Why is introducing solid foods at this age so vital?
- Reducing risk of allergies. In previous years it was advised to avoid the introduction of potentially allergenic foods until the child was older than one. However, studies now show that earlier introduction of potentially allergenic foods may reduce the chance of developing food allergy particularly in babies with severe eczema or egg allergy. These foods include egg, peanut, cow’s milk (dairy), tree nuts, soy, sesame, wheat, fish and other seafood. A child should be exposed to these foods before the age of 1 (even those who have a higher risk of developing an allergy).
- Taste development: Infants need exposure to a wide range of tastes and flavours. Studies show that if a child is exposed to a more flavour variety they will be more accepting of novel flavours in the future.
- Social aspects of feeding: Part of learning to eat is also learning that mealtimes are about more than just food. It’s also a time for connection and coming together. The responsive and reciprocal process of eating and feeding is an important time for learning about relationships food and communication.
It’s essential when we are feeding we are following our baby’s cues. Are they hungry? Are they developmentally ready for that texture? Are they letting us know that they’re still processing that mouthful and are not ready for another bite? Are they full and have had enough? Have we set them up for success with feeding by offering solids at a time when they’re not too tired or hungry to enjoy this experiment?
Parents care deeply about what’s right for their child. Having a rigid set of rules and advice around feeding makes it difficult to tune into your baby’s individual needs and development. You can choose to feed your child by spoon feeding, using baby led weaning or a combination of the two, whatever is best for your and your child. All of these approaches can be responsive and in partnership with your child when you tune into their cues.
From a professional perspective, a combined approach to feeding can have many advantages. It enables you to choose what works best for your child, and their developmental ability, while also providing family foods in a safe way.
Originally published HERE.
By Rachael Wilson, who is a registered paediatric dietitian and family nutritionist for The Food Tree.