Food before one is for…“insert commonly heard answer here”.
If you said “FUN” – you guessed right!
Although I totally understand the sentiment behind this well intended phrase, it’s not the most accurate.
Unfortunately, defaulting to “food before one is just for fun” often leads parents to believe that there is no need to really worry about solids before one year of age. Resulting in them offering the odd meal here and there, introducing some foods and not others, and not researching a proper protocol or getting all the details, like what’s found inside my baby led feeding course.
Food before one has many purposes, and it IS important that your baby is getting lots of practice. Let’s go through each of the reasons so you’re prepared for this exciting journey with your little one.
But first – if you’re feeling stressed or scared about introducing solids to your baby, especially finger foods, or if you’re feeling stuck serving purées, register for my free workshop, “Baby Led Weaning…but make it purées! How to move from purées to finger foods – without the fear!” You’ll learn all about gradually moving from easier to more advanced textures, so food before one won’t seem so daunting.
REGISTER FOR THE FREE WORKSHOP NOW
The fact is, “food before one is just for fun” has gained immense popularity in recent years. Parents often fall back on it as reassurance during those first 6 months of offering solid foods, if things aren’t going as planned.
The manner, and frequency, with which it’s used leads many parents to believe that any food given before 12 months of age is like a bonus…it’s the cherry on top and not really needed. Unfortunately, this can lead to feeding problems, or difficulties, later on – because the reality is that “food before one is just for fun” is wrong.
It’s SO important to look at things like how much solid food is consumed as the months go on, proper meal schedules, consumption of iron rich foods, challenging babies with textures, tackling food issues (like excessive gagging) early, continually re-offering previously rejected food, introducing flavor and spice variety, and SO MUCH MORE!
This blog post is going to show you all the things that food before one IS for, and help guide you through the pillars of feeding that we absolutely can’t ignore or overlook with a “food before one is just for fun” attitude.
FOOD BEFORE ONE IS FOR ALLERGY INTRODUCTION THROUGH SOLID FOODS
In order to reduce the risk of developing food allergies, it’s now recommended that highly allergenic foods be introduced at around 6 months of age for all infants. And this is especially true if your baby is at a high risk of developing allergies (e.g. history of eczema or an immediate family history of allergies) (2).
This means that not only does food during those first few months play an extremely important role in immunity…but specifically focusing on introducing certain foods like peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, dairy, wheat, soy, and sesame frequently, is necessary.
Even more to that, offering them a few times a week is required to maintain tolerance (2). Read more about allergy introduction protocols here.
Food before one is for meeting iron needs
Babies build up iron stores in their body during development in the womb. These iron stores start to deplete somewhere around 6 months of age – and for a reason – because now it’s time to get supplemental iron from food!
The body cannot produce iron on its own. It has to come from food, and that’s why food before one can NOT be just for fun.
When a baby eats one meal per day – that meal should always contain a high iron food. Once they move onto 2-3 meals per day, at least 2 of those meals should include iron rich foods.
If complementary foods don’t allow babies to get the amount of iron they need, they are at risk for iron deficiency, which is unfortunately the most common nutrient deficiency in babies.
Read more about iron needs and high iron foods, here.
Food before one is for developing taste preferences
There is a critical period in babyhood between the ages of 6-9 months where babies actually develop a foundation for their taste preferences.
They must learn what is safe to eat and what is eaten by those around them in a relatively short period of time. This is in order to be able to reject any non-food or dangerous items once they become more mobile.
Babies have a natural affinity for sweet tastes (sweet things usually provide a lot of energy), and a natural urge to reject more bitter foods (bitter is associated with poisonous foods). Therefore, taste preferences for table foods we want them to eat later in life must be learned.
Research shows that frequency of exposure to tastes we want them to learn to like is actually more important than the quantity eaten. Meaning that food during that first year serves a very important purpose that actually sets the foundation for eating later in life.
Food before one is for texture introduction
If you know My Little Eater’s content at all…you’ll know we’re obsessed with educating parents on the importance of texture introduction and progression.
