One of the best things about having a child is experiencing those ‘firsts’ that you take for granted as an adult. The first jump, the first run… but also, the first apple, the first ice cream, the first lemon. As a foodie, my baby’s first solids was an experience I was absolutely looking forward to.
WHO guidelines recommend waiting for 6 months before introducing solids. It’s also to be noted that solids are merely complementary until 12 months – breast milk (or formula) is still the primary source of nutrition for babies. With this in mind, the typical recommendation is to start with one ‘meal’ a day, offered an hour or 1.5 hours after BF/formula, at 6 months. The number of times food is offered gradually builds up until most babies are offered 5 meals, roughly every 2 hours, around the age of 1.
Whether they choose to eat those meals is a different thing! I firmly believe our job as parents is to offer. Eating or not is up to the child. Just as we didn’t have the ability to see when a baby was hungry or full when we fed them breast milk, nothing really changes with solids. When you feed a baby based on your expectations of how much food is ‘enough’, you do your baby a great disservice.
During growth spurts, my baby can eat a surprising amount. At other times, like when she’s sick or sleepy, she may not feel like eating at all. If I were to offer a standard amount and base my satisfaction on whether that food was eaten, it would just be exhausting.
I think the key here is to trust your child. They know, better than some adults, that food is eaten when you’re hungry. They won’t starve themselves. There’s no need to chase a child around a room with a plate of food. No one’s a ‘good child’ because they eat, or a ‘bad child’ because they don’t.
It’s been a privilege watching my baby eat for the last six months. We followed baby-led weaning for her. This form of weaning says the baby is in full charge of their food. We presented her the same food we were eating; minus salt, sugar, honey, chilli, and cow’s milk. She’d then manipulate it herself and eat as much as she wanted. There was no feeding, no pureeing, no mashing. We’d eat together.
She’s gone from eating steamed, peeled wedges of apples at 6 months, to picking up individual pomegranate pieces at 8 months, to reaching into bowls of food to pick out what she wants at 11 months. Her motor skills have clearly improved as she’s had the opportunity to manipulate food on her own. We’ve clearly seen her pincer grip emerge and evolve. And it’s the lowest effort sensory play experience you can create!
Sometimes she sits on her booster chair; more often, now that she’s mobile, she runs around in between bites. But one thing’s for sure. She eats because she wants to, not because I want her to. When she’s full, it doesn’t matter if fries are offered, or her favourite guava, she won’t push herself to eat it. And she gets no praise when she eats, because her reward is the food that makes it to her mouth.
It’s certainly allowed us both to continue enjoying our relationship with food, rather than have it weighed down with unpleasant connotations of something that has to be worked at. Regardless of whether you choose to wean traditionally or the baby led way, I hope introducing your child to solids is as enjoyable an experience for you!