As a pediatric feeding therapist I answer several calls or emails per week asking for advice on introducing baby food to lil ones. I spend so much time talking with parents about this that I decided to put some of the must do’s into a list for you.
I consider these some of the top must do’s when introducing baby food to your little bundle of joy. I hope you find this helpful. Remember this list is not the only thing to take into consideration but it is some of the foundation work that will help create a healthy, happy eater.
Introducing Baby Food Must Do’s
- As a feeding therapist, and a Mom who has seen the difference in introducing baby food to a baby at 4 months vs 6 months, I believe in starting at 6 months. I believe in this because a baby’s gross motor (things like holding head up, sitting independently), fine motor (things like reaching, grasping, bringing objects to midline and mouth), and cognitive skills (like watching what’s going on around them, watching you eat and bring food to your mouth) is more adequately developed to support feeding than at 4 months. If you started at 4 months and are rocking it then here is a high five. All babies develop differently so this is just a guideline. Trust your gut and observe where your baby is with developing.
- 2. Make sure your lil one is supported in an appropriate highchair. If there is a way for your baby’s legs to be supported then this would provide stability for your baby’s core which establishes stability in the mouth. Imagine trying to eat if you were in a really high bar stool where you couldn’t touch the floor, you might feel a little wobbly and that would leave you looking for the foot rest to give yourself some stability to eat.
- 3. If your baby is 6 months then their feet are most likely not hanging down to where you can put something down on the footrest of the highchair (for them to rest flat on) so I would take a pillow or flat piece of cardboard or larger book and place that on the footrest so that allows your baby to lay their legs out on it. I like this highchair because you can adjust to your needs. I also like this highchair because of the extra support and adjustable footrest.
- 4. Let your baby play with purees (getting messy is super important for typical feeding development). I would pour a small amount of puree on your baby’s tray and let them pat it, swirl it, make a mess. You can also give him/her a spoon (larger/thicker handle type) or a truck/car to roll over the puree and let him play with it. Feeling, smelling, tasting, seeing are all apart of the experience. We eat with all of our senses.
- 5. If your little one appears hesitant (turning away, not engaging, putting hands up,etc) I would start with a dry spoon (Nothing on it) and just practice coming to his/her mouth very playfully. You give “kisses” to the spoon or take a “bite” first then go to his/her mouth and place spoon on bottom lip and wait for him/her to open his/her mouth and bring upper lip down to clear spoon.
For when you are taking a “bite”, really take a bite (even with a dry spoon) don’t pretend; your baby needs to see you doing it too. Then you can practice with a small amount of puree on the spoon once they are familiar and open to the spoon coming to them.
Most importantly we want your baby to open his/her mouth and be receptive to it. If your baby is clinching his/her lips shut, turning away, pushing away this is your baby’s only way to say he/she can’t handle it, it doesn’t feel good, he/she is not ready, etc. So if he/she does this then back off and let him either play with the food and/or give him/her a spoon to hold too. Sometimes we need to end the feed and try again later and ya’ll that is totally okay!
- 6. Double spoon feed- Give your baby a spoon to hold while you are feeding him/her. This gives him/her control and more security during a feed. Model eating, so take a bite then let him/her take a bite. Even let them feed you!
As for types of spoon, I prefer kids eat off a flatter bowl in the spoon; we don’t want the spoon to have a deep bowl. The flatter the better they are able to clear the spoon to get the food off. See my blog post here regarding which bowls and spoons I prefer.
If your baby has any history of feeding or developmental difficulties including but not limited to difficulty breast or bottle feeding, aspiration, impaired swallow, delayed oral motor skills, sensory processing difficulties, developmental delays impacting overall development, constipation, reflux, GI issues, or muscle tone issues please consult a feeding specialist in your area.
It’s best to find the root cause from the beginning in order to help your lil one become a happy eater.
I have not seen your child to evaluate so please use your best judgement and do what you feel comfortable with and what your gut tells you. If your gut is telling you to seek out help then please advocate for your child and locate a pediatric therapist that specializes in feeding delays/disorders.
Take it slow and steady. This is a new world for your baby to learn and when the pressure is off and your child is developmentally and medically ready they will blossom.
If you would like to learn more about how to help your child eat a variety of healthy foods please follow me on facebook at Speak Eat Learn LLC or on Instagram @speakeatlearnllc. Make sure to comment and say Hi. I love to hear where you are from.