There’s a huge reason why introduction of foods – and not just any food – but varied, more advanced textures of food – is actually critical during the specific period of 6-10 months. And that’s because of the development of oral motor skills – aka the complex movements of the lips, tongue and jaw required to suck, bite, munch, and rotary chew and swallow different types of food.
These are skills that don’t just come on their own. They take several years to develop [1, 2]. And research shows that introducing food frequently, and that span a variety of textures, during the period of 6-10 months, is where the most significant changes in chewing skills are seen. . AKA – there is a sensitive period for texture acceptance .
When parents stop advancing textures because:
- their baby is gagging
- they’re overly afraid of choking
- they don’t realize it’s important
- they find it inconvenient
….we see that when their babies are finally introduced to them after 10, 11, and 12 months of age, they attempt to eat them with a “liquid swallow”. This is where food is swallowed directly over the tongue instead of moving it to the side of the mouth and munched on.
This causes them to excessively gag and makes them hypersensitive to any sensory stimulation. This makes any food with texture that requires moving it side to side in the mouth, an aversive experience. [4, 5]. And with most things, the earlier that feeding problems, including food aversions, or texture aversions, are discovered, the better.
Just to hammer this message home, we know that the best predictor of whether or not a 12 month old would accept chopped carrots was shown to be the baby’s previous experience with carrot pieces. 
So really, food before 12 months of age can’t be just for fun if it’s also absolutely necessary for reducing the gag reflex, development of oral motor skills, and for preventing picky eating down the road.
All, I’m sure you’ll agree, are super important.
If you’re feeling stuck with how to move your baby off purées and onto other foods with more advanced textures, or finger foods (maybe gagging and choking fears are throwing you off your mojo) – no worries – sign up for my free workshop called “Baby led weaning… but make it purées! How to move from purées to finger foods – without the fear!”
REGISTER FOR THE FREE WORKSHOP HERE
Food before one is for calories (and milk weaning)
While calories from solids don’t matter much in the first couple months of starting solids, they do matter beginning at 8 and 9 months of age. And this may come as a surprise to many, as there’s another saying out there that says “Milk is the primary source of nutrition before one”.
Just another example of a saying that often gets misconstrued to think that since milk is the primary source of nutrition, calories from food don’t matter. Parents think – my baby can get enough calories by drinking breast milk or formula, and any bites of baby foods are a bonus!
But….it’s a lot more than just a “bonus”.
Let’s first break down what milk being the “primary” source of nutrition means.
It doesn’t mean it has to be 95% of calories the entire time. Milk can be 80% of your baby’s diet and still be the primary source of nutrition. In fact, it can be 55 or 60% of your baby’s total calories, and it’s still the primary source of nutrition.
Now don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean that I’m here to replace your baby’s milk with solids and that milk isn’t super important.
But as you’ve seen from a previous point, your baby also can’t wake up the day they turn one year of age and all of a sudden be able to eat all the solid foods they need, in the right quantity and the right types, to meet their nutritional needs. That is, unless they’ve been practicing and getting better and better at it in the months prior.
So what we want to see is that over time, your baby’s intake of solid foods increases and starts to take up more and more of their total calories as they hit months 8, 9, 10 and 11. All while simultaneously decreasing the amount of milk consumed over this same period.
The goal is to be self-sufficient on solid foods by 12 months.
This doesn’t mean milk has to be completely weaned by 12 months (PS the real definition of weaning is just to accustom a baby to food other than mom’s milk). Not all babies will be ready to completely wean at 12 months, it could be a gradual process, and breastfed babies can continue to nurse for much longer than that – if desired.
What it does mean is that if milk was gone – your baby would be fine and able to consume enough nutrients. This is because they have developed all the skills they need to eat the same table foods at family meals that are offered to everyone else (modified for safety). Essentially, they could survive and fill themselves up on solids alone, perfectly.
