Feeding a young child is no small task. Jessica Hartshorn, Sr. Lifestyles Editor of American Baby Magazine, has some advice and fun products to help make mealtime more entertaining for both you and your child.
Before you feed your child any solid food, know the guidelines. "Pediatricians are now asking you to wait six months to introduce rice cereal," says Hartshorn. So if your child is less than six months old, breast milk or formula is best.
At six months, though, you'll want to begin to introduce solid foods. To start out, your best bet is rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula, followed shortly by purees. Introduce purees when you think your child is ready. According to Hartshorn, it depends "on whether your child is loving it or a little more reticent - some kids get freaked out by that feel in their mouth at first." Your baby's main staple should still be milk, though.
By nine months, you should be feeding your son or daughter equal parts of solid food and milk or formula. At this point, "you can introduce finger food like Cheerios," says Hartshorn. Your child should be getting used to the taste and texture of solid food by now.
By your child's first birthday, solid food should be their main nutrition source. Milk should be used only as a supplement - almost like an adult would drink a beverage with a meal. Try to get your child to eat three times a day at regular meal times, and feed them snacks in between. A varied diet is best; try to introduce your child to new foods like chicken, scrambled eggs, vegetables and the occasional cupcake or spoonful of ice cream.
Almost every child hits a point, though, where he or she doesn't want to eat or refuses to eat what you've prepared. Try making mealtime fun by adding colorful spoons, plates, bibs and feeding chairs into the mix.
Or, make a game out of mealtime. If you buy a bowl for your child with a character painted at the bottom, tell your son or daughter that the goal of the game is to "uncover" the character by spooning out the food and eating it. Be sure to look for cups and bowls that aren't breakable - melamine is a popular material - just in case Junior throws his dinner on your kitchen floor.
If your child is a very messy eater, look for a bib that's made of easy-to-clean silicone or a full-coverage smock that's made for meatime. And never underestimate the popularity of a spill-proof sippy cup. They can keep baby - and you - clean and dry.
For more tips on making mealtime fun, as well as additional parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun