As a registered dietitian, my passion is helping others have a positive relationship with food, and I truly believe that can start with baby’s wonderful first bites. Introducing solids should be quick, easy and fun—for both mom and baby! Of course, with all the to-dos that land on parents’ plates and the limited time we have in a day, the prospect of making baby food can sometimes feel overwhelming. So how can you take the stress out of introducing solids? Here are my top five tips.
1. Get the Right Tools for the Job
I absolutely encourage feeding homemade baby food as much as possible, because it allows complete control over what’s going in with no unknown additives, provides peak freshness and flavor, allows for introducing varied flavor profiles, and is lower in cost. But I don’t think any mom wants to sacrifice hours in the kitchen making purees—moms have enough going on as is! To make your life easier, invest in a baby food processor. It’s a true game changer. I like the Baby Brezza baby food maker, which allows you to make baby food in as little as 10 minutes. You simply place the food into the processor, fill the tank with water and press two buttons for perfectly pureed baby food. No mess, no brainer. That being said, as a busy working mom I know homemade baby food isn’t going to be possible 100 percent of the time. Luckily, there are amazing pre-made baby food brands out there today. Just make sure the only ingredients on the label are whole, natural foods.
2. Incorporate Baby’s Food into Your Own Meals
Another smart move is to use the food you make for baby as a starter for your own meal. Not only is it an awesome time-saver, but it may also spark some healthier practices for yourself. You can transform baby’s veggie puree into a soup for yourself, use a fruit and veggie blend as your smoothie base or spoon pureed berries on top of your yogurt or oatmeal.
3. Let Baby Start Self-Feeding Early On
Did you know babies can start self-feeding as early as six to seven months old? The quicker you have them start spoon-feeding themselves, the quicker they master the skill, and the quicker you can start enjoying meals alongside your little one rather than micro-managing. Let baby get the full sensory (aka messy) experience. Your kitchen will be a disaster zone at first, but they’ll start eating more skillfully in just a few weeks. Plus, allowing them to play with their food supports brain development as they develop all of their senses.
4. Go with the Flow
When it comes to introducing first foods, try not to put too much pressure on yourself (or your child). Remember, baby is still getting everything they need nutritionally from breast milk or formula. At first, food should just be a fun, sensory experience. If they aren’t into it, don’t push it. Just because they don’t like a certain food today doesn’t mean they won’t love it in two weeks from now, or even two days. Feeding, just like motherhood, can be messy. Some days will be better than others. Go with it! For a higher chance of success, try pairing novel foods with a familiar taste, and introduce solids 45 minutes before or after a nursing session or bottle-feeding so they aren’t too hungry or too full. Babies have an amazing instinctual ability to eat the exact amount they need without overdoing it (an ability adults seem to lose somewhere along the way), so if they’re pushing the food away, respect their wishes.
5. Get Creative with First Foods
In the US, many pediatricians encourage parents to introduce one food at a time for three days in a row before moving onto a few food, to help you spot any potential food allergies. (Reactions to look for include rash, hives, gastrointestinal distress, face or tongue swelling, or difficulty breathing.) If allergies run in your family, you may want to follow this advice and proceed with caution. But you don’t always have to stick to single-ingredient purees! In China, a baby’s first puree is typically a blend of rice, fish, seaweed and eggs. In India, curry is introduced as the first food. In fact, offering a variety of flavor profiles early on is key to prevent picky eating—so whenever you and baby are ready, feel free to experiment with different foods.
Bottom line: Get creative, have fun and don’t take feeding too seriously. Meals should be a fun time to bond with baby. Of course, we can all use a little help in coming up with ways to make mealtime successful and stress-free. The Fit & Feast mini series features events designed to put the “fun” into the fundamentals of feeding baby, offering baby food recipe inspiration, expert advice and a chance to connect with other moms in similar life stages—join us and follow @fitandfeastevents!
Molly Rieger is a registered dietitian with a master's degree in clinical nutrition, and mom to Maxie. She believes the best memories are made in the kitchen or around the dinner table. Her interest in nutrition began after being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in high school. Despite doctors telling her diet wasn’t associated with the disease, she set off on a mission to understand how food affected how she felt. Molly began cooking healthy meals for her family and loved how it felt to bring loved ones together through food. Motherhood has allowed her to apply her knowledge to her daughter, and strives to show other parents how easy and fun it can be to feed your child.
Published May 2019