The Baby Feeding Rulebook
There are lots of "do's" and "don'ts" when it comes to feeding your baby, but that doesn't mean it has to be complicated. These easy-to-follow rules make baby feeding a cinch.
As you stand in the kitchen, spoon of pureed carrots in hand, you're nervously excited for your little one to take this first step toward eating solids. A million questions run through your mind. "Do I toss out the bottle now?" "What's the ideal posture for feeding?" "How should I introduce new foods?"
The questions keep coming, and you suddenly realize there's more to baby feeding than holding a spoon to her mouth. Before you panic and buy everything in the baby food aisle, study these tips for moving beyond a liquid-only diet.
- Don't Ditch the Bottle
Just because your baby is starting solids doesn't mean that breast or bottle feeding should stop, notes Dr. Nimali Fernado, owner of Yum Pediatrics and co-author of Parenting in the Kitchen. Dr. Fernando says, "As solid foods are first introduced around the age of 6 months, I recommend that parents just offer a 'taste.' Formula and breast milk should still provide almost all of a baby's daily nutrition needs."
Giving your baby "tastes" gets her used to eating gradually. This can help her to brave the new sensations of food without overloading her taste buds. As your baby gets used to eating solids, you can offer more at meals. By 12 months, your baby's diet should include more food than milk or formula. Dr. Fernando suggests that solid foods should make up at least half of the daily caloric intake when your child turns 1 year old, with two to three cups of milk per day.
- Be Supportive, Literally
When you start giving your baby solids, make sure that she is well-supported. "Babies need to be sitting up on their own (perhaps with some support) in order to have the trunk stability to learn to grasp at soft foods," says feeding specialist and creator of My Munch Bug, Melanie Potock. She recommends that you use a high chair or firmly support your baby in your arms when you start giving your baby solids.
- Fit in the Fat
The word "fat" may make you cringe, but it's vital to your little one's diet. Babies need fat for healthy brain development. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that infants between 7 and 12 months eat 30 grams of fat each day. In the first few months, breast milk and formula offer all the fats your baby needs. As you transition into solids, you'll need to add healthy fats. Dr. Fernando suggests adding foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as avocados or eggs, to help your baby build a healthy brain. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reducing saturated fat in your baby's diet because it can cause health problems later in life. These fats turn solid at room temperature and can be found in fatty meats and ice cream.
- Make a Mess
While the thought of your little one tossing mashed bananas all over her spotless high chair makes you shudder, it actually serves a purpose during baby feeding. Potock notes, "Getting messy is an essential part of food exploration. Babies are programmed to explore with their hands, fingers and mouths." Not only does this making eating fun, but it also gets your baby used to eating solids and builds her fine motor skills. This discovery process lets your baby feed her curiosity, as well as her body.
- Serve One at a Time
Before bringing on the buffet, offer one food at a time. Spooning up too many tastes and textures at once may turn your baby off solids, making her less likely to enjoy eating. Start with something simple, such as infant cereal. As your baby gets used to eating that, move on to healthy veggies and fruits, one at a time. Start with smooth, pureed textures before moving to mashed foods, eventually introducing finger foods by your baby's first birthday, suggests Dr. Fernando.
Remember, your baby is an individual. Don't expect her to eat the exact same foods at the same time your BFF's baby does. Let her explore the tastes and textures, and don't stress -- she won't head off to kindergarten with a bottle in tow.
To learn more about what your little one should be eating, Read about the 3 Stages of Baby Food.
Erica Loop is a freelance parenting writer with a background in child development. She is an educator and also blogs about kids' activities at Mini Monets and Mommies.