If there’s one message that I’d like everyone to take away from this blog, it’s that family meals are SO important. I’m not here to judge, and I know that you all have different routines and work schedules and whatever – but please make time to eat with your baby as often as you can, in whatever way works for you.
Babies learn so much from eating with us:
- Watching us eat is part of how they learn to eat themselves. As they grow older, they’ll want to mimic us and learn skills like using a fork.
- Being part of family mealtimes is great for baby’s social development and communication skills. They can watch and eventually take part in conversations; learn manners by observing us; and start to learn what behaviours are expected when they eat with others.
- What babies experience now teaches them what to expect from mealtimes in the future. If they consistently eat with their families now, they’ll grow up seeing this as a normal part of life (ie it’s easier to start as you mean to go on than try and impose family meals on an older child who’s not used to them).
- Babies taking part in family mealtimes tend to be introduced to a wider range of home-cooked food, and, because a big part of liking a taste is based on familiarity with it, they’re more likely to like a wider range of food later on too.
- If you eat with your baby, they’re more likely to eat rather than just throw the food around, in my experience. They’re more likely to try healthy food in particular if you’re eating it too. And even if they don’t try it this time, they’re becoming more familiar with it by watching you eat it.
- Your baby will enjoy being part of your mealtime, helping to set them up with happy memories of mealtimes, encouraging a healthy attitude to eating in the future.
- Looking ahead, regular family dinners have been linked to lower risk of obesity, drink/drugs abuse and eating disorders. Pupils who eat with their families tend to do better at school.
Eating together is at the basis of any good celebration for a reason – it’s such a wonderful way to connect together. Food isn’t just about nutrition and eating together reminds us that eating should be pleasurable and fun and relaxing.