Y'all know how much we adore Trader Joe's Bruschetta Sauce - you can literally pour it over everything! It's blends small-chopped tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, basil and other spices for a perfect sauce, dressing or dip. Sometimes I just eat it with a spoon! See above for our favorite ways to use it. What are yours?
You asked, and we're bringing it to you! Each month we hope to put some of the lunch ideas we share on our Instagram stories into a printable, downloadable format that you can keep on your fridge (or your phone) and access when you need lunch inspiration! Need more help? Our toddler course contains over 100 meal and snack ideas plus a grocery list, and our infant course contains a month-by-month meal plan and a grocery list.
Download the PDF document by clicking the link below!
Supplements can have an important role in your child's diet, but they're not replacements for food.
Supplements are always a hot topic with our clients. We are constantly asked what supplements we recommend for kids, and while we do have some favorites to share we want to clarify a few things first:
Vitamin D is traditionally known for promoting strong bone growth, as it helps the body utilize calcium, but newer research also suggests that optimal vitamin D status may help prevent chronic diseases like asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. However, since sunscreen use is important for skin cancer prevention, coupled with our indoor lifestyles, most people are vitamin D deficient.
Interestingly, vitamin D is the only supplement routinely recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Specifically:
What does this mean? Essentially every child should receive a vitamin D supplement throughout infancy and childhood, unless they are getting at least 32 oz of formula or milk, or if they're breastfeeding and mom is taking 6400 IU vitamin D herself. Note: we don't recommend that most toddlers drink anywhere near 32 oz of vitamin D fortified milk, so for most toddlers direct supplementation is critical.
We know that some parents are uncomfortable with supplementation and think that children should get all they need from their food. While we agree with this philosophy, vitamin D may be the exception. When children were tested for vitamin D status, over 70% were considered insufficient. Vitamin D, especially when given in very simple supplements with no preservatives, is a safe and effective way to help build strong bones and prevent chronic disease. If you decide not to supplement your child, we recommend annual vitamin D testing.
Anecdote: I (Megan) am very vitamin D deficient without supplementation. I gave my eldest 1 drop per day of Thorne Vitamin D/K2 when she was a baby, as the 6400 IU vitamin D study data was not available at the time. Her vitamin D levels at age 1 were 62 ng/mL. With my second, I made sure to take about 7500 IU a day myself and didn't supplement her much. When tested, her vitamin D levels were 32 ng/mL. This is on the very low side of "normal" per certain medical boards and is in the "insufficient" range per the Vitamin D Council. If we weren't supplementing, I am convinced my children would be severely deficient via breast milk alone. They play outside every day without sunscreen, but they still don't synthesize vitamin D well (like myself). If you don't want to supplement your child, please test their vitamin D levels to ensure they are not deficient.
When looking for a vitamin D supplement, watch ingredient lists. Look for simple words you can pronounce. There are many very simple options available - no need for tons of ingredients or preservatives. If your child takes a multivitamin (see below) that contains 400 IU vitamin D or more, you do not need a separate vitamin D supplement.
Thorne Vitamin D/K2
Age: birth +
Dosage: 1 drop
We love Thorne Vitamin D/K2 because vitamin K aids in absorption of vitamin D. This flavorless, small drop can be mixed into anything or put directly into a child's mouth or via a parent's finger. Breastfeeding moms can also put it directly on their nipple directly before a feeding.
Carlson Labs Baby's Super D Daily D3
Dosage: 1 drop
Like Thorne's vitamin D, Carlson Baby's Super Daily D3 is a liquid drop that is small and flavorless. Use it as described above.
Probiotics are such a hot topic right now, as more and more research is emerging to suggest the importance of a healthy gut flora. We plan to write an entirely separate post specific to probiotics, their uses, which strains to focus on for given issues, etc. The recommendations below are simply a few general high-quality probiotics that we use and love.
Probiotics are the live bacteria and other organisms that live in our GI tract and various parts of our body. They are responsible for fighting off invaders as part of the immune system defense and may play a role in disease prevention, gut health, skin health, and neurological function.
In general, if your baby is breastfeeding or is using a formula that contains probiotics, additional probiotics are not necessary. However, if you baby has taken antibiotics, is exposed to a lot of germs at daycare or while traveling, or has any skin or digestive upset it is generally considered safe to start a probiotic to see if it helps. If your child has any medical conditions or is immunocompromised, please talk to your doctor first.
What about probiotics for toddlers and older children? If your toddler or child doesn't have breast milk, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi or other fermented foods multiple times a week, a probiotic may be a good idea. This is especially the case if your child struggles with constipation (or diarrhea), eczema or skin issues, uses antibiotics, or seems to get sick often. Again, check with your doc!
Below are 5 different products we like - again, there are MANY probiotics out there, but these are the ones we've used the most. Look for at least 5 billion CFU (colony forming units) per serving and at least 4-6 different bacterial strains. Note: Florastor Kids is the exception to this and should be used during antibiotic regimens, as S. boulardii can help prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhea. The probiotic strain in Florastor is a yeast, not a bacteria, so it's not killed by the antibiotic.
Klaire Ther-biotic Infant Formula
Dosage: 10+ billion CFU per 1/4 teaspoon
Note: at the time of publication the Amazon link for this product was not working. To ensure this product arrives cold, we have included a link to a company that sends it next day on ice pack. If you are local to the Phoenix area, you can pick it up at Modern Milk.
Must keep refrigerated. Should come with an ice pack.
