June 21, 2016 09:00 AM

While it may seem like babies have been eating purees for centuries, jarred food wasn’t even an option until the 1940s. In fact, the way people feed their babies tends to change every decade or two based on new research and social norms.

Baby self-feeding is a research-based approach to first feedings, and delivers a simple way for parents to help their children develop a healthy relationship with food from day one.

Nancy Ripton, journalist and co-author of Baby Self-Feeding: Solid Food Solutions to Create Lifelong, Healthy Eating Habits, is sharing her top five tips for getting started with baby self-feeding.

Courtesy of Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto

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Don’t Rush Solid Foods

It’s rare that a baby needs any solid food prior to the age of 6 months. Feeding solids too early increases the risk of choking, and makes purees the only safe food option.

Be Mindful with Your Purees

Purees have a place as a first food, but they shouldn’t be all your baby eats. Purees are great for the first few weeks, to teach valuable swallowing techniques. After that, use them only occasionally, and let whole foods take center stage.

Choose Your Spoon Wisely

There are different sizes and shapes of spoons for a reason. Learn which spoon to use at which stage of feeding, and your child will transition to self-feeding with ease.

Courtesy of Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto

Embrace the Mess

Children are tactile learners. Although it may not always be convenient, whenever possible, let your child get messy. If you try to control the feeding situation too much, your child may develop bad habits and negative food associations. It can look like your baby is playing with her food, but that’s how children learn about new tastes and textures. A little mess now can prevent picky eating later.

Don’t Force Anything

Every child is unique. It’s your job to make mealtime fun and enjoyable, and offer an array of healthy foods each time your child sits at the table. Don’t get upset if your baby turns up her nose at certain things. She may not like every food the first time, but if you only offer the foods she likes or force ones she doesn’t, it can lead to picky eating. Relax, model how fun it is to eat a variety of foods — and your child will follow your lead.

— Nancy Ripton

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