Breastfeeding, starting solids, introducing your family’s favourite dishes. These are all magical feeding moments new parents look forward to with excitement — and also some trepidation. Feeding your little one is an adventure that’s both exciting and unpredictable. So today we’ve got 8 tips to help you navigate the whats, whens, whys, and hows of baby feeding in the first year.
1. Aim to breastfeed for at least 6 months
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for at least the first 6 months. That may not sound all that long. But for some mums, it will be an incredible challenge to make it to even just the 1-week mark. For this reason, we encourage you to prepare for breastfeeding before baby arrives.
Consult with a lactation specialist, read all you can about breastfeeding, and build a support system. Most importantly, take it one day at a time. If breastfeeding doesn’t go as well as you had hoped, remember that even just a few days nursing will do your baby a world of good.
2. Be picky about feeding gear
Babies are particularly vulnerable to hormone disrupting chemicals, so now is when you really have to be scrupulous with feeding gear. Many baby bottle makers have stopped using BPA, but there are concerns that it is being replaced by even more harmful chemicals.
For bottles and dishes, your safest bets are glass, stainless steel, and silicone. For breast pumps and breastmilk storage containers, look for safer plastics like polyethylene (#2 and #4) and polypropylene (#5).
3. Go for homemade
If you have 15 minutes and a few simple foods like apples, peas, and carrots in your pantry, you can whip up a nutritious meal for your little one. But why go homemade when the jarred stuff is so convenient, you ask?
First, when you prepare baby’s food yourself, you know exactly what’s in it. It also allows you to use the freshest ingredients and leave out artificial flavours, preservatives, and sweeteners. What’s more, research has found that babies who eat homemade food have significantly more variety in their diet than those who eat store bought baby food. This is important because studies have also shown that babies who are introduced to a broader range of tastes and textures early in life tend to become less picky eaters later on.
For baby’s first solids, start with something relatively bland, like sweet potatoes or squash or avocado. Don’t add any salt or sugar. If you’re using canned fruits or veg, check the label. Some brands contain loads of salt, sugar, and nitrates, which aren’t good for baby. Once bub has learned to enjoy food plain, introduce herbs and spices like basil, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
4. Watch out for unnecessary sugars
Babies don’t need juice. It’s no substitute for actual fruit in a baby’s diet and can ruin his appetite for breastmilk or formula. It may even spoil his enjoyment of plain fruit. Similarly, avoid giving sweetened treats like custards and sweetened yoghurts, which are full of concentrated sugars.
Honey can cause infant botulism, so it shouldn’t be a part of baby’s diet until after his first birthday.
5. Timing is everything
Feeding time can be stressful, especially when you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen and baby refuses to eat anything you prepare. Nonetheless, it’s very important for babies to associate mealtime with happiness and pleasant feelings. If baby refuses to eat, it’s often not that he doesn’t like the food, but that he isn’t in the mood.
Try to schedule mealtimes for when baby is wide awake and cheerful, and hungry but not starving. In the morning and right after nap time is ideal. Make sure that baby isn’t distracted. Ask older siblings to tone it down and turn off any screens in the room.
6. Don’t force
All babies are different. Some will eat anything you put on the tray. Others will be picky eaters all the way to puberty. While feeding charts can be helpful, expect erratic feeding habits and don’t worry if bub is eating more or less. And definitely don’t compare his feeding habits to other babies.
Keep nutritional needs in mind, but respect baby’s preferences. Never force your child to clean his plate. This only teaches him to eat not because he’s hungry, but because there’s food to be eaten. This is a bad habit that can lead to overeating and obesity later in life. Let bub learn to recognise and follow his own hunger cues.
7. Know what to do if baby chokes
Do you know how to perform first aid on a choking baby? While no one wants to think that this life saving skill will be needed, it’s still best to be prepared. With a baby in the house, so many things and foods pose choking hazards. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to take an infant CPR class.
8. Set an example
The good eating habits baby learns in the first year of life will help set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Now is a great time to start teaching her about good nutrition.
Don’t limit baby’s menu to just the types of food you like. Even if you hate broccoli, show baby that you enjoy it. Your enthusiasm may just rub off on her. Eat healthily, sit down to eat as a family, and try to not make mealtimes feel like a chore for you or your child.
What feeding tips helped you most in the first year of baby’s life? Experienced mamas and papas, share below!