Which leads me to my next point…
Food before one is for gradual skill development
Your baby needs opportunities to eat every single day. Starting with 1-2 meals a day at 6-7 months of age, 2-3 meals a day at 8-9 months of age, and for sure 3 meals a day at 9 months of age, plus.
Babies should get better and more efficient at taking in solid food as every month passes.
If you don’t see this progress happening, take a look at your baby’s milk and solids schedule, and also at whether or not you’re offering solids daily. If interest isn’t there, it’s likely they’re too full on breast milk or formula milk.
Feeding at night also affects appetite, so look into how much milk they’re getting at night to determine if this is taking away from solid food appetite during the day.
We don’t want to ignore a baby that’s not eating much solid foods, or isn’t able to fill up on solids at mealtime, by 9 months of age. Milk is important, but don’t misconstrue the saying that “Milk is the main form of nutrition until age one” to mean that solids aren’t important!!
Just like learning to walk, your baby learns to eat. This needs to happen over time, by providing many, many opportunities that can’t just be skipped over. And lots of food before one is crucial for this to be able to happen!
Food before one is for fun
You better bet that I’m going to tell you that food before one should be an amazingly fun experience! It should be stress free, and mealtimes should be full of joy.
Watching your baby learn, squish, play with and explore their first foods is actually super important for their development, and for your memory making! One of the biggest goals during this period is to enjoy family meals together! There isn’t a need to stress over every bite eaten day to day!!
Things will change as the days and weeks go on. Some days they eat a lot, some days less. Periods of growth, illness, teething and regressions will hit, and you’ve just gotta ride that out with as little stress as possible.
Calories will be made up through milk on those days – thank goodness for that. Overall, there isn’t a prescribed amount of food your baby has to be eating every single meal, or every single day.
Click here for my free guide on how much your baby should be eating, if you want to learn more.
But over months 6-12, progress should be seen. You should notice a gradual working up in types of food eaten, different textures accepted, a decrease in milk consumed, and acceptance of 3 solid meals/day + snacks by 1 year!
If you’re looking for a step-by-step way to accomplish this gradual progression, at a pace that feels right for you and your baby, you need to check out my FREE workshop “Baby Led Weaning…but make it purées! How to move from purées to finger foods – without the fear!”
REGISTER FOR THE FREE WORKSHOP NOW
The answer to all your worries when your baby isn’t eating, is gagging all the time, is fussy at meals, etc. shouldn’t always be “Food before one is just for fun!”.
Maybe we can change the saying to say “Food before 7-8 months is just for fun”… but after that, we’ve got some helping to do mama!
Found this helpful? Pin it as a reminder and for other parents to find too!
Harris, G., Mason, S. Are There Sensitive Periods for Food Acceptance in Infancy?. Curr Nutr Rep 6, 190–196 (2017).
Canadian Pediatric Society. Timing of introduction of allergenic solids for infants at high risk. Jan 24, 2019
Wilson EM, Green JR. The development of jaw motion for mastication. Early Hum Dev. 2009;85:303–11.
Wilson EM, Green JR, Weismer GA. Kinematic description of the temporal characteristics of jaw motion for early chewing: preliminary findings. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 2012;55(2):626–63.
Gisel EG. Effect of food texture on the development of chewing of children between six months and two years of age. Dev Med Child Neurol. 1991;33:69–79.(Video) Farewell and Good Times to You all | Allotments For Fun and Food
Coulthard H, Harris G, Fogel A. Tactile over-responsivity and early vegetable consumption; moderating effect of age of introduction to solid foods. Maternal and Child Nutrition. 2016; doi:10.1111/mcn.12228.
Harris G. Food refusal in the sensory sensitive child. Paed Child Health. 2009;19(9):435–6.
Smith AM, Roux S, Naidoo NT, Venter DJL. Food choices of tactile defensive children. Nutr. 2005;21(1):14–9.
