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Six Questions You May Have

Feeding in the Early Stages

Feeding in the Early Stages

Do you have any little ones in your life? If so, then it's time to learn more about feeding your child in his/her early years! In honor of CACFP Week, a national program that works to raise awareness for the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, be sure to take a look at a few healthy eating tips that could be useful in the early years of parenting.

Check out these answers to six questions you may have as a parent/guardian of a young child.

1. When should my child start eating solid foods?

As your child passes the 4-month marker, it's time to start watching for signs that he/she may be ready to try solid foods.

If your baby is:

  • Sitting up alone with support

  • Has stable control over his/her head and neck

  • Opening his/her mouth for food

  • Swallowing pureed food entirely, as opposed to spitting it back out onto his/her chin

  • Holding other objects up to his/her mouth

  • Intentionally grasping small objects

  • Moving pureed food from the front of his/her mouth to the back and swallowing

It's likely your child may be ready to introduce some new foods to his/her diet! Keep in mind that it's recommended for children to start eating solid foods by about 6 months old. It is important to check in with your pediatrician if you are unsure of when to begin this new feeding phase with your child. This is only an average age for solid food feeding, so don't be discouraged if your child is not showing signs of developmental readiness by this point.

2. If my child is eating solid foods, should they stop breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?

After a child reaches an age when he/she is eating solid foods, it can be tricky to navigate how a milk diet coincides with this new feeding schedule. While every mother and child is different in preference, it is recommended that a child breastfeed or bottle-feed until they are at least 12 months old. Even during this time, it is best if you inquire with your pediatrician about potential supplements your child may need in his/her diet to promote overall wellness.

3. How do I know when my child is full after he/she is eating solid foods?

As you begin feeding your child solid foods, there are a few ways to know when they are no longer hungry during mealtime.

If your baby is:

  • Pulling away from food

  • Falling asleep

  • Getting fidgety

  • Shaking their head

  • Will not open their mouth

  • Flailing about

  • Giving food back to you

Chances are, they are no longer hungry! Every child is different, but these are great indicators that your child may have had enough. If he/she appears to be hungry a short time after they finished a meal, it’s perfectly fine to offer more food as they may have just needed a break.

4. How can I prevent my baby from getting allergic reactions?

There are many questions surrounding potential allergies in babies. How will I know what my child is allergic to? How do I prevent a reaction in my child? The truth is, there is no guaranteed way to do so. However, one tip to help reduce allergic reactions is to slowly introduce foods to your child. Give your child the same new foods for about three to five days at a time. This allows you to monitor any potential reaction and ultimately withhold the foods that act as an allergen in your child’s body.

5. At what age should my child start feeding themselves?

It may seem easier and less messy to spoon-feed your child, however, feeding themselves is a key piece of his/her personal and social development. It also allows the child to easily indicate when they are no longer hungry. On average, your child will begin to play with his/her food around 8-12 months, use a spoon between 13-15 months and consistently use utensils around 18 months. Proceed into these milestones with patience, as your child will be navigating through mealtime etiquette for the first time.

6. How old does my child need to be to help me in the kitchen?

Cooking in the kitchen is no simple task, especially with a small child. However, there are several ways you can actively engage your child in the kitchen in order to teach them new life skills.

2-3 Years and Up
As a child first steps into the kitchen to help with cooking, his/her skills will be limited. That being said, this age group will likely enjoy tasks such as squeezing citrus fruits, sprinkling seasonings, mixing/stirring foods and any tasks along the same lines.

    4-5 Years and Up
    By this age, children should have familiarity with the space and functions in the kitchen. Children will be a bit more capable of contributing and will likely begin doing tasks such as rolling dough, breaking eggs, grating cheese and many other similar tasks.

      6-7 Years and Up
      A child’s fine motor skills tend to be developed by this point, and kitchen responsibilities will increase even more. Tasks will likely become more focused and intricate, including jobs such as scooping avocado, measuring various ingredients, peeling vegetables and other duties coinciding with skill level.

        8-9 Years and Up
        This age group tends to be one of the final key “learning” stages of essential skills in the kitchen. Children at this age are getting closer to full independence in the kitchen. They will learn skills here that will equip them to be self-sufficient in the kitchen moving forward. Roles at this stage may include opening cans, cutting pizza, making kabobs or other like skills.

          10-12 Years and Up
          At this point in a child’s life, he/she should be able to work in the kitchen individually. As your child moves into this phase of cooking, they may need supervision and maybe even some trial runs at first. This will help validate competency, and it will give you and your child confidence that he/she is ready to take on the kitchen independently.

          Hopefully, these tips will help you and your family navigate mealtime during the early years. Just remember - each child is different, so be flexible and adapt with them!

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