Here is what I've learnt works for me:

1) I introduced solids at 6 months, when he could sit up, he had pincer grip, and he was showing interest in us eating. Before even introducing foods, I had him sit at the table in his high chair at mealtimes, playing with a spoon and a bowl. As well as getting him used to the ritual of mealtimes, playing with the spoon helped to reduce his gag reflex.

2) I introduced solids by giving him foods from our own plates, either "as is" or mashed with a fork. Sticky rice is a WONDERFUL first food. They can get it stuck all over the hands, and some of it gets into the mouth.

3) I mostly didn't spoon feed. I left it up to him to get the food into his own mouth. This really emphasizes the fact that it's the parents' job to offer a nutritious range of foods, and it's the kids' job to eat what they choose to eat from that selection, right from the very start.

4) I skipped the baby food/baby cereal entirely. It trained my older boys to like smooth, bland food. Baby food was a necessity when solids were fed to 1-2 month old babies. A 6 month old doesn't need food pureed. If they are gagging alot on the chunkier stuff, it's probably a sign to hold off on solids a little longer.

5) Talking of gagging: occasional gagging is GOOD. Choking is BAD. If a child gags, it shows they can shift food away from their windpipe themselves. I used to completely overreact to gagging, and that kept the kids stuck on the pureed stuff for far too long.

6) In order to EAT the food, they have to WEAR the food. There's an hilarious piece of home video of me spoon-feeding my oldest son. With every spoonful, a little would dribble onto his chin, and I'd wipe it each time with a cloth. My 3rd son at the same age had food ALL OVER the tray and his hair and everything. The good news is, having started practicing self feeding from the start, he is now a neater eater than his older brothers

7) Absolutely no special order cooking. That was probably my single biggest mistake with his brothers. If he chooses not to eat what's offered, HE WILL NOT STARVE. That was such an incredibly hard fact to swallow, but it's true. Some days, even now, he eats very little. Other days, he eats more than I do!

8) Extended breastfeeding really helped me. If he didn't eat much, he could always fill up on breastmilk. Breastmilk is naturally reducing in calories/fat content by the end of the year, so there's no risk of getting too much nutrition that way.

9) If a food was rejected, I used to think it meant they didn't like it. Now, I think of it as "choosing not to eat it." That way, I don't hestitate to offer it again. It can take 15-20 offerings of a new food before a child will try it! That was true of many things with my 3rd son.

10) I didn't introduce one new food a week. We have no allergies in our family. Only about 1% of people have true food allergies. It seemed like something to worry about only if it happens. I introduced lots of different things at once, and watched for any reactions. If there had been a reaction, I'd then go to the "one new food a week" approach.

11) I steered clear of peanuts, walnuts, honey, and shellfish when my son was under a year old. Reactions to those can be so serious that it makes sense to wait. And I didn't give him very chokable foods such as whole grapes, raisins, hot dogs. But other than that, he ate whatever we ate. His favorite at about 9 months old was indian curry!!

12) I downplayed snacks. My 2 year old son rarely has a snack now. It's too easy for snack to be a time to fill up on low-nutrition/highly-craved-for food like crackers, cookies, sandwiches, etc. at the expense of mealtimes. If my kids are hungry, I let them raid the fruit basket. When my 3rd son was little, breastmilk was the snack.

13) The only drink I offered my son when he was a baby was water in a cup. If he was thirsty, he'd drink it quite happily having never known anything else. Now, I give him orange juice for breakfast, but other than that, he just has water all day.

This approach has worked so well in this family. My daughter is almost ready to start solids now, and I will follow this approach with her too.

Author's Bio: 

Liz Chalmers

I am a mother of four children, ranging in age from 10 years to 6
months. I'm the co-author of The Childbirth Kit (see for details.)

I was born and raised in England, but have lived in Seattle WA for 11
years and am now an American citizen. I am contemplating a career switch
from computing to naturopathic medicine.

My email is