How you feed your baby and child during the early years can build habits that last a lifetime. Knowing what your child can do at each stage is important because it influences what they can eat, their behaviours and their relationship with food.
Birth to six months
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
Breast milk or formula is the only food or drink that your baby needs. All babies are different and so, it is important to learn the signs that your baby is hungry and full. Enjoy each feeding by looking, talking, singing and holding your baby close. Find a calm, quiet place to help your baby focus during feedings.
Six to twelve months
This is a busy developmental time and you will be introducing solid foods to your baby's diet. Before introducing solid foods, be sure your baby is ready. Your baby is ready to start eating solid foods when they:
- Are six months old.
- Hold head up and sit up in a high chair.
- Open wide when you offer food on a spoon.
- Turns face away if they do not want the food.
- Close lips over the spoon.
- Keep food in mouth and swallows it instead of pushing it out.
Know your baby’s signs of fullness. Plan to have enough time that baby can enjoy eating and let your baby see, smell, feel and taste food.
For more information about what foods to introduce, how much to offer, making baby food and sample menus check out the Best Start Network website and download ‘Feeding Your Baby From Six Months To One Year’.
From twelve to twenty-four months
During this time you will notice your child’s appetite changing from day to day. Offer small meals and snacks throughout the day and always watch children while they eat. It may take more than one try with new foods, but do not be discouraged.
In the preschool years, children may use meal times and food to test the rules. Try to be calm and understanding while you show them what to do with new foods. Having a routine is important to children, especially at this age. Preschool children may be insistent about eating certain foods. Be patient as all this will pass.
Even though preschool children are gaining independence, there should always be an adult present whenever your child is eating in case they choke or have difficulty with certain foods. Remember: a choking child is silent. Contact emergency services in the case of an emergency.
Helping in the kitchen
Children in the early years like to help and feel needed. Give them age-appropriate tasks related to food. Whether it is helping make the shopping list, set or clear the table, or prepare a dish, children will help if we show them we appreciate their efforts.
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