As your baby grows, they need to explore new flavors other than milk. While an entire bottle can help make them feel full, they’ll eventually need to transition from milk to solids, so they can get as much nutrition as they need. And with that, introducing solid food to your baby’s regular diet and meals can be quite a critical stage.
As you and your baby explore this phase, it’s essential to ensure you serve them the right food that’s nutritional and easy for them to swallow.
While you can always give them pureed foods, like from Serenity Kids, or make a yummy one at home, you might want to consider baby-led weaning (BLW) if you see signs of readiness. And so, aside from moving along with their interest in food, including them in your family mealtimes could help strengthen your family bond while encouraging them to eat more and slowly ease into independence.
To help you get started, below are some tips you can keep in mind when including your baby in family mealtimes:
1. Give Them Their Own Chair
Feeding your baby on your lap can be tempting as you’re generally closer to them and can easily spoon-feed them without making a mess. While this can be a fantastic way to build a stronger bond with them, giving them a chance to be on their own by getting them their own high chair is highly recommended. Having their own chair can make them feel like a part of the family, as they have a seat in the house.
In addition to allotting a spot for them, having their seat can also help establish a routine they can slowly learn and be familiar with as they grow. They’ll associate sitting on their high chair with their mealtime, surrounded by their family.
2. Let Your Baby Adjust To Your Mealtimes
In most cases, young kids generally have unpredictable times when they feel hungry. Unlike the older members of the family, who usually follow a meal schedule, they may have different eating patterns. For instance, even if you try not to give them milk an hour before family dinner, they might still not show interest in solids, as they usually might get hungry after two to three hours. With this, it’s recommended to ease your young one in adjusting to your mealtimes.
To help them adjust to a more defined schedule, it’s essential to include them and have them sit on their chair at every meal the family shares. Regardless if it’s just a quick and simple breakfast before everyone leaves for school or work, or perhaps you’re sharing party meals with other relatives, including them allows them to slowly adapt to the family’s eating routine.
3. Serve The Same Meal For Everyone
Another great way to include your young one during family mealtimes is by serving them the same dish you prepared and served for everyone. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re actually serving everything from your pan, but rather serve them with the main ingredient you’ll be using on your dish.
For example, if you’re all having fried chicken for dinner, consider boiling some for your young one and mix them with a few low-sodium broths, and put them in a blender for a pureed meal. You can also slice them up into finger sizes for quick and easy bites.
Serving the same meal for the family can make everyone feel included. While it might take extra work from your end, this can be a great way to shower your family with love and care.
4. Include Them In Conversations
Even if your young one isn’t talking yet, try to include them during family conversations. They don’t necessarily need to respond, of course, but mentioning their name, and asking questions while looking at them in the eye, can help make them feel included. This can also help encourage mealtime enjoyment, as they see it as another fun activity with the whole family.
Moreover, as you engage them in conversation during mealtimes, note that this can also help encourage speech development, which they need to further enhance in years to come.
5. Try To Practice Independence
Spoon-feeding your young one can help ensure they’re eating well and finishing their meal. However, as they grow up, this may not always be the best option as it can encourage dependency. To practice independence with your children, start by giving them room to eat by giving them utensils they can use.
Giving your child their own utensils, such as a spoon, fork, and open cup, enables your young one to learn the skill of feeding themselves on their own. Allow them to explore different food tastes, and don’t worry if you think they won’t be eating enough as they keep on messing everything up. At 6-12 months, their main nutrition still comes from milk, and solids stand as more of an introduction.
6. Embrace The Mess
As you allow and encourage independence for your baby’s mealtime, it’s also essential to learn to embrace and be okay with the mess your young one makes. As mentioned, let them explore and have fun as they navigate this phase in their young lives. After all, them enjoying the experience, with a few mistakes here and there, makes the best memories. You can teach them to eat more neatly once they get older.
Aside from investing in high chairs, it’d also be helpful to lay out mats or old newspapers on the floor for easy clean-up after mealtimes. And of course, don’t forget jacket bibs to help keep your young one clean during mealtimes.
Wrapping It Up
Including your young one during mealtimes can be a great and fun way to bond and create memories. And as you ease into this routine, it’s essential to ensure that you give them their own chair and utensils to encourage independence and learning. Give them time to adjust, too.
While having your young one eat independently may take a while (and a lot of mess), the journey would surely be worth it.