Have you heard this idea that food before one years old is just for fun? I’ve seen this well meaning advice come up in support groups, as well as from well meaning family, friends and sometimes even health practitioners. However, this just isn’t true and from my experience can even interfere with growth and development.
Your child will do best when you allow them to take the lead with foods. Going too fast or too slow can be problematic.
While you don’t want to hold your child back from trying new foods – you also don’t want to force things too early. If your child is not ready for foods, don’t pressure them as it can cause the feeding experience to be negative and can also interfere with them getting the nutrition they need.
Somewhere between 4 and 6 months of age your baby will start to shows signs of being ready to developmentally eat something other than breastmilk or formula. You will notice that they will be able to sit-up alone unsupported, show interest in food by looking at what you are eating and eagerly open their mouth for a spoon.
If you want to check if you baby is ready for solid foods, get my checklist and ideas for what foods to feed first download this downloadable.
There are several reason why food before one is not just for fun:
Yes, it’s true during the first year formula and breastmilk are VERY important and provide nutrition.
Around 6 months of age your infant’s iron stores will decrease. This means that you will need to offer foods to help replete those iron stores. This is why iron fortified cereal has always been encouraged. The iron fortified cereal does not only have the iron added, but it also contains Vitamin C which helps the body absorb the iron.
If your child is beyond cereal, combing iron rich foods with Vitamin C rich foods can have the same nutritional benefits.
Examples of Iron Rich Foods:
Beef, Chicken, Veal, Ham, Turkey, Fish, Iron Fortified Cereal, Beans, Spinach, Potato, Tofu, Broccoli and Bread to name a few.
Examples of Vitamin C Rich Foods:
Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Strawberries, Pineapple, Orange, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes, Blueberries to name a few.
Again, this is why food before one is not just for fun.
Babies around the age of 7 months start the developmental stage of Separation Individualization Stage. This means they are learning to be their own person separate from you. This will translate into feeding advice because babies this age will often want to do things by themselves.
If you continue to serve them only puree food that you are serving them on the spoon, you might start to notice that they will lose interest. Serving them foods at this point that they can self feed can make a huge difference in them enjoying the feeding and eating process. Delaying different textures has been shown to increase the likelihood of a baby not wanting to accept new tastes and textures.
I give more specific advice about starting the second foods in this blog post, Feeding Your Older Infant.
Many parents don’t realize how your child learning to eat different textures can support their speech development.
Different textures use different muscles in the mouth which help with strengthen those muscles. Chewing (puree or mushy foods) will help the tongue to strengthen which can help with certain sounds. Table foods help to strength the jaw, lips and tongue muscles.
The tip of the tongue helps to produce the ‘t’ and ‘d’ sounds. The back of the tongue helps make the ‘k’ and ‘g’ sounds. When your baby has chunky foods the tongue has to work at moving the chunk over to the gums/teeth for chewing. This allows your child’s tongue to move fluently and can help with speech development.
All of the muscles in the mouth help your child to chew and swallow food as well as make sounds. However, this alone is not an indicator of your child’s speech, however, giving your child age appropriate food can help to strengthen the muscles of the mouth.
Despite the fact that food before one does have developmental, nutritional and speech advantages, it is very important that you take the lead from your child to know what they are ready to eat. Pressuring your child to eat food they are not ready for can lead to food battles and also interfere with taking a variety of food.