Many integrative MDs and Naturopathic Doctors love Klaire's Infant Formula because it is high potency and contains strain specific to an infant's needs. In practice, we have seen wonderful success with this product.
Klaire Children's Chewables
Age: 12+ months if cut into small pieces or crushed
Dosage: 25+ billion CFU each
Note: Again, the refrigeration piece is an issue here. We are providing links for a company that ships it on ice, next day delivery, for a pretty pricey delivery fee. If you know a physician who carries them locally, we suggest buying them directly. These probiotics have been the most potent and effective children's probiotic product we have used in my house, and we absolutely adore them - otherwise, due to the shipping issue I wouldn't even put them on the list! They're also at Modern Milk for people local to Phoenix.
Must be kept refrigerated.
These chewables are not exceptionally sweet, so it may take some time for your kiddo to like eating them. We sandwiched them with a Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Fishy (see below) at first, and after a few times taking it that way my girls both willingly ate it. You can also try dipping it in a little juice or crushing it into a smoothie.
Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Probiotics Organic Kids+
Age: 12+ months if tablet is cut into small pieces or crushed
Dosage: 5+ billion CFU each
We haven't used these chewables but are very impressed by how they're formulated! They contain vitamin D (no need for a separate vitamin D supplement) and are shelf stable - no worries with refrigeration and shipping! They also are pretty affordable for a month's supply. I really respect Dr. Perlmutter and love that this product has many research-tested strains, similarly to the Klaire products listed above. However, the dosage (5 billion CFU) is lower than Klaire.
Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Kids
Age: 6+ months (due to whole-food based prebiotic blend, we recommend waiting until around 6 months to use these)
Dosage: 5+ billion CFU per 3/4 teaspoon
Must be kept refrigerated. If purchased using this link, per the answered questions the seller guarantees potency at the time of delivery, even if not using an ice pack.
For parents who want a more whole food-based probiotic, this is a great option! It can also be found in most health foods stores and is a powder so can be used for infants and children.
Florastor Kids - best for use during antibiotics
Age: 3+ months
Florastor Kids is great to use during antibiotic use, as it's technically a yeast strain and not bacterial, so it's not killed by antibiotics. Once your child is off of antibiotics, you can switch to a bacterial probiotics (like the ones listed above Florastor). I recommend this to almost every client on antibiotics. The adult version of Florastor is the exact same dosage and strain, it's just in a capsule instead of powder and doesn't have flavoring. If you're in a pinch and need to use the adult version with your kiddo, open the capsule and put it in something strongly flavored so they don't taste the true flavor (it's kind of "yeasty"). Bonus: this product does not require refrigeration.
EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids present in breast milk, fatty fish and (in much less bioavailable quantities) flax seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. DHA specifically is responsible for eye and brain development and serves as a potent anti-inflammatory agent in the body, potentially helping in management of asthma, ADHD, and in prevention of heart disease later in life. If your baby or child is breastfeeding or is using formula containing DHA, or if your child is eating fatty fish like salmon or sardines a few times a week, supplementation is not necessary.
However, using an omega-3 supplement probably cannot hurt and can help ensure that your child consumes omega-3 fats, which are otherwise somewhat hard to get in high doses in the diet if your child doesn't eat fatty fish. Some eggs and milk are fortified with omega-3s, but it may be more cost effective to use a supplement. We love Nordic Naturals brand, as they are incredibly transparent in their processing of fish and algae oils and remove any contaminants or heavy metals utilizing molecular distillation.
While the guidance is mixed, on average we recommend approximately 100 mg per day of DHA via the form of food or supplements. Again, if your child is breastfeeding or drinking a DHA-fortified formula, or if they eat fatty fish or DHA-fortified foods regularly, they probably do not need a supplement. However, unless contraindicated by your physician it likely does not hurt, especially after your baby weans from breast milk or formula.
Note: we focus on total DHA in this blog post, but EPA is also an essential fatty acid, and the products listed below also contain EPA.
Nordic Naturals - Baby's DHA
Age: 6+ months
Dosage: 90 mg DHA per 1 mL
Babies 6+ months and toddlers not ready for gummies (usually recommended at 2+ years) are good candidates for this liquid supplement, which supplies 90 mg DHA in a 1 milliliter dose. We recommend adding this to a food or beverage. Since it contains fish, a food product, we don't recommend starting it until 6+ months of age. It is made from cod liver oil but contains very safe levels of vitamin A.
Nordic Naturals - Baby's DHA Vegetarian
Age: 6+ months
Dosage: 260 mg DHA per 1 mL
Nordic Naturals also has a vegetarian (non-fish) version of their Baby DHA. I haven't used this product myself but know many vegetarian families - or kiddos who are allergic to fish - who use this and love it. It actually has a higher DHA dose (260 mg per mL) but is about twice the price per bottle.
Nordic Naturals - Nordic Omega-3 Fishies
Age: 2+ (cut up into small pieces if using for younger toddlers)
Dosage: 1 gummy
I use these "fishy candies" with my girls (2 and 5) and offered them once they stopped breastfeeding at least a few times a day. My girls love sushi and fatty fish, but I find myself not serving it as often as I should. They absolutely adore these gummies, which come in individualized foil packs to keep them fresh and soft.
A multivitamin may be indicated if your baby/child is tested iron deficient or has a higher risk for iron deficiency anemia (obviously the multivitamin/multimineral should contain iron in this case), The reason we would recommend a multivitamin if more iron is needed is because multivitamins often taste better than straight iron supplements, and since vitamin D is also a necessary supplement, offering one multivitamin that contains iron and vitamin D is easier (and cheaper) than offering two separate supplements.
