By Alla Zaykova
Each child’s feeding journey is unique. Some may be eager eaters all the way, while others may be slower to start. It may take months for some babies to really develop a taste for solids after they’re first introduced around six months.
Although food before one is not ONLY for fun (it’s also for nutrition and feeding skills development), the key for parents is to focus on quality, not quantity. This can be done by offering balanced and healthy choices in a range of textures and flavours. However, if you do have concerns about weight gain or nutrition, talk to your doctor.
What you don’t want to do is force-feed your child as that will likely create negative associations with food and can even lead to bigger problems down the track.
Instead, here are a few things you can try to encourage your reluctant eater:
- Forget purees.
Unless your baby loves them, in which case carry on. But even then, it’s a good idea to introduce a variety of textures and encourage self-feeding.
Some kids may initially welcome the introduction of purees and mash, but then refuse to be spoon-fed completely once they realise they’re able to get food into their own mouths. This shouldn’t be discouraged and is an important skill.
Don’t think you should limit the finger foods to cut up fruit and veg either. Making balanced meals for the whole family should be easier than coming up with a baby-specific menu. I encourage you to look up “baby-led weaning” if you haven’t done so already.
Pasta with home-made vegetable sauce was a big hit for my daughter. So were home-made fishcakes and patties. Buckwheat (or rice) with tuna was also well received – and yes, she ate it all with her hands. Embrace the mess – it’s inevitable!
- Monkey see, monkey do.
Babies and toddlers learn by copying those around them. Make sure they see you eat and try to have meals as a family as often as possible. Show them you have the same food as them or even offer them to eat from your plate.
And if somebody in the household refuses certain food items, don’t be surprised the baby will too. So eat your veges, parents! And lead by example.
- Let baby feed you.
A baby maybe reluctant to self-feed, but quite eager to shove food in your mouth. And if you show them you’re willing, they may just be convinced to give it a go themselves.
You can either take turns, e.g: “A piece for daddy, a piece for baby”, or feed each other simultaneously. It’s also a nice way to bond!