If you’re preparing to start feeding baby solids, there are a few simple things you should—and shouldn’t—do. Four important things to consider:
Look for signs he’s finished.
During the early days of feeding baby, your baby’s appetite will vary from one meal to the next, so don’t use how much he’s eaten in the past to gauge whether he’s had enough. Feed him until he seems to lose interest or the desire to eat, for example, if he turns his head away or keeps his mouth closed. When feeding baby, it’s important to respect his internal cues and not force him to eat when he doesn’t want to, says Eileen Behan, RD, author of The Baby Food Bible.
Initiate foods one by one
When feeding baby, the AAP recommends introducing foods one at a time, two to three days apart, to give your baby time to adjust and to help identify potential intolerances or allergic reactions. Watch for signs such as diarrhea, rash or vomiting. If you suspect a problem, stop giving the food to your baby and discuss it with his doctor.
See more: How to Make Baby Food
Don’t give up too easily
When your baby turns away, closes his mouth or spits out a food, he may be telling you it’s time to stop. But don’t assume that he doesn’t like something because he makes a face or appears to reject it, Behan says. He may not be hungry, may have gas or may be tired of sitting in his highchair. Behan’s advice: When feeding baby, wait a few days, then offer it again and again. Many babies need to try a food eight to 15 times before it becomes familiar and accepted, she explains. If you give up after only a few tries, you could be limiting your child’s food choices before he has even had a chance to learn what he likes.
Offer lots of variety
Make it your goal to expose your baby to as many new foods as possible, especially as he gets older, Behan stresses. Variety is not only vital nutritionally when feeding baby; it could help him discover more foods that he likes and discourage picky eating. The more colors, flavors and textures your child is exposed to, the more he will eventually come to accept.
Remember: Once your baby is eating solids, providing healthy meals at regular times, keeping him company at the table and respecting his likes and dislikes will go a long way toward creating good eating habits and relaxing mealtimes. Being a good role model by eating a healthy diet yourself is also important. And if all goes according to plan, you could wind up with a kid who eats well and may even prefer salmon and broccoli to French fries and hot dogs.
See more: 3 Tips for Starting Solids