Make your little one’s highchair their happy place with these 12 top tips to help your baby love food as much as you do!
We’ve now been feeding our daughter Sage solid foods for seven months, and she is a good little eater. Now I have to say I don’t think we just got lucky and had a miracle eater. I genuinely believe the things we did as we started introducing solid foods over the past few months have helped to create good habits and share the joy and deliciousness that food has to offer. I get asked a lot about my top tips, so without further ado, here are my top 12 tips to help your baby love food!
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Make sure the seat that they’re in is baby friendly and ergonomic. If we’re using our travel highchair we make sure to put a bar stool underneath her feet so that her feet are supported. According to my research (please do your own research too!) babies should sit at a 90 degree angle, with their feet also at a 90 degree angle. Apparently this can even help to prevent choking!
Similarly, the tools you use should be ergonomic and geared towards the stage they’re at. When we first started out, we used these little utensils which are perfect for small baby hands! They’re super easy to grasp and Sage was a pro at using these because they’re so baby friendly. Now that she’s getting older we’re transitioning to bigger utensils, but still focusing on making things as easy as we can for her. These utensils are great because she can grip onto the little braided loop.
We also love this cup for her because it’s the right size for their hands. It’s also weighted, so it won’t get knocked over easily, but it helps baby learn how to use an actual cup.
Baby food is messy! Mess isn’t really something you can avoid, so there’s no use in trying. Accepting and embracing the mess has meant Sage can fully enjoy the sensory experience of eating. If you’re always fussing and trying to clean them up, it’s very distracting and uncomfortable. Plus, part of exploring food for babies is figuring out all the different textures, and sometimes that means smushing their hands into it! The other thing to bear in mind is if you react when they throw food, they’re going to want to do it again!
To help reduce some of the clean up that’s required, I usually strip Sage down and just feed her in a diaper and this bib, which has a handy food catcher. Plus, it’s silicone, so you can just pop it right into the dishwasher when you’re done. We also like using this wipeable mat underneath the highchair to catch anything that drops.
There are so many ways to feed your baby, and it totally depends on what’s best for your family. We did a hybrid of hand held food and purees, since I didn’t feel comfortable giving her large bits of food straight away. It took us a while to come to this decision, since baby led weaning is the ‘trendy’ thing right now, but I’m so glad we took this route. It worked really well for us.
If your baby doesn’t like a food one time, that doesn’t mean you should never offer it to them again. I’ve heard it can take seven attempts for a baby to accept a new food. It may also be that you just need to offer it in a different form. For example, Sage isn’t a huge fan of fresh blueberries (I think it’s something to do with the texture of the skin) but she LOVES frozen blueberries warmed up and served as is or mixed into her oatmeal or pancakes.
Babies also go through phases. Some days Sage will turn her nose up at applesauce, when I know for a fact she usually loves it. Sometimes she only wants to eat a food if I physically feed it to her on a spoon. Like everything with motherhood, you’ve just got to go with the flow.
Don’t just give your baby the same food in the same way over and over again. To stop them getting bored of a food, change up how you’re offering it to them. For example, with avocado we sometimes use this crinkle cutter to turn it into finger food sprinkled with hemp hearts, and other times we’ll mash it or cube it. If your baby is always having oatmeal for breakfast, try adding some apple or pumpkin puree.
Every baby is different, but I think most babies thrive off of routine. Sage knows in the morning when we put her in her highchair that she’s going to have breakfast. She gets super excited because she knows what’s going on. She also knows when to expect her 3 main meals because it’s always about 1 hour post waking up.
It gives your little one a lot of independence when they get to decide which foods they want to eat and when they want to stop. That’s one of the great things about baby led weaning and allowing them to feed themselves and listen to their natural food and hunger instincts.
When you’re a busy mom, it can seem really convenient to buy those pre-made packaged baby foods. I get it, and there is definitely a time and a place for that stuff. We used packaged food when we were travelling. But I find they tend to be quite bland and in my opinion nothing compares to home cooked food. When food is prepared at home with good quality ingredients, herbs and spices, not only will it taste better and have more nutrients, but it also helps to encourage a love of food!
Homemade baby food doesn’t need to be complicated. If you have go-to recipes that you rotate between and do some baby meal prep, it makes it super easy! We still baby meal prep to this day. I’ll cook up a large portion of baby food and freeze some smaller portions in these freezer moulds. That way Mr. Matt or I can quickly open the freezer and grab some nutritious food that just needs thawing and warming up.
It’s easy to let your baby do their thing, especially if they’re self feeding. You don’t want to be shadowing them and taking their independence away, but be engaged. Talk to your baby about what they’re eating. Make yummy sounds. Meal times are also a great opportunity to incorporate baby sign language. We taught Sage to sign when she started eating solids at 6 months, and it’s been SO helpful for communicating with her at meal times and in everyday life scenarios.
We like to turn off screens, music and remove distractions during meal time. If we have the TV on, Sage will watch that instead of eating. She’ll either decide she’s not that hungry, or it will just take her so much longer to focus and finish what’s on her plate. When babies are little and learning how to eat, it’s a good idea to eliminate distractions where possible. Just like we shouldn’t be on our phones while scarfing down a plate of food mindlessly, neither should babies. Food time is quiet time in our house!
If baby eats early it’s not always going to be possible, but if you can, make mealtimes a family affair. Babies will mimic and copy what you’re doing with your food. It’s important to show that food is best enjoyed together and start creating those traditions early.
Even as a food blogger, I was still super intimidated by the prospect of feeding Sage. One of the best things I did to feel confident was to take an online baby food course (Use code SAGEEATS for 15% off!) It really helped me to feel less overwhelmed and understand what I needed to know to make the right choices for Sage and our family. I also picked up this book and this book, which were also super informative. If you need to feel more confident, it may also be worth taking a baby CPR course (use code “healthnut20” for 20% off!)
I hope this helps you to raise good eaters and avoid the dreaded picky eater! As parents, all we can do is support them and do our best, so whatever you’re doing to feed your baby, know that you’re doing a great job!
What are your top tips for helping baby to love food? Let me know in the comments below!