Where, when, what, how and how much? Help baby eat well by finding answers to these questions.
Have you thought of setting up a mealtime routine to help your baby eat well and make mealtimes easier? Besides creating a pleasant setting, a routine will reassure your baby and help him or her learn.
Wondering how to create a routine? Follow these recommendations to make family mealtimes enjoyable and valuable for everyone, kids and adults alike!
Where should we eat?
Choose a spot that’s away from distractions. The kitchen or dining room would be ideal! Baby will be comfortable and safe in a high chair (or a booster seat). Baby should be close to the table and at the same level as the plate, to be part of the family meal. Little ones may be small, but they want to jabber away and participate in the discussions going on around the table!
“Time to eat, everyone!”
Parents decide when the family will eat. Meals are important touchstones in your child’s day-to-day life, so setting regular mealtimes will reassure them and build trust. A hungry baby will often be more irritable and harder to manage at these times. If you want to avoid a meltdown, set mealtimes and snack times according to your child’s hunger and needs.
But you don’t need to stick to a super strict schedule! You can serve meals within about 30 minutes of the set mealtime. For example, on some days, you can all sit down to eat at 5:30 p.m. and on others at 6:10 p.m.
If your baby is fussy at the end of the day and refuses to eat any more of their supper, it might be because he or she is too hungry or too tired. Try serving meals 30 minutes earlier. Also, keep in mind that baby’s mealtime can last between 10 and 20 minutes. Any more than that and can make baby irritated and impatient.
What should we eat?
Helping baby eat well also means offering a variety of nourishing foods. It’s your role to help your baby discover new flavours, according to their progress and development. Starting at one year old, serve baby the same food as the rest of the family.
Vary the textures and colours of your meals, using nutritious ingredients. You’ll help stimulate your child’s senses and spark their curiosity!
How will meals go?
The mealtime atmosphere plays a very important role in getting baby to eat well. Eating alone is no fun! From a very young age, babies want to be part of the family and start imitating older members. Mealtimes are the perfect time to get together and talk about everyone’s day. Your child will be stimulated to speak and listen by being part of the conversations around the table.
When a child eats with you, they’ll be even more likely to eat their own meal and be more open to trying new foods. Why not take the opportunity to get baby interested in what’s on their plate? Teach them to name the foods they’re eating, to describe the tastes and textures. “Is it sweet, salty or spicy?”
Since children easily lose focus, keep toys, the TV and screens away from the table. You don’t want mealtimes to turn into an endless fight! This is why it’s important to eat meals in a calm setting with no distractions. But remember that it’s normal for your baby to play with their food a little. It’s all part of discovering new foods.
How much food should I give?
Whether baby devours the food on their plate, pecks at a few things or decides not to eat anything, it’s important to serve the meal and let your child decide how much they want to eat. Trust your baby to eat enough!
You can encourage them to taste, but don’t force them, even to take a little bite. Pushing food might scramble your baby’s hunger signals, and create a negative association with that food.
How to establish a pleasant and reassuring mealtime setting and routine:
- Make family mealtimes a habit.
- Eat at regular times.
- Choose a specific spot that’s ideal for sharing a meal.
- Have positive discussions and leave touchy subjects for later!
- As much as possible, reserve at least 15 to 20 minutes for meals.
Shut off the TV and minimize distractions!
Rédaction : Fondation Olo
Révision scientifique : Mylène Duplessis Brochu, nutritionniste, Dt.P., M.Sc.