Why food before one is not just for fun? ›
Food can be fun and it really should be too, but it's so much more than that. Food is needed for nutrition, for sensory development, for social interactions and ultimately, it's needed so your baby can learn how to coordinate their whole body in order to learn how to eat.What does food before 1 is just for fun mean? ›
Breadcrumb. If you belong to any parenting groups or follow any parenting blogs online, there is a good chance you've heard the phrase “food before one is just for fun.” Proponents of this idea typically believe that breast milk or formula can and should meet all of a child's feeding needs during the first year of life ...Should babies have food before 1? ›
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about 6 months old. Introducing foods before 4 months old is not recommended.How many times should you try food before you like it? ›
eventually (it can take eight or more tries). As adults, we're not much different. Studies have shown that the more times we try a food, the more we may like it.
Some foods are known to transform your mood because of certain compounds that they contain. A lot of research has shown that our diet can affect our mood. The theory is simple – the food we eat can bring about certain changes in our brain structure which can affect your mood and behaviour.Why does eating the same food get boring? ›
The scientific explanation is just that the brain will get tired of the same thing. That's why do many fast foods are engineered so carefully tantalize (bliss factor) and yet not go over the point when the brain gets overloaded.Is your first meal the most important? ›
Breakfast is often called 'the most important meal of the day', and for good reason. As the name suggests, breakfast breaks the overnight fasting period. It replenishes your supply of glucose to boost your energy levels and alertness, while also providing other essential nutrients required for good health.Is your first meal important? ›
Because breakfast gives us the opportunity to fuel our body with nutrients, it is an important meal.What are the first 3 food rules? ›
- Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
- Don't eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
- Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store.
Most babies will become developmentally and physiologically ready to eat solids by 6-9 months of age. For some babies, delaying solids longer than six months can be a good thing; for example, some doctors may recommend delaying solids for 12 months if there is a family history of allergies.
Do 1 year olds eat regular food? ›
Your child can now eat the same food as the rest of the family. At 1 year old, your child is learning to eat on her own. She can chew her food as well as you can, so she can eat the same foods as the rest of the family.When should babies have first food? ›
Breast milk or formula is the only food your newborn needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months after birth. But by ages 4 months to 6 months, most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a complement to breast-feeding or formula-feeding.What is the golden rule of eating? ›
Eat regular meals – don't skip meals – and always eat a healthy breakfast (e.g. bowl of natural hi fibre cereal with sliced banana and low fat milk). 6. Restrict your alcohol intake.Why are adults picky eaters? ›
Turns out, there's no single explanation for your picky eating habits, but rather, experts suggest a combo of genetics and environment are to blame. Picky eaters are typically unwilling to try new foods, which can be the result of your DNA and your upbringing.Why do I like foods I used to hate? ›
It's simply because of exposure. "You can train yourself to accept unfamiliar foods," Dr. Levitsky says. This training process involves, in non-scientific terms, eating a certain food until you like it.Why does food make us so happy? ›
Nutrients in food can promote the production of your body's feel-good chemicals: serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin regulates your mood and promotes sleep. Low serotonin is associated with depression, although it's not known whether it causes depression or depression causes it.How is food linked to mood? ›
It is well known that unhealthy eating patterns can cause mood swings. Blood sugar fluctuations and nutritional imbalances are often to blame. Without a steady source of fuel from the foods we eat, our mind and bodies don't function well.Why does eating feel like a chore? ›
The prospect of making a meal no longer fills us with dopamine, the neurotransmitter that she said is released when we anticipate how good a future event will make us feel, therefore motivating us to do it. “Before you had baked and cooked all those foods, there was excitement about doing it.What is it called when you eat because you're bored? ›
Emotional eating is when people use food as a way to deal with feelings instead of to satisfy hunger. We've all been there, finishing a whole bag of chips out of boredom or downing cookie after cookie while cramming for a big test.Is it normal to get bored with food? ›
It is quite common for people to become bored and begin to have more cravings for something different which can lead to eating out more, driving through a fast food line or stopping by a convenience store. It can also lead to skipping meals, which can lead to weight gain.
