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Does feeding your baby give you a nagging feeling that things aren’t going as well as planned? If your baby isn’t gaining weight as predicted, or if you’re struggling with the spoon, you might be unintentionally making these mistakes and potentially derailing your infant’s eating.

Mistake # 1: Avoiding the mess

In the quest to stay clean and tidy (and lower the laundry load), you may be frequently swiping your baby’s mouth with a washcloth, spoon feeding him or her, or avoiding messy foods. This drive for cleanliness robs your baby of important learning experiences. Serious investigation happens during meal times, and there’s no better way to learn about food than to get down and dirty with it.

Instead: Allow your child to self-feed with a spoon, resist cleaning up until the end of the meal, and offer more food variety.

Tip: View the kitchen sink as a back-up tub, stocking it with towels, soap, and plastic measuring spoons and cups so your child can go from high chair to kitchen “tub” (with supervision) for quick cleanup.

Mistake #2: Spoon-feeding for too long

This is related to Mistake #1: some parents prolong spoon-feeding to keep a cap on the mess.

Instead: Babies can begin the shift to chopped table foods at 8-9 months of age. By 12 months, your baby should be on table food, mostly self-feeding, and familiar with an open-top cup.

Tip: Follow your baby’s developmental progress and cues for readiness to see when the time is right.

Mistake #3: Offering foods that are too healthy

Babies and toddlers should receive real, natural, unadulterated foods of all flavors, with an emphasis on food introduction and lots of food exposure. But there is a trend that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are filling, tend to be lower in fat, and can compromise nutrition and growth in the young child. While these foods should be part of the diet, meats (or non-meat substitutes), fortified cereal, healthy fats, and dairy (or fortified non-dairy) sources should also be included.

Instead: Offer all food groups each day. Babies and toddlers still need a good amount of fat every day for growth and development.

Tip: Foods are tastier with added fat and can help children eat better.

Mistake #4: Allowing bites or gulps of adult food 

What’s the harm in a little sip of coffee or a bite of brownie? Over the long haul, your infant may grow up to be a soda swigging, sweet-toothed monster if you’re not careful. The foods we offer babies early on influence their taste preferences later.

Instead: Hold out on sugary and caffeinated foods and drinks until after age two (of course, the 1 year birthday cake is okay). You’ll be arming yourself and your baby with some early exposure to healthy food, which can pay off in the long run. Babies don’t need a stimulant such as caffeine (aren’t we mostly trying to calm them?), nor do toddlers.

Tip: Avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, July 2019

Takeaways

  • Allow your child to self-feed with a spoon and avoid cleaning up until after mealtime.
  • Your child will let you know when they are ready for table food and to stop spoon-feeding.
  • Babies and toddlers still need fat in their everyday diets.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners whenever possible and don’t give your child caffeinated food and drinks.

Comments

  1. I am a completed tyrant when it comes to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have three children with the youngest being two and half years old. I make my children finish their plates on these three main meals of the day. Every once and a while my youngest will say she is full. I attempt to make plates for all three girls according to their age. Sometimes I feel like I have made a mistake on the amount and sometimes I feel I am being duped. Is there a way to compromise this so that my children feel at ease?

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  2. Very helpful for a new mom. 🙂

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    1. Great–have fun with your little one and the journey that will follow!

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  3. I would also add that some still follow the AAP’s old recommendation of starting solids at 4 months. Their new recommendation is 6 months which is what the CDC and WHO have recommended.

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  4. I’m guilty of a few of those. Made the mistake of letting our 1st try sweet things early one & he’s soon to be 9 and is all about something sweet. We didn’t do that with our 2nd who will be 8 soon and he likes something sweet every now and then but will not eat much of it. At birthday parties he always says he wants a lot of cake & ice cream and gets told no because he won’t eat it. Lol

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    1. Interesting little family study you did there!

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  5. I’m trying to introduce various veggies early and these tips really help. thank you.

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  6. My son,8 months, makes a sour face every time he takes the first bite of anything. It looks like he is anticipating everything to taste bad. It’s interesting to me. I don’t know the reason behind it but I definatly want to start slowly giving him more table food. Thanks for the read!

