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Stress-Free Baby Food-Introducing Solid Foods To A Child’s Diet

I have written before about some common parenting stressors (namely sleep and potty training) that, in most cases, tend to work themselves out with little to no parental intervention. Let’s go ahead and add baby food to that list! You can’t get much more basic than eating, pooping and sleeping, and kids are typically going to master all of these skills eventually regardless of what we do (or do not do) to encourage them. I will discuss how to introduce solid foods to a child’s diet and how it can be stress free.

Now that my youngest daughter is approaching the 6-month mark (say it ain’t so!), I have been starting to think about how I would like to approach her introduction to solid foods.

With both girls, I have thankfully had access to the resources, information, support, and anatomy necessary to make breastfeeding successful. Because the nutritional content of breastmilk evolves with a baby’s needs, I am confident that Freja will be receiving adequate nutrition through breastmilk until at least 12 months, whether or not she attacks solids with gusto the way her sister did. I love the saying, “Food before one is just for fun.” My goal with introducing solids at around six months is to provide an enjoyable sensory experience: exposure to tastes, textures, smells, and colors that will serve as a foundation for lifelong healthy eating.

As we did with my older daughter, we plan to follow the Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) approach to introducing solids … also known as the I’m-not-going-out-of-my-way-to-make-special-foods-for-you approach (a good approach for all kid mealtimes, if you ask me). You can read more about our experience with this process the first time around, including how we overcame our fear of choking whenever Beatrice gagged on her food, at this link: https://talesofexpansion.com/2015/01/16/baby-food-and-baby-led-weaning/.

When Freja shows us that she is ready for solids – by sitting without slouching, reaching for the food on my plate, communicating intentionally through gestures that she wants or does not want something, etc. – we’ll start by offering finger-sized chunks (think french fry size) of solid foods. You will not find me pureeing and spoon-feeding! For starters, I don’t have the patience. Beyond that, however, the BLW approach is based on research that babies are less likely to choke, and more likely to develop a healthy relationship with food, when they are responsible for feeding themselves.

A stress-free way to begin is to bake a batch of sweet potato and butternut squash fries, tossed in a bit of olive oil before going in the oven, or steam some broccoli “trees.” This size and shape of food will allow a solids-ready baby to grasp it with her whole hand and still have a mouthable portion sticking out the top of her fist. These easy starter foods are quick to prepare and also appetizing to the rest of the family. Thumbs up for avoiding the need to make a baby-specific meal … and then chaining myself to one spot while I battle with a stubborn infant to accept it on a spoon.

As a parent, my job is to offer healthy food to my children. I leave them to decide how much of the food they want to eat, if any at all. That’s not to say I don’t sometimes chase my older daughter around the house with a spoonful of peanut butter because bedtime has come out of nowhere, she needs to be sleeping 20 minutes ago, and the night will be a total disaster if she goes to bed hungry. Sometimes (or all the time!), you just need to do what works. Baby-led weaning is one way to relieve some of that feeding stress and help your child learn how to listen to her body and nourish herself with healthy foods for a lifetime.

Here are some other resources for introducing solid foods: http://www.babyledweaning.com https://kellymom.com/nutrition/starting-solids/solids-when/ https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/feeding-infants-toddlers/starting-solids/faqs-about-solid-foods/solid-food-for-baby

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Sarah McLanahan, M.S.Ed., LICSW, lives in Gloucester, MA with her husband and two daughters. She has worked for several years supporting families of very young children through the daily highs and lows that accompany the transition to parenthood. With her own family, she tries to make sustainable and healthy choices when time and budget permit, a journey you can read more about on her blog, Tales of Expansion.

Child Care Centre Website Link: http://woodlandplacechildcare.com
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