Baby feeding basics

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When feeding your baby, avoid feeling rushed and take your time. Share your own foods and give your baby small tastes – and, importantly, feed their mind as well as their tummy. Talk to them about the food and what’s happening, as table conversation and sharing family meals helps build your baby’s brain and social connections.

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 Photo: Getty Images

There are many fun feeding utensils available which incorporate educational designs into the feeding process. Colourful designs and fun shapes can help take the focus off the food and make feeding more engaging.

You can start your baby on solids once she has neck control and seems interested in food – many parents start between the ages of four and six months. If she watches you when you eat, or reaches for what’s on your plate, she’s keen to start!

It’s important to remember that solids won’t take the place of breast milk or formula for some time – your child should be having these along with solid food until they’re at least a year old. When first starting out, give your child the breast milk or formula before offering solids – this will make sure their hunger is satisfied, but also leave room for the exciting new foods they’re about to try.  

Feeding tips

  • Use your baby’s teeth as a guide to when to offer foods of increasing texture and consistency – but remember that babies also use their gums to chew, too.
  • Offering lumpy foods helps support early speech, and also helps jaw and teeth development.
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  • A teether will help your baby practice chewing and assist them with their oral development between feeds.
  • Where possible, source, buy cook and prepare your baby’s food yourself. Knowing what’s in their food gives you control and is cheaper than buying processed foods.
  • Cooking batches of food and then freezing them until they’re required is very practical. As long as the food is correctly sealed and remains frozen until use, there is minimal nutrient loss. Use ice cube trays to save small amounts of foods.
  • Offering small amounts more frequently aids digestion and avoids stomach distension. Babies have very small stomachs, which fill and empty quickly.
  • Keep your baby’s meals simple. Avoid using salt (it overloads immature kidneys), sugar, honey and spices. Also avoid additives where possible.
  • Textures, flavours and colours need to be varied to stop meal times from becoming boring.
  • If you’re using processed foods, read their labels, and if you’re unsure about an ingredient, don’t offer it. Check expiry dates, and make sure that cans and jars are intact and that seals haven’t been tampered with.
  • Growth slows in the second year of life and this is often reflected in eating patterns. As energy demands increase, so does the appetite.
  • Where possible, give control to your baby. You can’t control whether your child eats or even how much they eat. Your job is to provide, cook and then serve food to your child; whether they eat and how much they have is up to them.
  • Cooled boiled water can be offered from an infant sipper cup with a spout. 
  • Meal times can be a great opportunity to support your baby’s learning. Developing skills in eating and mastery over utensils takes time and lots of practice, so in the meantime, get ready for a lot of mess – and a lot of fun!

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For recipes, more tips and feeding advice, visit our BABY FOOD section.