A multivitamin may also be indicated if you are worried about your child's nutrition status due to limited food intake. We don't routinely recommend a multivitamin, but if your child taking one helps you relax about their intake and makes you feel more comfortable with how they're eating, then they may be indicated. Make sure that any multivitamin you give your child contains at least 400 IU vitamin D. We did not include multivitamins without adequate vitamin D in this list.
We do not recommend routine supplementation of multivitamins/iron for infants (babies under 12 months) unless specifically indicated by your physician for iron deficiency or a risk of iron deficiency related to prematurity or other medical issues.
If you're using a different multivitamin, make sure to check its ingredients. Watch for artificial colors/flavors, hydrogenated oils, and lots of preservatives. Many of the big brand vitamins recommended for infants contain unnecessary preservatives and coloring agents.
Honest Company Baby and Toddler Multivitamin Powder Packs
Age: 6+ months
Dosage: 1 pack for babies 6-12 months, 2 packs for children 12+ months per bottle instructions (although 1 pack will still supply toddlers with ample key nutrients like vitamin D and iron)
The Honest Company Baby and Toddler Powder Packs are a dietitian's dream - they contain methylated B vitamins (more bioavailable for those with specific gene mutations), digestive enzymes, adequate vitamin D, iron (which is hard to get in many kids multis), and a blend of veggies and fruits. The catch? You have to figure out how to get a little pack of powder into your tot. Many parents find mixing it with yogurt or in a little diluted juice helps. Technically, after your child turns one you're supposed to offer 2 packets, but I would still use 1 unless your child's diet is severely limited or they have been tested to be very iron-deficient anemic.
Renzo's Picky Eater Multi - Dissolvables
Age: 2+ per bottle instructions, can be used for children 12+ months as nutrient doses are safe
Dosage: 1 dissolvable for 1-3, 2 dissolvables for 4+
Note: does not contain iron
Despite not loving the name (make sure not to tell your kiddo they're a picky eater!), I do love that these vitamins are dissolvable and sugar-free (they're sweetened with sugar alcohols, which are safe for kids and adults). I also love that they contain methylated folate, which may be important for those concerned about the MTHFR gene mutation (more research is needed). They do not, however, contain iron.
Smarty Pants Kids Complete Gummy Multivitamin
Age: 3+ per bottle instructions, can be used for younger toddlers if cut into small pieces, as gummies are a choking hazard for younger kids
Dosage: 4 gummies
Note: does not contain iron
For kids that love gummies, these Smarty Pants vitamins may be a good solution. They do contain sugar in sticky form, so we recommend having your tot brush their teeth after taking them. We love that they have plenty of vitamin D (600 IU) and methylated folate, but like most gummies they do not contain iron. (If a child were to open a bottle and eat multiple gummies, iron taken in great excess could be toxic.) They also have 44 mg DHA in a 4 gummy serving, which is better than nothing but is on the low side of DHA. This would be a great option for a kiddo who doesn't eat a lot of variety and needs a gummy but is also getting some DHA in another form, like via breast milk, fatty fish, a separate DHA supplement, or fortified foods.
Zarbees Naturals Baby Multivitamin with Iron
Age: 6+ months (can be used in toddlerhood, especially for toddlers who are iron deficient or at risk for iron deficiency due to low iron intake in their diet)
Dosage: 2 mL via provided syringe
This is one of the more simple-ingredient multivitamins with iron for infants, and from what my clients report it is well tolerated and liked by most babies. I like that it has 400 IU of vitamin D plus a great dose of iron (10 mg).
Zarbees Naturals Toddler Multivitamin Gummy
Age: 2-4 (if using for one-year-olds, cut gummy into very small pieces)
Dosage: 2 gummies
Note: does not contain iron
Many parents like this sweetened-with-honey gummy, which provides many key nutrients for toddlers, but not iron. The dosage (two gummies) is also smaller than other gummy products.
I hope this post helped you dissect the complicated world of supplements and find a product that works for you!
In case you were wondering, I personally give my girls Thorne Vitamin D/K2 (1 drop), Klaire Children's Chewable probiotic (1 chewable), and Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Fishies (1 gummy) - see below for details. We also mix up the probiotics after a few bottles for some diversity in probiotic strain.
Even though six-month-olds lack a full set of teeth, they have the ability to chew and swallow real food. The secret to helping your baby learn to chew effectively is making them aware of the back molar space where their teeth will eventually erupt. Learn about how your baby's mouth functions safely to chew food, common mistakes parents make while spoon feeding, and how you can help your child be a more skilled eater right from the start in the video below! Don't forget to check out the links to our favorite products at the end of the post.
Need more help? Our online infant feeding course will teach you all you need to know to raise a skilled, adventurous eater!
Disclosure: the links below are affiliate links, which means (at no cost to you) we will make a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Additional teethers not mentioned in the video
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Megan here. My oldest baby turns five tomorrow.
I am stunned and perplexed as to how this happened so quickly. Everyone told me it would, and I literally spent days staring at my child when she was a newborn, begging her not to change and grow quite so fast. I cried every time I put away each size of clothing. I took about a billion pictures (and a lot of videos), and I even made Shutterfly books every four months during her infancy. That's THREE BOOKS BY THE TIME SHE TURNED ONE. Ridiculous. I even kept a private blog detailing every developmental step, every funny word said. I didn't want to forget a thing. In case you can't tell by now, I'm a sentimental sap who adores babies...especially my own babies.
