Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Evolution of an independent eater

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I had a lot of trouble nursing Marko (to be honest, I am still having trouble with it, even though he's almost weaned), so I guess it is only fair that I have never had any trouble getting him to eat solid food.

I had been planning on making all his baby food myself, until I found out about baby-led weaning. Let the baby feed himself the same stuff you're eating? I was sold. And I never had to suggest it to Marko .... he was trying to help himself out of my bowl for quite awhile before I gave in and let him eat little bits of carrot out of my stew.

I confess -- he was a little shy of six months when we started. And he hadn't developed the pincer grasp. But he was so eager to eat. I think he was still hungry from all our nursing difficulties. I let him at it, just a meal a day, and he took to it enthusiastically.

Since we'd had trouble already with food sensitivities, I was very, very careful about what I let him have. We'd try a new food every week or so. Some were huge hits: avocado, pumpkin, refried beans. (That last one was equal parts food and finger paint.) Others seemed to disagree with him: peas, sweet potato, cheese. I let him have a tiny bit of cheese at seven months, and he got a bleeding diaper rash. I felt so guilty. But by ten months, he was eating dairy of all kinds with no problem.

Meat was a HUGE hit. He would happily eat little crumbles of ground beef off his high chair tray as long as I kept handing them out. It's funny that doctors always tell you to give beef later, because it went down better than anything else he'd eaten. (Not to be too disgusting, but it was the only food that didn't show up later, unchanged, in his diaper.)

He wasn't much more than six months when he suddenly started using his pincer grasp to grab tiny pieces of food off his tray. The smaller it was, the happier he was to pick it up. Since I delayed grains till a year (having heard they are not very easy for babies to digest), we skipped the cheerios and gave him diced cooked carrots, shredded pickled carrots, diced avocado, and little bits of ground beef or beans.

Suddenly, around a year old, food was where it was at. He would refuse to nurse and reach eagerly for his high chair. I have to admit, it made me feel rejected. But he still did nurse several times a day, so I lived with it. The hard part was planning food for him to eat everywhere we went. Gone were the days of being able to leave the house with nothing but a couple of spare diapers! Now I needed a box of crackers or a banana in the diaper bag, too.

The only issue at this point was his longing for soupy foods -- yogurt, applesauce, soup -- and inability to use a spoon. I tried to show him how it worked, but he just couldn't manage it. The food would land in his hair or his lap every time. So I reluctantly fed him these with a spoon. My goodness, what a lot of trouble! The boy was absolutely willing to cooperate, but it was still tiresome to have to keep ladling the food into his mouth while I went hungry. I much preferred eating my food while he ate his.

A couple of months ago, it finally clicked. He grabbed a spoon, dunked it in the applesauce, and started shoveling it in. What a relief! He happily feeds himself pretty much anything now. Of course, whenever he uses a spoon, there are plenty of spills, to say nothing of what he dumps off the side of the high chair to share with the dog.

One problem that's surfaced lately is his reluctance to get in the high chair. No matter how hungry he is, sometimes he just won't get in there. So most of the food I've been giving him lately is fine to eat on the go. Right now he's roaming the living room with a peanut butter sandwich. I don't mind. It's much more important to me that he has good food to eat than that he spend his time buckled into a high chair. Sometimes we practice sitting in a big people chair at the table, but he's a little short for it yet.

He's also a lot pickier than he used to be. I used to be able to plop any food I wanted on his tray and watch it disappear. Now that he can express what he wants, he has a lot of demands. Sometimes it involves some negotiation: "Banana!" "Nope, out of bananas. Do you want a sandwich?" "Yogurt!" "Yes, yogurt is something you can have!" I don't worry too much about the balance of his diet, because I don't feed him unhealthy food at all (as a general rule) and because he always eats what we have for dinner.

In fact, as long as we grown-ups are eating something, he will try it and like it: kimchi, salad, fish, spinach -- anything. But lately, morning sickness has gotten me making things for myself that sound good and yet turn my stomach when I try them. So I put them in the fridge, and when Marko's hungry, I pull them out. He hasn't seen me eat them, so he can't know I find them disgusting, but he absolutely refuses to try a single bite. I think it's his instinct to watch me and to eat what I eat -- so unless I eat something and show that I enjoy it, he doesn't trust it. Conversely, I have to be careful not to eat candy or junk food in front of him, or he will beg for it, even though he doesn't know what it is.

Can I promise everyone will have an independent, adventurous eater if they practice baby-led weaning and show a good example of eating and enjoying various foods? Of course not. But at the same time, I don't think it could hurt, either. Certainly it's worked well for Marko, and I intend to try the same things with the new baby.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 8 with all the carnival links.)


Lauren Wayne said...

It's so interesting he watches your modeling so closely! I definitely can see that with Mikko as well — unfortunately, I'm not quite as virtuous as you are about banning the junk. ;)

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Kieran was the exact opposite - he was completely uninterested in food until almost a year old. I have a feeling I'll have one more like yours for #2, just so I can experience both extremes ;) And we too love BLW!

Gretchen said...

We're working on spoon use right now. Especially for yogurt! BLW is the way to go - it's been the best thing for Jemma!

Lisa C said...

I loved reading your experience with BLW. My little guy loved ground beef, too! If we have another baby I would change it up in terms of what food we offered, but the concept I love. I especially love the social aspect as you described: eating while the family eats, eating what the family eats, and looking to parents for clues on what is good to eat. Thanks for sharing!

Jen Westpfahl said...

My almost-2-year-old is a huge meat eater too. And she has always known what she wants to eat when, which has always amazed me.

I think you are right that he only eats what he sees you eat. I've read that toddlers have those kind of mechanisms built in to keep them from eating things that are poisonous or otherwise dangerous.

Phoebe said...

I enjoyed your post, both of mine sneaked food to the dog too! My youngest is big on meat, but the eldest really isn't keen - it's funny how that works.
I've found that if I ever give Elise anything different she's always eyeing up my plate, and I've also been known to hide in the kitchen, sneak-eating junk... Working on stopping that!

Unknown said...

Our children are little clones...down to the consuming of kimchi and fish! One of my daughter's most favorite first foods was seaweed. Imagine! Loved this post and loved the pictures. It was a trip down memory lane for me.

Shannon said...

If he won't sit in the high chair anymore, try a little booster seat. It's easier to pull up all the way to the table, so it can be a more appealing way for some kids. We finally had to pry my 3.5 year old out of the high chair so that she can get used to it not being hers before we give it to the soon to be new sibling.

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