Drum Roll Please….there is pureed food on the tray!
What a fun day at the house of Chew Chew Mama. If you’ve been following the Feeding Friday Series, you know that I am sharing the feeding journey of our sweet new Cub, Henry. Before I had my own babies, i’ve had the awesome pleasure of facilitating oral feeding for hundreds of other children in the in-patient and out-patient settings of two amazing hospitals. I find it impossible not to carry my clinical education on feeding paired with fun over to my own babies now! Our Henry has started tasting pureed foods and ,boy oh boy, is he a BIG fan! (figuratively and literally!)
I knew that our little Cub was ready to begin tasting solids, because he was giving me all of the important feeding cues:
- He is able to sit up for longer periods of time without assistance
- He is able to turn his head to refuse (important!)
- He was starting to reach for and cry for our food when we were eating
We had already taken the necessary steps to safe guard our son, our family and caregivers by educating them about potential food allergies and choking. So we used the signs above, paired with the green light from our pediatrician, to let us know it was time to dive into the sensory world of eating.
Henry gets all of his nutritional needs met for his rapidly, growing body from breast milk. Per AAP guidelines, breast milk or formula will continue to our baby’s main source of food up until at least one year of age, even after starting the introduction of solids. So if that is the case, let’s ask ourselves…what are the true goals of introducing pureed baby foods for the first several times?
It’s not volume. It’s not really meeting nutritional needs at this point. So what’s our real goal?
Our only goal should be for them to learn. Learn to 1) be seated at the table and 2) to be given a little control to explore food. Psst…here is a little secret…it works out much better in the long run if you allow self-exploration at the start. In fact, its THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do for your little one.
Baby’s need to explore their foods on the outside of their bodies before they feel MOST comfortable to put them into their mouths. They need pureed food placed onto their tray and then they need permission to make a mess. We give them permission to do this by modeling looking, smelling, touching and tasting…with our hands.
Please drop the spoons and step away from the napkins. When we start with the spoon we are rushing them through several really important steps to eating. Additionally, when we constantly wipe hands, we teach our babies that we do not want food on us…its dirty. If you don’t like something on your hands, why on earth would you put it in your mouth?
So it’s best to allow your focus to be on play, taste, exploration and to try not to clean them off (or you if you can help it) until the very end of the meal.
No spoons, just hands.
When baby’s use their hands to explore pureed food they discover for the first time what food looks like outside their bodies (sight). Until now, the nipple (human or bottle) has been delivering food right inside of them. The visual perspective of a breast or a bottle has been pretty much the same for them every single feeding for the last six months. Pureed foods change visually all the time.
They are also learning what it feels like to touch food. Now that it’s outside, they can see it and they can touch it. If up until now they have been feeling mom’s skin and/or a hard glass or plastic bottle…how different do you think puree feels?
Think wet, think texture, think temperature!
These experiences can all feel different the first time and also each subsequent time. Keep this in mind if the first time you offered a food was right after it was steamed and pureed (or opened at room temperature) versus the next time when it comes straight out of the refrigerator — brrr!
Simultaneously, they are learning what food smells like, and guess what, it does not smell like the laundry detergent on mom or dad’s shirt that they had gotten used to while cuddling during newborn feedings!
Your babies are focusing on opening and closing their mouths and using their tongues in a whole new way, a way that is much different than required to suck and swallow thin, liquid breast milk or formula.
Finally, they are learning NEW tastes! And did you know that when you are a brand new eater — you are more sensitive and more acutely aware of how the tastes of foods change while you chew them in your mouth and the molecules break down? That’s right…it’s changing for them in real time.
As if that wasn’t already enough…they are getting a full body workout to maintain their balance while supporting a newly learned posture (sitting!) in the high chair.
Are you still there?
Your baby is doing ALL of the above AND simultaneously trying to interact with their most loved and cherished, paparazzi, cheerleaders: Mommy, Daddy and Siblings. Everyone is excited and boy is there A LOT going on!
So my advice is always…please…let your babies make a mess. Lose the bowls and the spoons. Put the puree right on their trays and explore with them. A true sign of a healthy start to eating is a smiling child covered head to toe in puree.
I promise they are learning and they are 100% washable!
Do you have a wonderfully, messy eater that you are doing an amazing job with? I love to encourage and support moms of messy eaters (M.O.M.E. pronounced MOM-E)! Send your photos here to be included in Chew Chew Mama’s upcoming M.O.M.E. Gallery!