Before I answer this month’s question I want to share that March is #NutritionMonth – when dietitians across North America share our love of healthy eating! I’m proud to be a registered dietitian. Find more information about Nutrition Month in Canada at www.nutritionmonth2015.ca.
Parents frequently ask me what’s the best time to feed babies when starting to introduce solid foods. My answer is that the time on the clock is less important than the timing in your baby’s and your family’s schedule.
The best time to feed your baby solid foods is:
- When your baby is awake, alert, and interested in the world around them.
- When you eat.
For the first while, babies don’t know that this stuff is food that you’re putting in their mouths or on their highchair tray. Currently, how they know to satisfy their hunger is by breastfeeding or bottle feeding. So, don’t try to give your baby solid foods when they’re starving. That’s the time for breastfeeding or bottle feeding. At the other end of the spectrum, don’t try to get your baby interested in solid foods when they’re completely full from a feed and in that drowsy state. You want to look for a time when your baby is fully awake, alert, and interested in the world around them. Eating solid foods is a new skill that they need to learn. Take advantage of the window of time when they are most able to learn.
Speaking of opportunity windows for learning, babies learn a lot by watching adults and older kids. And, at this stage they tend to be fascinated with watching you eat and drink; usually trying to grab at people’s food and glasses. Pull your baby’s highchair up to the family table and include them in your meal. Either give your baby finger-food versions of what you’re eating or feed your baby pureed baby food. Either way they’ll enjoy the social aspect of family meals.
Start by offering solid foods once a day and quickly move into offering solids at least twice a day. Some good benchmarks are to be offering solid foods 3 times a day by 12 months of age and 3 meals and snacks by 2 years of age.
The one clock-time recommendation that I have (or perhaps I should call this a warming) is to not feed your baby solid foods in the middle of the night. You don’t want to be teaching your child the habit of eating in the middle of the night. Of course nursing at night is fine and something that they’ll gradually grow out of. We don’t want to be replacing those nighttime milk feeds with solid food times.
Another time-related question that I’m often asked, is whether you should offer your baby solid foods before or after nursing. There really is no clear right or wrong way. Some people swear by offering solids after a milk feed. While others swear by offering solid foods first and nursing after. Through trial and error you’ll find what works best for you.
Do you have a question that you’d like me to answer here? Email me at Kristen@KristenYarker.com and mention “Love Child Blog” in the subject line.
Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD
Experience the pleasure (and ENERGY) of healthy eating!