When’s the right time to start on solids? There isn’t one! All babies develop their digestive systems at different speeds, so take a breath and let your kiddo lead the way!
When your sweetie is around four to six months old, start paying attention to their body language at mealtime. Once they become curious about food, they’ll let you know in no uncertain terms. They might fuss, lean in, reach, or stare intently as you dig into a bowl of your own dinner. Or they’ll still seem hungry after getting plenty of milk (whether they’re consuming breastmilk or formula). Remember, there is no *ideal* time for a baby to start on solids, so use your intuition!
But you can start teaching your little one to appreciate food well before you offer that first spoonful of baby food. No matter your baby’s age, now is a great time to normalize healthy, whole foods and introduce them to the world of colorful veggies, fruits, and nutrient dense foods. Here are some simple ways to influence your wee one’s food preferences (at any age or stage!).
#1: Be a Role Model.
Babies watch and observe our habits from birth, so let them see you and the entire fam enjoying meals and healthy foods together. Bonus points if they can join in at the dinner table to watch adults and older siblings eating in action. With one or more kiddos under foot, we know that cooking a healthy, balanced meal can seem insurmountable most days -- let alone gathering everyone together at the dinner table to eat it. No need to strive for perfection here! There are lots of ways to model healthy eating to your future foodie!
#2: Be Nosey.
Babies have piqued senses of smell, so let them engage with the aromas of whatever food you’re cooking, preparing, or tasting. Got a pot of marinara sauce on the stove? Bring them into the kitchen so they can enjoy the scent of simmering tomatoes and spices -- and maybe let them peek into the pot if it’s safe to do so!
#3: Put on a Show.
Most fruits and vegetables require a bit of preparation (think: bananas, avocados, or oranges). As you peel and slice a banana, dice a bell pepper, or scoop out an avocado, let your baby watch the process! This is an exciting visual learning opportunity, so use this as a way to show your baby the colorful rainbow of foods that can be washed, sliced, diced, and devoured.
#4: Talk About Taste.
Babies’ taste preferences develop around the same time as language acquisition. So while you’re at it, talk to your baby about the food you’re eating! Show it to them, give it a name (and maybe tell them how yummy it is!).
#5: Get Touchy Feel-y.
While your baby is still in this introduction phase, let them play with their food! Rather than offering spoonfuls of perfectly pureed baby food, simply mash up some soft foods with a fork (like avocado, cooked and cooled sweet potato, or a banana) so they can experience seeing, feeling, and tasting food with soft chunks, and irregularities. This kind of variety preps them to accept more kinds of food later in life -- especially during that picky toddler phase when texture becomes a big deal for a lot of kiddos.
Fun fact: Did you know that the foods YOU eat during pregnancy play a huge role in your future muncher’s food preferences? If you’re pregnant right now, try to incorporate a healthy variety of fruits and veggies and spices and herbs and all. the. things. during your nine months!
Have you tried any of these techniques (or do you have a few of your own to share)? Let us know in the comments below!