What happens when you first eat? ›
After you swallow, peristalsis pushes the food down your esophagus into your stomach. Stomach. Glands in your stomach lining make stomach acid and enzymes that break down food. Muscles of your stomach mix the food with these digestive juices.What should be the first thing you eat? ›
A balanced breakfast typically includes protein, fiber, and produce. If you're looking to build a healthy morning meal, try easy options like eggs, whole wheat toast with toppings, nuts, and green tea. Breakfast is a great way to start your day.What is the first and most important meal of the day? ›
Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day, providing as it does sustenance and energy (i.e., calories) for whatever activities lay ahead. As nutritionist Adelle Davis famously put it back in the 1960s: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” (Sifferlin, 2013).What are the four basic food principles? ›
Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. Following four simple steps at home—Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill—can help protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning.What are the five food rules? ›
- #1. Don't Deprive Yourself. ...
- #2. Know Your Serving Sizes. ...
- #3. Resurrect Your Crockpot. ...
- #4 Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand. Keep nutrient-rich foods in your office, car or any other place where you might be tempted to munch on unhealthy treats. ...
- #5 Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
FOOD RULES EXPLAINED
Don't eat past 7pm. Clear your dinner plate. No snacking between meals. Only eat what you serve yourself.
Picky eating is often the norm for toddlers. After the rapid growth of infancy, when babies usually triple in weight, a toddler's growth rate – and appetite – tends to slow down. Toddlers also are beginning to develop food preferences, a fickle process.Is it normal for 1yr old to skip meals? ›
Don't Worry if Your Toddler is Skipping Meals
This is just a result of the variable appetite that goes with toddlerhood. Offer your toddler 3 meals and 3 snacks each day. If your toddler skips a meal or snack, know he'll be able to eat again at the other meals and snacks throughout the day.
One year olds need about 1,000 calories divided among three meals and two snacks per day to meet their needs for growth, energy, and good nutrition. Don't count on your child always eating it that way though—the eating habits of toddlers are erratic and unpredictable from one day to the next!When can I let my baby lick food? ›
Or you could just let baby have a taste of everything you're eating at the table after 5 months. Do the “lick the spoon” thing and think of it all as truly an introduction, not actual feeding. It only takes one taste. It's not time to start baby on 3 meals a day of rice cereal and snacks of puffs.
When should I give my baby a sippy cup? ›
When Should My Baby Start to Use a Sippy Cup? Once your little one starts eating solids (typically around 4-6 months of age), start introducing a sippy cup filled with a few ounces of water as part of their mealtime.When can baby drink water? ›
If your baby is under 6 months old, they only need to drink breastmilk or infant formula. From 6 months of age, you can give your baby small amounts of water, if needed, in addition to their breastmilk or formula feeds.What is the 80% rule for eating? ›
The 80/20 rule is a guide for your everyday diet—eat nutritious foods 80 percent of the time and have a serving of your favorite treat with the other 20 percent. For the “80 percent” part of the plan, focus on drinking lots of water and eating nutritious foods that include: Whole grains. Fruits and vegetables.What is the 20 minute rule for eating? ›
It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals of fullness. Leisurely eating allows ample time to trigger the signal from your brain that you are full. And feeling full translates into eating less.What is the 90 10 rule in eating? ›
The 90/10 principle is when 90% of the time you follow your healthy meal plan guidelines closely, while 10% of the time you are free to loosen up and eat what you truly enjoy. Think of the 10% meals as your cheat or free meals.Are picky eaters born or made? ›
Some children are naturally more sensitive to taste, smell and texture. Other children develop picky eating habits by modeling their parents' fussy eating habits. Picky eating habits are more likely to develop when parents punish, bribe or reward their children's eating behaviors.What is a picky eaters personality? ›
In one study, parents of picky eaters cited personality traits that are common among them. These words include 'stubborn', 'moody', 'nervous' and 'easily distracted'. Around the age of 2, picky eating becomes a frustrating but normal stage of development.Are highly sensitive people picky eaters? ›
SPD is characterized by extremely heightened senses and an inability to process sensory information. 9:08: HSPs are more likely to be picky eaters if they experience tastes or textures more strongly.Why does all food disgust me now? ›
What causes food aversion? The exact cause of food aversion is unknown. Some studies suggest food aversion is the result of hormonal changes or challenges with sensory processing.Is hating food a disorder? ›
Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
If you get a diagnosis of ARFID, you'll strongly feel the need to avoid certain foods (or all foods). This might be because of smell, taste or texture. The idea of eating may fill you with anxiety. ARFID does not tend to be linked to body image issues.
