Your instinct and intention is to make sure your baby is properly nourished, and that means exposing him to a variety of foods, and leading him to try new things and make healthy choices. So, how do you get there from the very beginning? Essentially by creating positive associations with mealtime.
Mamas are naturally terrific at creating a cozy environment for their babies in the nursery, so just apply that same thinking to the kitchen. Start with a comfortable high chair (when baby is ready of course), cheery lighting, a relaxed attitude and a happy face. This way, you’re presenting an environment that helps a baby focus on eating and forge positive connections with mealtime.
At about 4 to 6 months when your baby is ready to start enjoying solids, make sure to check the American Association of Pediatrics guidelines [link] for introducing new foods; you’ll want to do it slowly and systematically so that you can keep an eye out for allergic reactions. But don’t hesitate to offer new tastes when the time is right, or even foods that you yourself don’t like. It’s fun seeing a baby’s reaction to new foods he enjoys.
Come to think of it, it’s fun seeing his reaction to foods he doesn’t like too.
Don’t be discouraged if your baby is spitting out the peas and asparagus at first. Babies naturally prefer sweet tastes—which is why they are predisposed to like breast milk which is sweetened by a high lactose content.* Sometimes it takes 10 or more tries before the baby develops a liking for a new food so keep on keeping on. You’ll get there eventually.
A baby will also gravitate towards what you yourself eat. What’s in your hand during snacktime and on your plate at breakfast perhaps speaks the most to your child about food choices.
One of the most important factors in raising good eaters, however, actually has nothing to do with the food you serve—and everything to do with the fact that you eat together as a family. Now certainly an infant is going to be eating a wee bit earlier than his mom and dad might be ready to (What? You don’t like eating dinner at 5:00?) but you can still sit at the table all together when the baby is eating, and make it a social experience.
By 8 or 9 months you just may have the makings of a little foodie on your hands who eschews chicken nuggets in favor of ground lamb with mint and a side of pureed parsnips. Hey, anything’s possible.