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There is a wealth of information out there regarding the very best food you can give to your newly weaned little one, some of it controversial and some of it undeniably good advice. I have tried to glean the very best tips, together with common sense and my own experience with very fussy eaters to come up with some helpful suggestions.
You can safely feed your little one their first solid food after six months. Before four months, your baby's intestinal tract has not matured enough to handle the likes of infant cereal and pureed vegetables so stick to breast milk or formula. Introducing foods before the recommended time raises the risk of food allergies. Although all children develop at a different pace, the majority of children are developmentally ready to begin eating some solid food by about six months of age. Your baby must be capable of supporting his own head to consume solids, even if he is not ready to sit up on his own. By about four to five months, babies no longer have the extrusion reflex, which is the natural urge to push anything but liquid from the mouth, so they are more likely to accept a spoon. Also, between four and six months is when an infant's swallowing has improved to the point where he can handle semisolid foods such as fortified infant cereal, preferably mixed with breast milk or formula.
Don’t panic about getting your child to eat solid food as quickly as possible. Children tend to go at their own pace. I started one baby on solid food at four and a half months and another at six months and they both developed well and are now healthy seven and five year olds who love food. Experts say that if you leave introducing solid food much beyond the six month mark it does make it more difficult to persuade infants to accept it and there may be some nutritional risks. Start experimenting, babies will have certain things they like, often things you ate a lot of while you were pregnant. A firm favourite with all of the little ones I have fed was whizzed (and sieved) avocado and banana this is not only healthy but older siblings will enjoy helping you make it because it is bright green and can be likened to all sorts of things toddlers find irresistibly funny.
Children are quite impressionable, if they see you and older siblings eating food and enjoying it they will likely be fairly keen too. Make meal times fun, there is no need for a ban on small toys at the dinner table. Maybe you could have one or two ‘table toys’ that were just bought out at meal times thus making dinner time something to be looked forward to rather than dreaded.
Many parents buy jarred food for their babies and there are many varieties of healthy, organic baby food which makes feeding your baby much easier, but be warned! As yummy and healthy as this baby food is they process it much finer than any whizzer you have in your kitchen will ever be able to do. I have found that a little one just off the breast or the bottle will often eat the food out of a jar but woe betide the mother who then tries to move on to her own pureed food, it just won’t be good enough! I managed to get around this tricky issue by sieving the pureed food, this seemed to have the desired effect and I got a very fussy eight month year old to eat an entire roast dinner. However as chuffed as I was with my ingenuity my arms pretty soon got tired with pushing food through a sieve, so I decided to further experiment. I whizzed up some tasty, home cooked meals and sieved half of it. I then put some of the pureed food in with the sieved food in to a clean jar and conned the little one into believing that this was store bought baby food. (does this make me a bad person? I hope not!) Amazingly enough it worked, I then progressively sieved less and less of the food as he got used to more texture, thus my ultimate goal which was to stop spending a small fortune on jarred baby food was achieved!
At six to eight months of age, most infants have begun mastering the pincer grasp, which develops when they use the muscles of their thumb and forefinger to pick up small objects. Providing safe finger foods during this time helps children strengthen their grasping skills and then to move on to actually getting the food into their mouth, which often occurs at seven to nine months. Food such as squishy banana, soft bread, well cooked pasta spirals and very small chunks of soft cheese can all be tried and smeared over an infant’s face before they find their mouths. The best thing to do is once your baby is settled in their high chair sprinkle some different finger foods out in front of them and watch them play around with it. Resist the temptation to be continually cleaning their fingers and face, let your infant experience the textures and the taste, these are all important things for them to learn. Eat with your baby while talking to them and looking at them, this will not only greatly increase their enjoyment of meal times but also develop the strong bond you have with them.
Food is such fun, I really hope you and your baby have a wonderful time finding out about it and enjoying it together. Watch this space for some tried and tested baby recipes!
Bio: Beatrice Dalton has 3 precious little darlings and has long experience in working with children and general childcare, currently working towards degree in child psychology