When babies transition from being exclusively breast-fed or bottle-fed to consuming solid foods, keeping a check on mealtime milestones becomes of utmost importance.
Encouraging self-feeding not only empowers babies to explore new tastes and textures but also lays the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating.
It is essential to develop healthy eating habits from the get-go and encourage independence in the right way. Here are some effective ways parents can ensure their children are being exposed to the right kind of nutrition:
Introduction to Solid Foods
Introduce solid foods gradually, starting around six months of age, following your pediatrician's guidance. Begin with single-ingredient purees and mashed foods, such as avocado or banana, and then gradually introduce a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains. As your baby becomes more comfortable with solid foods, encourage them to self-feed by offering appropriately sized finger foods.
Also, don’t restrain from exposing your child to different varieties of foods. Expand their palate from a young age with a colourful assortment of fruits, vegetables, and ingredients so you can stimulate their curiosity and encourage self-feeding.
Lead by Example
Babies want to do what their parents do. You are their ultimate role model.
Babies are highly observant, and they learn by imitating those around them. Sit together at mealtime and enjoy your meals alongside them and make sure to incorporate a wide range of nutritious foods into your own diet, as your baby is more likely to try them when they see you eating them.
Age-appropriate foods and utensils
You don’t want to serve your baby any choking hazards. Cut all fruits and vegetables into bite-sized pieces, serve soft-cooked grains, pasta, and well-cooked meals to start off their self-feeding habit.
Even when it comes to utensils, you should provide them with the right cutlery for their tiny hands. Specially designed spoons with soft tips and easy-grip handles can help your baby practice self-feeding while minimizing frustration.
Let your babies make a mess! Initially, they might prefer to use their hands instead of forks and spoons, but with practice, they will eventually pick up the habit. Just give them the time to do it.
The mealtime environment makes all the difference
Remove any distractions, and make mealtime a positive and calming experience for them. Sit alongside them, try to engage in gentle conversation, and maintain eye contact. This builds a positive association with food, and eventually builds the foundation for healthier self-feeding habits.
Be mindful of your actions and your words, and make mealtime an enjoyable experience for your babies to ensure they implement these healthy habits at later stages as well :)