The thing about the question of whether it’s okay to let Baby snack is that there’s snacking, and then there’s snacking. There’s a reason children as young as Baby is right now tend to gravitate towards a more snack-ey way of life, and it’s the fact that their tummies are so small, especially in comparison to their need for fuel, which just keeps growing as they do. This means that it only makes sense that your child will be hungry a bit more often than a standard three-meal day.
When he was breast- or bottle-feeding exclusively, he ate more often than three meals a day. He has definitely grown since then, he hasn&;t grown that much. While he shouldn’t be eating quite so often as when he was a newborn, he also isn’t ready to leap straight into grown-up eating patterns just because he is starting solids. Timing snacks so they’re fairly evenly spaced between meals gives Baby time to get his appetite back while still keeping his tiny little tummy from sitting empty.
In fact, getting used to eating small amounts on a regular basis is a good way of maintaining steady blood sugar levels, and to avoid over-eating at spaced-out meals, so healthy snacks interspersed between healthy meals can actually be better for the body than healthy meals on their own.
Most of the harm that can come from snacking comes from what Baby could be snacking on – there is a big difference between snacking on crackers, chips, or basically anything from the snack food aisle of the supermarket, and snacking on what amounts to smaller portions of the same kinds of foods you feed Baby at mealtimes. For one thing, if there isn’t a significant difference between the types of food available for snacking as opposed to mealtimes, it cuts down on the chance of pitting the two against each other – you don’t want Baby deciding he likes snack time better than mealtime because snacks taste better than meals. This can lead to Baby not getting into the habit of eating with his family, or not getting more comfortable with the more nutritionally balanced foods you serve for meals.
Some good snack foods for Baby include cooked, cut up veggies, cut-up pieces of fruit, hummus, small cubes of tofu, egg, or cheese, or even leftovers from his dinner the night before. More than that, mixing up the snacks you offer Baby will hep to keep him from getting too attached to the same snack foods every day, which can get in the way of his nutritionally varied diet.
Unfortunately, in some ways, this is another one of those ‘every child is different’ questions. You’re the person who is in the best position to learn Baby‘s patterns of hunger, and to figure out the best way to feed him based on that. The most important things to remember about snacking is not to fall into bad habits, like offering snacks as a cure for boredom or as a reward, as this sets a precedent for unhealthy eating habits.