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    1. Maybe that’s just his personality? Style of eating? I wouldn’t let a sour face detract you from trying a wide variety of foods!

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  7. Good to know thank you

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  8. awesome article glad to get this type of info before i start to feed her solid food. Will definitely keep this article on my bookmark

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  9. I have recently been struggling with my daughter to get her to eat, and I think it is because we try to keep everything clean and don’t let her try to feed herself! But since reading these helpful tips and mistakes I am obviously making, hopefully dinner time won’t be as frustrating. (Just a little messier)

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    1. Mess is a good thing when kids are first learning to eat…it stimulates all the senses!

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  10. Yes it’s definitely a touchy subject, as I would never want to offend my friend in any way. I highly value our friendship. I have tried to bring up the subject gently by asking if she’s discussed her feeding habits with her pediatrician, but never got a straight answer. Her daughter is also not saying much (5 words maybe?) but she mostly grunts and points, and has always had an issue with keeping her tongue in her mouth (she was born with her tongue sticking out). Recently she has started banging her head out of frustration, hard enough so as to leave bruises. Of course I worry for the baby but I’m more so worried for my friends well being as she is a single mom going through some very stressful times. I believe her 6 month well baby check up is this month so I’m hoping some issues will be brought up at this visit.

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    1. Sounds like your friend is lucky to have you as part of her mama support system. I think you are smart to wait and see what happens at the 18 month visit then open up a general non-judgemental dialogue about how it went. I’d be lying if I told you that I never had a parent leave my office for good after I told them I was worried about delay…so avoid being the messenger of bad news if you can. Your friend knows that something is amiss with her little love, she might not be ready to seek help yet.

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  11. My best friend and I ended up having our babies 3 weeks apart from each other. My 18 month old has always done really well with feeding, and has had very little issues trying new foods and textures. My concern is for my best friends daughter. She’s 17 months, only has 2 teeth, and is still on puréed foods. She has to be spoon fed, and gags on textured or chunked foods. She’s had weight gain issues since day one (she’s consistently been in the less the 5% for her age group). I remember one time at my house I didn’t have a blender, so she mashed her meal by hand which left tiny chunks of banana in the mix. She refused to eat it and spit it all out! She will feed herself cereal puffs and crackers because they dissolve quickly but that’s it for textures. I realize all babies are different but there seems to be no end in sight with this issue.

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    1. Here’s some information about the difference between picky eating and a feeding disorder you may find helpful: http://www.bundoo.com/articles/does-your-child-have-a-feeding-disorder/

      http://www.bundoo.com/qotd/feeding-disorder/

      You’re a good friend to worry. Sometimes it’s hardest for parents to identify issues in their own children.

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  12. I am one of those moms who doesn’t like a mess but with my second child I didn’t care as much. When she was younger I just took her clothes off to eat and now she wears a bib and goes to the bathtub right after dinner with the messier meals.

    I saw that by 12 months children should be exposed to an open-top cup but I am still a little strict on this one. My youngest is 2.5 and I noticed that she uses regular cups at school so I started allowing her to use them at home. She usually ends up sticking her hand in her cup or dumps it out so I have limited her daily use of them!

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      1. Thank you! The last couple of days I have been letting her use a regular cup, but only while I am right next to her to watch her and I am putting a very small amount in. I noticed that when I put milk in a cup she tends to drink more of it rather than it being in a sippy cup.

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    1. My 2yr old niece dumps her open cup drinks in plates, my plants etc but she’s not use to them either and only uses them at my house. Hoping as she uses them more she will stop pouring them out. She also gets strangled when she gets to big of a drink which scares me. Hopefully soon she will do better.

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  13. My little one is 10 months old and I’m trying to introduce her to more table food. She still doesn’t have one single tooth. I’m always looking for new things to offer her…any suggestions?

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    1. I was always told that a child with no teeth can pretty much eat anything that a toddler with teeth can eat, except for meat. I was always afraid to start table food too early though so I took my time with it. How about watermelon and cooked carrots or other cooked veggies?

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      1. I need to try the cooked veggies…I’m thinking I might try carrots or sweet potato. Thanks for the advice!

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