Ok moms- let’s talk feeding technique and pacing! As a holistic Speech-Language Pathologist with experience in pediatric feeding, my hope is that your ultimate goal is for baby to enjoy eating a variety of textures and flavors. I found if parents can create an enjoyable and pleasurable eating experience for baby, things are wayyy easier for the entire family, baby included. First foods should be a positive experience eventually leading to nourishing family meals. Historically, the family table was not a place of strife and stress. It was where news, plans, and stories were shared over REAL food. So make your baby’s FIRST bites of food enjoyable. Their future selves will thank you. Here are a few tips when feeding (I mean, offering!) baby food:

1. Don’t Interfere!

Don’t interfere with what and how much baby eats. This is HARD because we’re moms, and we like control. Surrender. Surrender your agenda. Think of the word “OFFER” because you are doing just that – offering food. It is up to baby to explore and eat. Throw the word “FORCE” far, far away from your mindset. This is not another task for us to check off…. That idea will only interfere with baby’s experience and make it stressful. Be a participant in baby’s feeding experience, not a slave driver! You are NOT the “you must eat” mom boss. Take the approach of that laid-back mom friend we want to be around anyways. I can’t tell you how many parents literally STAND OVER their baby or toddler’s high chair just WAITING to feed them that next bite. (!!) I even caught myself doing it once. We don’t really mean to, we just enjoy watching their new experiences with food and are concerned they like it. Can you imagine if your husband stood over you while you ate?? Anyways…. take my advice and back DOWN (and away) from the chair… slowly. Now CHILL.

2. Eat Together

Model healthy habits. It’s important for our babes to see parents enjoying a wide variety of real foods and that this is NORMAL to your family unit. Eating together is what it’s all about. It helps if you’re eating the same things. Like… you’re eating sweet potato and baby is too. Oh, mom’s doing it so I can too is a HUGELY helpful mental concept. Once baby hits 11-12 months, they’ll start pointing to what’s on YOUR plate. (Even if you’re eating the same exact thing). All to say, eat healthy and eat together. Practice what you preach.

3. Slow your pace

Parents are in a hurry and feed their children way too quickly. Shoveling it in isn’t exactly pleasurable. Here are some tips: act like you’re on vacay. You’re in no hurry. Whatevs. Your body language should convey that there’s absolutely NO rush. There’s no pressure. When we can get it through our thick skulls that breast milk (or formula) is SUFFICIENT nutrition up until one year of age, it’s easier to do. “Food before one is just for fun” is legit, thus says my pediatrician and NP. After naptime may be a good time for you to offer baby food. Baby is typically calm and likely hungry, and hopefully this always provides ample time to re-acclimate and slow my busy mom self down. **Also, I offer food within one hour after breastfeeding, this way baby does not start to prefer solids or breastfeeding over the other**

4. Pull their high-chair in the kitchen

When I cook, I try to give baby E space and simply observe the process. He is exposed to the sights and smells of my cooking. Let baby SEE and HOLD whole foods, view the preparation process, and see that you are eating a variety of foods yourself. As an SLP, I would say verbalize what you’re doing… now mommy is stirring, now mommy is chopping… chop, chop, chop! Mmmm, yummy! Verbal models are so beneficial for baby’s language development as well as their association with eating.

5. NO airplane spooning necessary

Historically, moms would pre-chew her food and then offer her bits of “chewed/pureed” food to baby. The whole “here comes the airplane” is strictly a western phenomena and began when modern manufacturers started screwing the whole first food experience up: over-pureeing, adding preservatives, adding sugars, mixing hard-to-digest foods. Hence, baby saying “no” and parents saying “do it anyways” and resorting to here comes the choo choo train or here comes the airplane. WHAT!!! What even were people thinking? This led to forcing food (ugh, awful) down the throats of American babies. Yeah, I know your wise baby system is innately refusing this bite, but I’m going to utilize witty transportation tactics complete with insane sound effects to attempt to trick you into eating. Great, like that’s functional for years to come. NO airplane, choo choo train, or anything of the sort necessary.

Instead, let your baby handle whole foods, and even play. Part of eating is the experience. Touch it. Smell it. Let them smear it everywhere and run it through their little fingers. NOTICE: It will be messy and that’s okay. This is, after all, their first experience with food. Keep putting yourself in their shoes. If someone took us to a foreign country and tried to tell us to “hurry up and eat this weird food” and handed us something completely unfamiliar – we would be all HOLD up now!! I want to touch this and look at it first. So remember – though this is definitely not OUR first experience with avocado or egg yolk, it’s theirs. Continuing to put ourselves in their shoes is always an amazing game-changer.

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