an appetite that matches.
Otherwise, there is no order to introduce the food. There is also no need to wait 3 days before introducing new food.
The exception, of course, are the major allergens. With food allergen introduction, you want to pinpoint foods causing an allergic reaction. Waiting before introducing each allergen will help you identify the culprits.
Subscribe to get your free list of iron-rich foods, including vegetarian options
Iron rich foods should be the first food introduced to baby around 6 months of age.
Baby needs to practice some key moves
Food is a good “excuse” to get baby to practice some moves! Eating requires many actions and developmental milestones that baby will need to learn. It is not gonna happen overnight, so time to start practicing.
The important eating actions and milestones include:
- Holding utensils,
- Drinking from an open cup,
- Grabbing food items with the appropriate force,
- Bringing food to the mouth,
- Closing the lips and forming a food bolus, etc.
Remember, your baby is learning to eat. It takes time and practice! So, give baby plenty of occasions to explore, play, experiment with the food and eat. With time, baby will also lose his/her gagging reflex. But, the choking risk will always remain with food or toys.
Make sure you know the differences between gagging and choking, and what to do in both situations.
Subscribe to access this handy cheat sheet contrasting choking and gagging.
Baby is learning to eat: holding utensils, grabbing and bringing food to the mouth, chewing and swallowing.
Baby learns to respect his/her appetite
Your baby has always learned to respect his/her appetite when drinking milk, but now it is different!
Eating solid food is a whole different ball game. Your baby must now learn to respect their appetite in a context of food abundance.
New intriguing foods, different colours, textures, and flavours… all very tempting! If there was truth in “food before one is just for fun” it would apply to the sensory aspect of eating.
You’re facing a different set of challenges. As parents you need to guide your baby to respect his/her cues of hunger and fullness.
More delicious food to eat, and baby needs to learn to honour his/her signs of hunger and fullness.
Baby needs to discover textures and flavours
Solid food also offers the advantage of coming in all sorts of shapes, textures, mouth feels. Plus there are so many different tastes adn flavours!
Although baby has been tasting flavours in the womb, the learning still continues.
You’ll notice rather early that your baby will have preferences for certain foods. Offering novel foods helps baby explore. But, it’s important to keep offering disliked foods too.
Parents must offer food without pressure, and allow baby to decide whether to eat or not.
Offering food of all shapes, sizes and flavours. It will help your baby develop taste and preferences!
Exposing your baby to food allergens
Delaying the introduction doesn’t present any benefit. Instead, introducing food allergens early in life may help prevent them. While this is generally true, if you have any concerns, follow the advice of your doctor or dietitian.
Refresh yourself on the signs of an allergic reaction and the best ways to avoid choking risks.
Subscribe and get your guide of the most common allergens and how to introduce them safely to baby
Introducing allergens early in life might help prevent allergies.
Baby needs to observe and imitate parents
The ultimate goal is to teach your child to eat like the rest of the family by 1 year old. To do so, baby needs to practice and practice again. Also, your baby needs to observe YOU eating the same food!
Baby will pick up on the way you:
- Drink from your glass,
- Hold your fork,
- Use your knife,
- The way you might try a bite of new food,
- How you handle food you may not like it,
- The way you might get yourself a second serving because you enjoy certain foods.
Over time, baby will notice that you don’t throw your food on the floor when you don’t like it or because you’re done eating.
The point is not to only sit and feed your child, but to come together as a family (even if it’s once a day!) and eat together.
Eating as a family is important for your child to learn the expected behaviours during meals.
Parents are establishing the feeding environment and food rules
And beyond baby learning all this, parents are also finding their way! You are establishing the new family dynamic with your child at the table.
It’s worth discussing the key rules with your partner and caregivers/family members you want to “enforce” in your house.
So with all this, is food before one just for fun? Well part of it should be true.
We prefer the modified: food before one is just for fun, drop some food rules for the whole family and make sure to enjoy!
Food is fun! Eating is fun! Not just for baby. Not just before 1!