Despite all of my attempts to savor her babyness...she still grew up too fast. Some days I feel like I missed it all and can hardly remember the details of her as a sassy threenager or what she smelled like as a sweet nursling. I love who she is today and the young girl she is becoming, and yet I can't help but wish I could rewind the clock and hold her for the first time again and again.
I bet you can relate, too.
You see, motherhood is transformative. Not only do we watch a little newborn evolve into a walking, talking person with an independent soul, but we also are transformed into new people along with them. When I think of the past five years, I can't help but reminisce on how much having a child has changed me and altered the course of my life permanently.
When I was thirty-seven weeks pregnant with my first baby I was laid off from a job I thought I'd have for a long time. I then got in a car accident on my due date and almost had an emergency C-section because of it, but my sweet girl stayed in for another eight days before making her debut. A sudden job loss and potentially dangerous accident seemed big and overwhelming then, but what really changed was my life after giving birth.
I call my daughters my angels because they saved me in many ways. They made me more kind, more patient, more focused. Feeding Littles wouldn't exist if I never became a mom. I wouldn't know so many wonderful humans - including Judy - if I never began this journey almost 5 years ago. As much as I hope to influence my children, I will always tell them how much they have changed my life for the better.
In celebration of the big "five," Judy and I wanted to share some of the lessons motherhood has taught us. You see, the reason I love Judy so much is that not only is she a brilliant practitioner, she is also a wise mama. Her children are in their twenties (and are amazing humans themselves), so she shares a perspective about life on the other side of childhood. Of course, she's very close with her kids and is still actively involved in their lives, but she has had the benefit of seeing them through middle school, teenage years, and the ups and downs of college life. Perspective is helpful when you're in the thick of mothering young children, and that's why I love that she will share some of her wisdom about motherhood now that she has been doing it for a while.
If you're reading this and you're struggling to get pregnant or create the family you hope to have, please know that you are not alone and that we know this is a sensitive, lonely topic for many. We share these lessons about motherhood for everyone, not just for people who describe themselves as moms, and we pray that you find peace and resolution on your journey.
Judy's kids (a boy and girl) are two years apart and are now in their early twenties. Judy also works with about 30 families a week in their homes doing feeding therapy, so she gets to know many new moms each month.
My girls are 2.5 years apart and already have very unique, strong personalities. I grew up with a sister and am excited to see how their relationship develops and changes as they get older. I am lucky to get to work with many new moms and want to share some lessons that came hard for me, especially about new motherhood. (Judy and I have some similar themes in our words of wisdom!)
We wish you joy in the craziness of motherhood. Thank you for letting us share our thoughts. Don't forget to share yours below or on Instagram or Facebook!
Many modern moms (and dads) rely on Facebook support groups for information about all things parenting - feeding, behavior, development, potty training, and even car seat safety. With the influx of resources comes an overload of information, including "rules" or "guidelines" that sometimes aren't based in evidence. One such example that has been floating around the interwebs is the idea that baby "should be developing a pincer grasp" to be ready for solids.
This is simply untrue. A baby does not have to have mastered, or be developing, a pincer grasp to be ready for solid foods.
What's more, a baby may develop an "emerging" pincer grasp early, but a true pincer grasp takes an extraordinary amount of fine motor skill on baby's part. It does not fully refine in most cases until 10-12 months. We can't wait until a true pincer grasp is mastered before offering food because we would be waiting too long.
This "pincer grasp" guideline found in circulating memes and graphics is not documented by any major medical group or health organization. To our knowledge, there is no data to connect this skill to baby's readiness for solid foods.
Does a pincer grasp help baby eat small pieces? Absolutely. Is it helpful when baby can do it? Totally! Is it an important developmental skill? Yes! However, baby can still pick up larger pieces of foods, usually the shape of a strip or stick, around 6 months.
Before we go any further, let's officially define a pincer grasp. The pincer grasp is when baby touches just the end of their index finger to just the end of their thumb to form a circle in her fingers. Many of the grasps that babies use as they develop a pincer grasp allow them to pick up smaller foods, but they're not technically a perfect pincer until just the index and thumb touch at the ends. Since this is a sophisticated grasp/skill that takes months for babies to develop, it's something that should not be a pre-requisite to giving food.
We of course want baby to begin to develop her pincer grasp so she can pick up peas, quartered grapes, beans, and rice, but don't be discouraged if your six-month-old (or even your nine-month-old!) hasn't mastered this skill. It is normal. Remember, a true pincer grasp does not emerge in most babies until 10-12 months.
So, how can you best help your baby develop pincer grasp and fine motor skills in general? Like most things developmental, specific skills build on one another in infancy and childhood. We want to promote baby's skills early on and foster fine motor development so that baby is ready for eating all shapes of food, coloring, and eventually writing later in life.
No matter the age of your baby, you can do simple activities that help her eventually develop pincer grasp and more mature hand movement. Here are some developmental expectations and ways to help your baby with fine motor development, starting at birth. Remember, all babies develop a little differently, so contact your pediatrician if you're concerned about your baby's progress.
We recommend starting complementary foods around 6 months and when baby is showing readiness signs, including independent sitting on the floor. Follow your baby’s development and challenge her to do a more complicated food as she demonstrates readiness signs, including practicing with more refined grasps. Your baby may start out a feeding with great excitement but can get messier and more frustrated as the meal progresses, since she might tire and fatigue easily. As your baby becomes a toddler, it is normal for her to start the meal without much mess, using utensils or pincer grasp, but she might revert to what I call “cave man style” eating - shoveling it in and getting messy - as she fills her belly.
