At around 4 months, Emily started showing interest in food - but she was not quite sitting up well, plus I was following current recommendation to start at 6 months. Even then, every time she sees us eat, she would stare so hard as if wanting to eat and I would feel so bad (I remember seeing her mouth move in a chewing motion as I eat in front of her!) So as of her half birthday, we celebrated by giving her first meal. We were looking forward to this day. My husband was to feed her as we were not successful in getting her to take the bottle. We were beaming with excitement, and as my husband was about to give her her first spoon, she took hold of the spoon before it reached her mouth and took it in her mouth instead! So this baby is very interested in food right off the bat, we’re lucky in that department. Here are some things we do on the daily basis that I believe help foster happy eating with baby.
Eat together as a family - it may not be possible at all times, but for the meals that you can, eat together at your dining table if it's breakfast and/or dinner. I am currently on maternity leave which I am fortunate to have time to dedicate to making warm meals 3x a day. It is not easy but I am enjoying the process. Most days, we all get up around 7am based on baby’s wake up time and we’re usually able to sit down and have our breakfast. Baby knows that once we put her in her highchair that it is eating time. She also knows that I or both my husband and I will be beside her eating as well.
Eating time - dedicate these moments as eating time. I have once recorded Emily eating from start to finish for one of her meals, and it only took about 10 minutes. I wish it was longer! She is eating mostly puree, at times playing with her food, swinging the spoon, banging the spoon on her table. Mess on the floor, leave it for now. Just enjoy these moments - this is them learning.
Give control to baby - I have only observed my child. I find the best outcomes when we give her control of how she eats. We scoop a spoonful of puree food for her and leave it on her table, she picks it up and feeds herself. It is such a joy to watch! I do feel a bit sad that she doesn’t need me to feed her, but on the other hand, I can respond to what food she seems to like more of, stopping when she is full, etc. I feel it is my job to allow her to experience the best meals (health wise as possible, now taste wise - that’s a different story, as I am still levelling up my cooking skills :D)
No distractions - Turn off TV or devices. Cultivate an environment that is relaxing for eating. Babies are just like us, if we are plopped in front of a device or tv, we’re not really paying attention to what we eat or the process of eating. We also miss out on the joy of the company of others.
Celebrate - it is such a joy to watch your baby eat that we can’t help but praise her. We probably look overbearing to others, but every time baby feeds herself, I can’t help but jump up and down (I usually clap and say “bravo!” or “such a good baby”, “super baby!”, “woohoo!”)
Would like to learn more tips on happy eating with baby, feel free to share.