Can you force yourself to like a food you hate? ›
According to Mari, the trick is to keep trying a food: “Repeated exposure usually helps people to accept flavours. But it may not be so easy to repeatedly try something you do not like. Some people may need to try the same food more than others. It is pretty easy to give up if you are not motivated.”Is it rude to start eating before others? ›
“Beginning to eat before everyone else is served is extremely rude,” Parker says. It's a long-standing rule that you should wait for everyone to have their food in front of them before digging in. In an ideal situation, the kitchen would prepare all the dishes to be ready at the same time.Is it OK to not feed baby solids until 12 months? ›
Most babies will become developmentally and physiologically ready to eat solids by 6-9 months of age. For some babies, delaying solids longer than six months can be a good thing; for example, some doctors may recommend delaying solids for 12 months if there is a family history of allergies.Why is food not appetizing in the morning? ›
Levels of hormones such as adrenaline, ghrelin, and leptin fluctuate overnight and in the morning, which can leave you feeling less hungry when you wake up.Why is eating starting to feel like a chore? ›
The prospect of making a meal no longer fills us with dopamine, the neurotransmitter that she said is released when we anticipate how good a future event will make us feel, therefore motivating us to do it. “Before you had baked and cooked all those foods, there was excitement about doing it.What happens if I feed my baby solids too early? ›
Some studies suggest that introducing solid foods too early may lead to increased risk of chronic disease such as islet autoimmunity (the pre-clinical condition leading to type 1 diabetes), obesity, adult-onset celiac disease, and eczema; and introduction too late may increase feeding difficulties [5–8].Why wait until 6 months to feed baby solids? ›
Introducing foods or fluids other than breastmilk to your baby before she is 6 months old can increase her risk of illnesses, such as diarrhoea, which can make her thin and weak, and even be life-threatening. Your baby may also breastfeed less often, so your supply of milk, her most vital food, may decrease.Can a 1 year old overeat solids? ›
But what happens when your baby starts eating solid food: is it possible to overfeed him? The short answer is: yes, if you ignore his cues and are not offering the right foods. Here's some advice on how to prevent overfeeding your baby: Look out for cues and stop feeding your baby when he is full.Why am I not hungry during the day but starving at night? ›
Circadian rhythm disorders: The circadian rhythm is the body's natural “clock” that controls when you feel tired, alert and hungry. If you have NES, your internal clock doesn't work like it should. Your body releases hormones that make you feel hungry and alert at night rather than during the day.Why am I not hungry like I used to be? ›
As you age, your digestion slows, so you tend to feel fuller for longer. Your sense of smell, taste, or vision may also get weaker. This can make food less appealing. Hormonal changes, a chronic illness, and medications can also curb your hunger.
Why am I so hungry at night but not in the morning? ›
Why do I get so hungry at night but not in the morning? Bedtime hunger may be an indication that you're not eating enough during the day. As a result, your body may be trying to compensate right before bed by taking in extra energy to make up for what it missed earlier.Why do you feel lazy after eating? ›
“Oftentimes, when you're eating a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein, you may feel sleepier because you have an uptake of tryptophan from the protein and then an increase of serotonin,” explains Zumpano. Eating also causes your blood sugar levels to rise, which can lead to a decrease in energy.What do you call it when you don't feel like eating anything? ›
A loss of appetite is a symptom that can have many causes. This occurs when you don't feel hungry. The medical term for a loss of appetite is anorexia. This is different from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of a loss of appetite will help you feel better.Why do I turn to food when im sad? ›
Emotional eating is eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Major life events or, more commonly, the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt your weight-loss efforts.