The 7.5-month-old below is practicing his emerging pincer grasp with great attention. Even though he won't refine it for a few months, he's trying to slide his fingers together. Offering some smaller foods with larger pieces helps challenge your baby for the next developmental step.
Below is a video of an 11-month-old working on refining her pincer grasp. Notice how she still uses the middle finger with her index finger and thumb and reverts back to a more whole-hand grasp as well. With practice, she will use her true pincer grasp more and more!
Here's a video of a 12-month-old rockin' her pincer grasp:
Notice how this sweet baby (10 months) is focusing very hard on using his index and forefinger. As babies get older, their grasps get more specific and refined.
This 11-month-old is practicing her pincer as well.
This 14-month-old can use her pincer grasp to pick up a small pea. It takes a lot of practice to handle such small foods!
Baby Lou, one of our BLW online course models (now 14 months), is going in for some beans with his pincer grasp.
Once a baby has a pincer grasp it is recommended to offer baby a wide variety of shapes and sizes of food. Remember, just because a child has a pincer grasp does not mean she will use it for every food. Encourage easier pick up of foods by sprinkling crumbs onto a slippery food item for better grip.
By 12 months, most babies will still prefer larger pieces of foods cut into long finger-shaped sizes instead of small bites sized pieces, but some may like to practice their pincer grasp over and over. Offer all safe sizes of food so that your baby can practice multiple skills. Eventually your baby will learn to load spoons and forks with food too!
Sitting with minimal assistance is one of the most important readiness signs for feeding solids. For many babies, unassisted sitting happens around 6 months, which is also when we think the gut and immune system are most ready for complementary foods. (Note: this guideline refers to all "solids," including pureed foods or "baby food.")
Why is sitting unassisted so important? First and foremost, we want your baby to be safe, and if he isn't sitting well with good trunk control his airway may be compromised. However, there's even more to sitting than safety. Gross motor skills, including postural support and sitting, are precursors to good feeding skills. Our bodies have to be in good alignment for our hands and mouth to work optimally. Postural control and gross motor function greatly influence your child's ability to coordinate feeding skills, like bringing food to mouth and chewing. Interesting, right?
My first job as an Occupational Therapist was at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where I was fortunate enough to have Regi Boehme, OTR, as a regular mentor to our clinic. Regi was a gifted Occupational Therapist who created Boehme Workshops for Therapists (www.boehmeworkshops.com). Regi taught us that everything we ever need at the mouth (feeding, swallowing, and speech) originates from the hips. In her memory, I write this for parents to better understand why sitting skills are an imperative precursor to feeding..
I will always remember Regi saying this phrase: “Stability at the hips will follow at the lips."
Thus, for your baby's best success at feeding, wait until he is sitting unassisted on the floor before offering any food. Sitting propped in a Bumbo is not the same as unassisted sitting on the floor, and use of these propping chairs actually doesn't help develop sitting skills. (Read on for help teaching your baby to sit.)
Interestingly, your baby's developmental milestones build on one another in helping him learn to sit and eat food. Below are some common milestone guidelines for the first half of infancy. Remember, all babies develop at their own pace, so your baby may not be on this exact timeline. Discuss any developmental concerns you may have with your pediatrician.
Gross- and Fine-Motor Skill Developmental Milestones:
Think about development of your baby in these terms:
Head control, trunk control, stability and alignment are all essential for motor control and coordination of the jaw, tongue and lips. In other words, for the mouth to work effectively, your baby's body must have stability, alignment and control. This coordination allows baby to learn to feed herself, and strengthening of these muscles and reflexes eventually leads to speech development!
Another way to think about it: Development is a “delicate balance between stability and mobility” (Morris 1987). All the pieces falling into place allows your baby to become a walking, talking, self-feeding child.
So, when you're preparing your child for food, it is essential that he is learning to sit. It is not worth starting early (before 6 months) if baby doesn't have the stability and trunk control for sitting. In fact, when we work with children who haven't mastered sitting, they tend to have uncoordinated hand and mouth movements and don't seem to understand what to do with food. Sitting is a precursor to successful feeding for a reason.
How can I teach my baby to sit?
Just like every other skill, practice makes perfect! Practice sitting on a carpet or soft flooring multiple times a day as early as 4 months. Place a toy or small drum between baby's legs to give him something on which to focus. Put a Boppy or other pillow around his back in case he falls, and watch closely until he is really steady in case he falls over. If you don't want to use a pillow, place your hand around his torso or on his back until he gets stronger.
How long does my baby need to sit on the floor to be sitting "well enough" for solids?
Baby shouldn't immediately topple over when placed on the floor. If baby can sit unassisted for at least 20-30 seconds on the floor, try a high chair. Ensure that baby doesn't lean in the high chair or doesn't seem floppy or uncoordinated.
How do I know if my child's in a good position in his feeding chair?
Briefly check your baby's postural control and trunk stability the first time you put him in a feeding chair. How does he look? Is there anything you can do to add more support to the chair to make him more in control to reach his food? If so, add support and see if it makes a difference (see below for ideas). Some babies don't like sitting in a high chair because they feel uncomfortable or unsteady.
What if my child seems unsteady or uncomfortable in a high chair, even though he can sit on the floor unassisted?
