Starting your journey with solids is an exciting time and marks the next big chapter in your baby’s life. Unfortunately, starting solids can also come with a barrage of unsolicited comments about what they eat, how you feed them and how much.
“Gosh, are they going to eat all of that???”
“Babies don’t know when they are full, you need to stop feeding them so much!”
“She is so tiny! Are you feeding her?”
“Distract them and then just pop the spoon in when they aren’t looking!”
If you have ever had someone, make comments like these to you, know you are not alone. Even for experienced parents this can understandably lead to self-doubt over what you are doing or frustration at the less than helpful comments.
We also know that these types of comments can really impact how a child feels about food and their bodies. We also know that children are excellent at regulating their own appetite. We don’t need to force them to eat more or restrict them to eat less. So here are five ways to help your little one develop a positive relationship with food right from the start of your solids journey.
1. Trust your gut and ignore unhelpful comments that don’t align with what you feel is right for your bub.
Or go one step further and say “these types of comments aren’t helpful and don’t make me feel confident in what we are doing. Are you able to support us and not comment on what they eat?”
Although calling these kinds of comments out can feel uncomfortable, in the long run it can make feeding your bub easier and less stressful. Preventing your little one from hearing comments about what they eat also helps them to build a positive relationship with food. Although they won’t understand these comments when they are really little, it isn’t long before they are taking in everything we say. Little people are black and white thinkers and although it might seem harmless comments about how much or little they eat can impact their own relationship with food.
2. Trust your little one.
No need to do any “here comes the aeroplane”. They are excellent at eating the amount of food they need. If they give you signs that the meal is done, trust that too and end the meal. There is no need to force feed them if they don’t eat much or limit their intake if they want more food. It can be hard to embrace this idea, because we often weren’t supported to eat this way ourselves. Who remembers being told to finish everything on the plate before leaving the table? It can feel strange to trust babies because we weren’t taught to trust our own appetite when we were little.
3. Embrace the division of responsibility!
This is the principle that parents decide what food is on offer and when meals are served. Then it is your little one’s responsibility to decide what to eat and how much. This is the foundation of responsive and respectful feeding. This also takes the pressure off you to make your little one eat- it is not your job. Know that not all kids need to eat the same amount of food. Some take longer to get into solids too and this is okay.
4. Let them play and get messy!
Often the mess of solids stresses parents out, but it is a crucial part of getting comfortable with and also learning about food. If we are constantly wiping their face and hands or stopping them from smooshing food all over the tray, they can find this really frustrating. This can sometimes lead to an aversion to the highchair and fussy eating too because mealtimes just aren’t fun.
If it really bothers you, then pop down a splash mat and make them wear a smock. You can preload spoons and offer finger foods to limit the mess of meals when you need to, but try to give them one meal a day at least where they can really get messy. Dinner is often a good one for this because bath time is straight after!
5. Take the pressure off (you and them!).
This one is really important. Taking the pressure off is key to helping your little one tune into their appetite and learn about foods. A big part of taking the pressure off is also avoiding rewards, bribery and coaxing as they get older too. Saying things like “just take a bite” or “your sister ate all her pasta” are also a form of pressure. Focus less on what they are eating at meals and more on your time together. Food should be fun and relaxed!