STOP Believing The Lie That Food Before One Is Just For Fun!
Updated: Jun 20, 2022
Have you heard the phrase “food before one is just for fun”? If so, you might be wondering if this old saying is true or not, especially if you’re about to start solids with your baby. This term is used a lot on parenting Facebook groups, and if you’ve happened to join one of those communities (I certainly did!), chances are you have been exposed to this expression before.
DISCLAIMER: Each child has their own development timeline and specific needs. The content below is general information and for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional one-on-one advice. You are responsible for supervising your child’s health and for evaluating the appropriateness of the information below for your child. Please consult your healthcare provider regarding support or advice for your child's well being and health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
The idea behind this phrase is great - don’t stress about the quantity of food your baby eats, and don’t worry if they just play. I totally agree that eating should always be fun and pleasant. But saying that food before one is JUST for fun is not exactly accurate. And there are a few things you should know about the role first foods play in your baby’s health before you start your weaning journey to ensure you maximize your little one’s nutrition from their very first bite of solids.
>>Download the FREE Quick-Start Guide to Solids to learn WHEN, HOW, and WHAT to feed your baby when starting solids.
Now, I’m about to give you four reasons why food before one is MORE than just for fun, and I will tell you what you need to know to make your baby’s first food count and help them continue to grow healthy and strong.
Food Before One Provides Much Needed Additional Nutrients And Energy To Your Baby
Babies are born with stores of certain minerals, such as iron and zinc, and gradually use these up over the first few months of life, being ‘topped up’ by minerals in breastmilk or added to formula. By around 6 months these stores are running low, so they need to start eating solid foods, which in combination with breast or formula milk will help them meet their higher nutrient needs.
Nutrition from solids becomes more and more important as your baby grows. In fact, at around 9-10 months most babies go through a transition when they cut on breastmilk or formula feeds and start eating more solids. As you can see, your baby will rely on you more and more to choose the most nutrient-dense foods for them.
Food Before One Expands Your Baby’s Diet By Introducing New Tastes And Textures (aka Prevention of Picky Eating):
Some studies have found that the foods we learn to like before age two are the foods we tend to eat for the rest of our lives. And children who are exposed to a wide variety of healthy foods at an early age are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables later in life.
You’ll notice rather early that your baby will have preferences for certain foods. And you should consider these preferences. But it’s important to keep offering novel and disliked foods too. The secret in helping your baby expand their diet is offering a wide variety of foods repeatedly. Research shows that it may take up to ten tries of a new food for us to decide if we like it or not.
Waiting until your baby’s first birthday to be intentional about the foods you offer them isn’t the best idea. You see, around this time, their appetite and interest in new foods are likely to go down due to a slower growth and the onset of neophobia (fear of new foods). By waiting that long to take feeding seriously you’ll miss on a critical opportunity window to shape and extend your little one’s palate.
You can give your baby a safe start to solid foods! This on-demand workshop will provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to wean well.
Food Before One Helps Baby Practice And Develop Key Skills For Independence In Life
Food is a good “excuse” to get baby to practice some moves! Eating requires many actions and developmental milestones that baby will need to learn. By exploring, playing, and eating foods babies progress their hand-eye coordination, fine motor, and oral skills. These skills are critical to many essential life activities such as speech production, safe swallowing, consuming various food textures, writing, and fastening clothing.
Additionally, research suggests that babies who don’t get to practice with foods of various textures by 9 months are statistically more likely to have long-term feeding problems and reduced consumption of important food groups such as fruit and vegetables.
Food Before One May Reduce Baby’s Risk Of Developing Food Allergies
Although many parents believe that you need to wait until a baby is 12 month or so to introduce potential food allergens, the latest recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to introduce food allergens as early as 6 months. Delaying the introduction doesn’t present any benefit. Instead, introducing those foods early in life may help prevent food allergies.
Most food allergies in children are caused by 8 food groups: dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Some kids are allergic to specific fruits or vegetables, but those allergies aren’t as common.
How to Maximize Your Baby’s First Foods
Introduce solid foods when your baby is around 6 months and starts showing readiness signs like sitting upright unassisted, bringing toys to mouth, no extrusion reflex, and showing interest in food unless told otherwise by your pediatrician.
Start with small amounts of food and increase the quantity as your little one gets older and more comfortable with foods, while maintaining frequent milk feeds (breast milk or formula).
Gradually increase food consistency and variety as your baby grows older, adapting to their requirements and abilities.
Offer a variety of nutrient-rich foods to ensure all nutrient needs are met.
Introduce allergenic foods to your baby’s diet early (as early as 6 months), unless recommended otherwise by your pediatrician.
Increase the number of meals as your child gets older.
Move Forward with Confident and Joyful Feeding
As you can see from this short list I just shared with you, in order to be intentional about your baby’s nutritional needs before they are one, and take advantage of this period when babies are more accepting of new foods, you need to have a PLAN. A plan for how you’re going to continually introduce new foods into their diet; for how you’re going to include nutrient-rich foods to meet their nutritional needs; for how you’re going to expose your baby to food allergens in a safe way; for how you're going to progress food texture and increase meal frequency.
Awee! This sounds like a lot, doesn't? But you don’t need to do this alone! Try our FREE Food Library. We have quick guidelines, demo videos, pictures and examples of how to safely offer specific foods to your little one. If you are wanting ideas of first foods to offer to your baby, click here to access our Food Library.
So now that you know why food before one isn’t just for fun, and what you need to do to maximize your baby’s nutrition during their first year of life, you can get ready to start this awesome journey with you little one!
Happy Eating and Feeding,
As always, discuss any concerns with your pediatrician. This post and this site is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. The materials and services provided by this site are for informational purposes only.