Sometimes your baby can sit well on the floor but over time starts to lean once placed in a high chair for a prolonged period. This may be the result of a very big chair without much support, including the lack of a footrest. You may notice that your baby seems uneven, floppy or uncoordinated, even though he can sit on the floor for a while without fatiguing.
To remedy this:
Below are some examples of my infant and toddler clients (and their siblings) in their feeding chairs. Sometimes baby's legs aren't long enough to hang off the edge of a chair, but once they are you may be able to add additional support for a foot rest. Use of back support or rolled up towels can help baby from leaning.
Before foot rest is added:
Pool noodle as a foot rest:
Before foot rest:
Toddler with feet on a cushion:
Toddler with great feeding positioning in a BABYBJORN chair.
Back and side support with rolled-up towels:
If my baby is showing readiness signs for food, including sitting unassisted before 6 months, should I give him food?
This one is up to you. We still think that "around 6 months" is the average ideal time to offer food to babies given their digestive system and immune system development. Does something happen the moment your baby turns 6 months old? No. Use your parent judgment - try to wait til around 6 months, but if baby is showing all of the readiness skills by 5 months or 5.5 months, it's up to you whether or not you want to start. As you know by now, sitting is a major precursor to feeding, and most babies aren't sitting unassisted until closer to 6 months - everything starts falling into place around then!
There's no harm to waiting until 6 months, and you can give baby frozen breast milk or formula popsicles at mealtime in the interim. Note: many promotors of BLW say that baby should not get any food until exactly 6 months, but guidelines are based on averages and means. Some babies will be ready a little earlier, some will be ready a little later. "Around 6 months" is the technical guideline.
What if my baby isn't sitting unassisted by 6 months?
Keep working on it! Sometimes babies just need more practice. Include plenty of tummy time in your baby's day, and work on sitting multiple times a day. Don't forget to make it fun! Your baby will pick up on your stress.
If baby isn't sitting by 7 months, talk to your doctor. Additionally, if your baby has any developmental delays or medical issues, talk to your therapy team about safety and readiness signs for solids. We don't want to wait too long for solids, as we miss a critical allergenic, digestive, and developmental window.
So remember...when you get your baby's hips aligned, his lips (and mouth and tongue) will be more ready for food!
It's that time of the year again - the Feeding Littles Holiday Buying Guide is back! We have partnered with our favorite feeding and mama brands to offer exclusive discount codes to our followers that allow you to buy these products cheaper than you can find them anywhere else, even Amazon! Thank you for your support in 2018 - the Feeding Littles Community has grown to more than we could have ever imagined. Now sit back, relax, and start shopping!
NumNum Baby - 40% off entire site through 12/15/17
Use code: NUMNUM40
Age range: 6+ months for feeding, 3+ months for teething
NumNum GOOtensils are amazing self-feeding tools for babies! Dip them in applesauce, hummus, guacamole, yogurt, etc. and hand them to baby or place on the tray to promote self-feeding and utensil usage without the frustrations of regular spoons. We also love GOOtensils as teething toys that allow baby to bite using their back gums (where their molars will eventually come in).
Zoli - 20% off entire site through 12/15/17
Use code: LITTLES17
Age range: 3+ months
Zoli created the Bot cup, our all-time favorite first straw cup, but they have SO MANY cool feeding products! We love their Bunny Teether, Lunch Kit, larger straw water bottles, and feeding sets (including ceramic bowls, snack cups, etc.). We are so impressed with their amazing, functional products!
EZPZ - 20% off entire site through 12/31/17
Use code: ezpzfeedinglittles
Age range: 6+ months
EZPZ created the original, all-in-one placemat/plate that sticks to the table or high chair, and we adore using them with young eaters! The mini mat is especially perfect for meals out, as it easily fits in most diaper bags. We love that EZPZ products are easy to clean, visually appealing to kids, and a good way to make mealtime fun!
BapronBaby - 20% off entire site through 12/15/17 plus a FREE travel bag if you purchase 2 or more Baprons
Use code: feedinglittles
Age range: 6+ months
If you've followed us for a while, you'd know by know that we absolutely adore BapronBaby bibs! These bibs are waterproof, washable in the sink or washing machine, and perfectly fitting for babies 6 months through 3 years of age. They tie around the back instead of the neck for more comfort, and babies/toddlers love wearing them because they're not tight on the neck. They're also great for water play, cooking and arts and crafts! They are by far the best bib we've ever found. When you use code feedinglittles at Bapronbaby.com, a portion of the profit goes to The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation for SMA research and awareness.
Mabels Labels - 10% off entire site through 12/15/17
Use code: FEEDINGLITTLES10
Age range: birth+
Mabel's Labels are durable, waterproof peel-and-stick labels that are perfect for daycare gear, school lunch, camp, clothing, and much more! They're ultra-durable and look great even after hundreds of runs through the dishwasher. Customize with your design of choice and your child's name (or your name!) and feel more organized in the new year!
Jumping Jack - 15% off entire site through 12/11/17
Use code: FEEDINGLITTLES
Age range: birth+
Jumping Jack has a very special place in our hearts. Jack is a special boy who died of SMA at just 6 months of age. Judy was his feeding therapist. His wonderful mama Sarah created Jumping Jack in honor of him, and she introduced us (Judy and Megan) in 2014. Sarah is one of the strongest people we have ever met! Her apparel and headbands are all made in honor of sweet Jack and are super stylish. Read more about his story and SMA here.
