After 6 months, have you noticed your baby starting to sit up on his own? Does your baby observe what you are eating and try to reach for the food on your plate1? If the answer is yes, that means your baby is ready to start a journey in exploring new tastes, touch, sight and smell.
Introducing solid foods is one of the most exciting milestones in your baby's first year. While milk formula is still essential in supporting your baby's nutritional needs2, introducing solid foods and letting your little one experience different tastes and textures can not only contribute to sensory development, but also improve their fine motor and communication skills3.
This new journey can be a bumpy one so read on as Emily Yeo, Founder of The Little Things cooking school, former early childhood educator and mom to one, shares some tips.
A journey of flavours and textures
As your baby grows, they start to develop a sense of curiosity, wanting to find out more about the foods that mummy or daddy is eating1.
This is the perfect opportunity to start introducing your baby to new tastes and explore different textures.
Emily advises, "Start your baby with milk in the morning. Nutrients from milk formula are still essential, as exploratory mealtime is about getting your baby to explore different textures and tastes of foods. Their experiences with solid foods are practice sessions for the future and it's still important to make sure your child gets enough milk to help meet their nutritional needs2."
"The best way to start introducing solid foods to your baby is with purees. It is a gentle start that allows your little one to get the knack of new flavours and textures. Try introducing different types of pureed food in small amounts. Wait three to four days before offering it to your baby again and from there, you can proceed onto chunkier textures like mashed banana or pureed pumpkin mixed with milk formula," she adds.
"Mums can also try introducing one new colour, taste or texture each week. It's important to start them young to inculcate a healthy and nutritional diet!"
Baby not taking to solids? Try and try again!
While you probably were excited about your baby starting new flavours and textures, you might not have expected how challenging it can be. Some babies can get very fussy, and getting them to try solids can be difficult at first.
Don't be surprised if your little one shies away from some foods in the beginning. You'll know their preferences if they turn their head or even push the spoon away! If your little one snubs fruits like oranges and strawberries, try them again some other time.
Emily shares, "As a first-time mum, I found that it took me quite awhile to allow my little one to experiment by herself. But be brave, and keep trying even if your baby shoots you disapproving looks and sounds. I put off yoghurt, kiwis and anything remotely sour, but tried again a few months later only to realise she loves it!"
"Introducing your child to different tastes can also help your child discover what they like or dislike; even telling you their pleasures by sound," she adds.
Bonding at meal times
Meal times can be a great bonding session with your baby, as they learn best from observing and mimicking those around them. If your little one sees you eating fruit with a fork or spoon, there is a good chance they will want to do the same!
"To make meal time more fun, try making a game out of it. Put some of your baby's food on your spoon and feed it to him. Your little one will soon learn to "feed" you back. These will help your baby better practice putting food into their mouth all on their own, further developing their motor skills", says Emily.
To further foster a stronger bond during meal times, parents should continue talking to your little one, praising and high fiving them whenever they finish their milk or take a bite4! Keep the encouragement coming with a smile, even if they don't respond.
"At the end of the day, it is important that you enjoy the process of taking your baby on a journey of taste. It can be a very rewarding experience, watching your baby enjoy and delight in the different food adventures you have prepared, while still receiving the essential nutrients they require," Emily encourages.
Support your child's continuous learning moments
While introducing solid foods can help improve your child's fine motor and communication skills3, nutrition and parental stimulation play important roles in supporting your child's continuous learning.
Believe it or not your brain is made up of fats – a lot of it! At a basic cell level, fats and fatty acids help build the brain, eyes and central nervous system of your developing baby. DHA and ARA are two specific types of long-chain fatty acids which are critical to this healthy development. DHA and ARA are important building blocks of brain and eye development.
Note : Breast milk is the best for babies. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Unnecessary introduction of bottle feeding or other food and drinks will have a negative impact on breastfeeding. After six months of age, infants should receive age-appropriate foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Consult your doctor before deciding to use infant formula or if you have difficulty breastfeeding.