Todays Guest Blog comes from Lisa Hewitt, the soul-filled Holistic Nutritionist (and Mama!) at Bright Beginnings with a special focus and love for infant nutrition. She believes that vibrant food choices during the impressionable years of a child’s life, can play one of the most instrumental roles in long-term wellness, and that healthy habits are built from some of our earliest experiences with food. Please check out Holistic Food Introductions – Lisa’s beautiful collection of ebooks which guide parents through starting solids, with health and good habits at the very heart of it. looking for more baby-led feeding tips? You can follow her on Instagram too! Welcome Lisa!
But first, the importance of baby-led mealtime.
Some of our earliest experiences with food can make the greatest long-term impression, so let’s make them positive ones!
Working alongside so many babies and families, and also from my experience as mama to two very different boys with completely different eating habits, I’ve come to realize how impactful our role is as parents when it comes to building healthy habits for our little ones. One of the most impressionable times for developing a love for food is from the moment a baby starts solids!
When a baby has breast or bottle they know when they are hungry or full. The same goes for solid food. Respecting cues and letting baby be the boss of their tummy by adopting a ‘baby-led’ approach, will reveal how capable children are at self-regulating nourishment.
Whether you’re offering finger foods, purees, or a combination of both, letting baby lead will encourage initiative, communication, and participation which ultimately inspires long-lasting healthy habits. Babies are definitely our very best guide at mealtime.
Certainly I believe in the importance of providing nutritious choices for our children! But consider a positive and relaxed attitude a lesser-known essential ingredient for good health.
As baby gets older the terrain at mealtime will evolve, and as mama’s our table rules need to be strong and soft all in one breath. The priority will be to offer calm, matter-of-fact boundaries for eating and behavior – without praise or scorn – while consistently following through.
But until then, I’ll leave you with this;
“When our children resist our eating agendas, it isn’t a sign that they’re ungrateful, cruel, or manipulative. Rather, it is a reflection of their innate need to test both our leadership and their power.” Janet Lansbury.
Tips for Building Healthy Eating Habits for Baby
Food before one, is just for fun – some babies are ravenous solid food eaters from the start, while others take months to warm up to the idea! Encourage healthy eating habits by letting exploration and enjoyment be the heart of mealtime.
Milk first, food second – babies don’t associate hunger cues with food until closer to 10-months of age. To avoid frustration or stress at mealtime offer breast or bottle first, followed by solids either right away or approximately 30 – 40 minutes later. Down the road you can reverse this order – use your intuition – no one knows your baby better than you do.
Let baby lead – let baby express their ability to self-regulate and participate in their nourishment. Believe in your child. Trust them to show you what works for their body, and what doesn’t.
Baby is boss of their tummy – the digestive system undergoes a significant adjustment when introduced to solid food. Just like with breast or bottle, baby is clear when they are hungry or full. This is a great reminder to respect baby’s cues when eating solids.
Variety can be overwhelming – too many options or even a large quantity of food can create overwhelm in some babies. Initially, a small amount of food on the tray is best. This will evolve as baby gets older and will be unique to each child. This is one of the reasons I love ezpz Mats so much – the little compartments help sensitive children organize their meals in a way that feels natural, manageable, and a lot of fun!
Minimize distractions – turn off the TV and reduce stimulation. Some babies are very sensitive to this. Let them focus on the new experience of food, without being overwhelmed by their surroundings.
Skip the games – although negotiating, bribery, or distracted eating may work in the interim, this can create an unhealthy dynamic in the long run. Communicate honestly. Focus on creating boundaries that are meaningful to your family, and be consistent in establishing them.
Babies go through phases – be patient Sweet Mama, it can take up to 20 times before a baby will start to enjoy a new food. Keep offering, and let baby come to love food on their own.
Have a Picky Eater at home? Try candlelight for picky littles
This technique is particularly beloved by toddlers and young children;
For our Pickiest Littles the kitchen table often feels like a battlefield. One of my favourite techniques to encourage a more open and responsive attitude during the evening meal, is to light a candle at dinnertime.
“While the candle is lit, we sit, we eat.”
To begin with keep the timeframe realistic – even ten minutes can feel like a long time for a child who feels genuinely annoyed by mealtime. When dinner is finished have your child blow the candle out themselves. This practice feels very special for children. Create space for healing to take place on a psychological and emotional level. Try not to push foods, negotiate, or play games. Just be.
Overtime perhaps a new love of food will (literally!) be sparked! Let the process be gentle. Easier said than done I know. Rome wasn’t built in a day My Loves.
Yours in health + happiness, let them be little + let them love food!