In Jack's honor, a portion of our Feeding Littles course proceeds goes toward the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation.
Ark Therapeutic - 15% off entire site through 12/31/17
Use code: FEEDING15
Age range: 3+ months
Ark Therapeutic is a website beloved by therapists and parents alike, as they have many amazing therapy and feeding tools for kids of all ages! We especially love their amazing teething products, which help develop baby's jaw strength and teach them to chew with their back gums, as well as their Bear Bottle Kit for promoting straw usage (just squeeze the bear's tummy and the liquid comes up the straw!). Check out their super cute and festive Reindeer Chew!
Kiddiebites - 10% off through 12/31/17
Use code: TIFJW49K
Age range: 6+ months
Kiddiebites plates are flexible, stackable silicone plates (image above is shown from our Instagram account) that are loved by kids and adults alike! They are made in the U.S. and are microwavable, dishwasher safe, and nontoxic. They're essentially indestructible and wash beautifully - we use ours multiple times a week and they still look brand new! I especially like taking Kiddiebites plates to relatives' houses to use when toddler-safe plates are unavailable.
Little Partners - 15% off Original Learning Tower and Limited Edition Learning Tower through 12/31/17
Use code: FEED15
Age range: 12+ months
The Original Learning Tower is one of the best things you can buy for your kitchen. It allows your tyke to reach counter height to help with (safe) food prep, taste testing, or arts and crafts. It's extraordinarily sturdy and grows with your child, so children can use it as they get older. This Learning Tower is much sturdier than copycats and won't tip over - we absolutely love it!
Pick-Ease - 30% off entire site through 12/15/17; free shipping if you buy 2 or more packs
Use code: FeedingLittles
Age range: 12+ months
If you've taken our online toddler course, you know that young eaters love novelty and using fun tools while eating. Enter Pick-Ease, a safe toothpick with a big grip that's perfect for small hands and adds fun motor practice to each meal. Pick-Ease are dishwasher safe, durable, and will last through multiple kids (as they inevitably go through their oh-so-fun "food neophobia" phase). We love how cute and affordable they are!
Constructive Eating - 15% off entire site through 1/1/18 + free shipping!
Use code: feedinglittles15
Age range: 12+ months
Constructive Eating plates are another simple tool to help with picky eating, and they also encourage development of utensil skills. Their Construction Line and Garden Fairy Line include themed utensils that push, scoop and grab food, and the plates have special compartments for the utensils. When parents buy Constructive Eating products, they tell us they're always so impressed by the quality, and their kids dig right into their food!
Betgo Kids - 15% off Bentgo Kids Lunchboxes through 12/15/17
Use code: FEEDINGLITTLES15
Age range: 6+ months
If you keep up with our Instagram stories you'll know that Bentgo Kids is our preschool lunchbox of choice! We like how it keeps food insulated and cold (with a thin ice pack) the entire day and has the perfect size compartments for four different food items, plus a dip or dessert in the middle! (This really encourages us to pack more variety too!) They snap shut and don't leak, and they wash beautifully in the dishwasher. We have them in all 3 colors!
Feeding Littles - $15 off our Infant and Toddler feeding courses through 12/15/17
Use code: FEEDINGLITTLES15
Age range: Infant course is appropriate for new eaters (6ish months) or babies who haven't learned to self-feed up to 10-11 months; Toddler course is appropriate for 10 months - 5 years.
Get expert advice at a fraction of the price! Our Infant Feeding: the Baby-led Way online course teaches you how to do Baby-led Weaning (infant self-feeding) with your baby, or how to transition from spoon/puree feeding to self-feeding. Our Feeding Littles: Toddlers online course gives you the tools to prevent or reverse troublesome picky eating in young eaters and can be applied to older kiddos as well. For best results, take the courses before eating struggles develop and to set your child up for feeding success!
If you have signed up for our online toddler course course (specifically the step on Sugar, Candy and Desserts), you know that our approach to Halloween candy may be a bit different than you would expect for people concerned with healthy eating. Sure, candy is not a "health food," and we know that excess sugar in the diet is less than ideal. As with most things parenting-related, it's all about balance and seeing the big picture. We want our kids to have some exposure to sweets and treats so that they don't binge on them, because when we restrict our children's access to sweets they tend to overeat when they're not hungry and have weight regulation issues.
Halloween is a fun holiday that should be low stress for everyone - including parents who want what's best for their kiddos.
So, what's a health conscious mama (or daddy-o) to do? Do we just let our kids have unlimited access to candy? Not quite. Follow these guidelines to make Halloween a wonderful exploration of food and sweets.
1. Offer a filling, high-protein dinner and plenty of water before trick-or-treating. Hangry kiddos will have a tough time listening to their bodies around candy. Before you head out, offer a whole grain pasta dish with diced turkey and veggies, Pumpkin Chili (vegetarian if desired), or veggie pizza.
2. Decide if your kiddo is old enough for candy. Most babies aren't ready for many types of candy because it's difficult to chew, plus babies don't quite understand what they're missing. One- and two-year-olds may be very aware that they're receiving candy and may want to try it. As the parent, it's your choice whether or not to start exploring candy with your young toddler. (In our home we allow our kids to try Halloween candy once they're one year of age, but this is a decision you'll have to make.) If your child is going Trick-or-Treating, it may be difficult for them to understand why they can't eat the candy.
3. Once you get back home, sort it! Remove any choking hazards or candies that may be difficult to chew like taffy, gum, or hard candy for kids under 4. (Use this opportunity to put together a Mom or Dad Stash of your favorites! You know, for safety and all...)
4. Allow your child to sort, explore and eat as much candy as he wants when you get home. Try not to comment on how much he is eating or pressure him to stop. Also, avoid overexcitement about candy - remember, we want our kids to see all food as food, not "something special." Let him feel his own fullness and decide when to stop. If you haven't been doing this with your kiddos, they may test you and overeat - which may lead to a stomachache. Try not to take the "see, I told you so" route with them; rather, gently discuss what happened and explain that sometimes if we eat more than our belly is hungry for, it hurts. If you start this approach young, you will likely be very surprised by how little your little actually eats!
5. You provide, child decides. Decide how often you want to serve Halloween candy again for the next few weeks. This doesn't mean that your child gets candy whenever they ask for it - see more below.
When you do serve it, let your child decide how much to eat and avoid tying it to behaviors ("You must finish your vegetables to get candy" or "No candy if you don't clean up your toys"). Rather, serve it with or after meals without making a fuss about it. You can do it once, five times, with every meal, or never again - this is up to you. If you remain neutral about it, oftentimes children lose interest.
Important caveat: this does not mean that we offer candy with every meal and snack or whenever our kiddos ask for it. Remember, you provide food of your choice at regular meals - they decide how much to eat.
6. Keep it out of sight until you decide to serve it again. A child who sees the candy in plain view will ask for it often. Put it out of reach, and if your child asks to have some when you weren't planning to serve it, explain that "We aren't having candy right now. Maybe tomorrow."
Need more help with mealtime? Check out our video-based online course, which has helped thousands of parents raise happy eaters!
You probably know that you're supposed to involve your baby or young child in safe sensory play, but you may not understand the importance of sensory integration or how it relates to your child's feeding and general development.
In short, your child's sensory system dramatically impacts how he perceives the world, how he learns, and even how he eats. When it's functioning as expected, you may not even think about sensory processing. However, when sensory integration goes awry, it can affect many facets of your child's life.
We want to share with you some background regarding sensory integration so you can understand why your child may react to certain sensory inputs, how to best support your child's sensory system, and how to know if your child needs help with sensory processing.
Sensory integration/processing helps people “make sense” of the world around them.
Think of all the sensations you experience while dressing, bathing, walking or even driving a car to the airport.
Sensory Integration is the process of using our senses to:
We usually think of five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch (tactile), and smell.
We also receive information from our body position sense known as proprioception, and balance and movement sense known as vestibular sense.
Touch Sense - Tactile
The tactile sense gives us information from our skin, including inside and outside our mouths. Every time you touch something or you are touched, your skin provides you with detailed information; this comes from the tactile sense. It allows you to tell the difference between a friendly touch versus to the uncomfortable feeling of a bug biting you on the arm.
Think of a child licking ice cream from a cone as it drips down their arm. Does the child continue eating the ice cream and lick off the drips, or is the child bothered completely by the drips, drops the cone, and becomes very upset? This is the tactile system hard at work, it is either seen as pleasurable or averse. As you can imagine, when a child perceives certain tactile sensations as very averse, it can dramatically affect their success with feeding.
Body Position Sense - Proprioception
Proprioception is our body's position sense. Proprioception is the ability to know where a body part is without having to look, and it helps us know how much pressure we need to do certain things. We use this sense when we pick up a paper cup filled with water without spilling or holding it too tightly.
For example, have you ever watched your child pull a wheeling suitcase or push a play shopping cart around the house and then change the weight of the suitcase or cart? Her proprioception changes when she realizes she must push or pull the object harder. This sense is automatic and happens without much conscious thought, and it is a result of your proprioceptors hard at work within your joints. Pretty cool, right?
Movement/Gravity Sense - Vestibular
The vestibular system is our balance and movement sense. The vestibular sense allows us to move smoothly and balance while engaged in activities. We use this sense when riding a skateboard or sliding down a slide at the playground.
Watch a toddler as they practice their balance on uneven surfaces at the park. He may struggle at first, but it usually improves with each trial.
When Our Senses Unite
Integrating and processing information from the tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular systems, along with the other senses (sight, sounds, taste and smell), makes it possible to successfully participate in everyday activities.
For example, visualize a six-year-old boy holding a baseball bat and trying to hit at a T-ball.
The tactile (touch) sense helps him hold his bat correctly. Proprioception (body) sense helps him know his body is in the correct position. Vestibular (balance and movement) sense helps him stay upright while swinging the bat. His vision (sight) and hearing (sound) are also key to his success in the game.
Our bodies are truly amazing when they work as expected. However, what happens when things don’t work automatically?
Some kids struggle with sensory integration, which can affect their success with feeding. These behaviors may include:
If you notice any of the above behaviors, which may affect your child's home or school environment, talk to your healthcare provider. Ask to be scheduled for a full assessment that includes a Sensory Processing Evaluation. Therapists trained in Sensory Integration utilize a play-based, child-friendly approach.
Children improve their ability to process and organize sensory information in a setting where the child can engage in a variety of fun sensory experiences. Therapy can help kids simply be kids, playing alongside friends, and fully enjoying their young lives while learning to respond to a sensory-rich world.
Want to help support and develop your child's sensory system? Utilize the following activities on a regular basis, and make sure to never pressure a child to do something he's not ready for yet (e.g. touch a texture he's averse to).
We wish you fun and playfulness on your sensory development journey!
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!