When my daughter was approaching 6 months I had a moment of shocking realisation. Despite my years of experience as a dietitian, I had never been responsible for feeding anyone except myself! So, with my analytical mind in full swing I set about reading up on infant feeding – what to introduce and when, consistency of foods… the list went on.
How do you feed?
What I learned over the next weeks, months and years is that feeding children is less about the food and more about HOW we feed. I learned that my daughter had much more to teach me than I would glean from any textbook or blog article. She taught me more about herself, and me, than I ever imagined. She taught me that each child has their own way of exploring and creeping up on new foods and that we, as parents, do best when we support and provide structure but don’t interfere. Feeding kids well is, for many parents, a lot about letting go.
Enjoy the Honeymoon
Most older babies and young toddlers (but not all) who are first exploring solids are very keen to try and will readily accept any and all foods that are offered. I was blessed with a fiercely independent child who didn’t seem to have a honeymoon period.
For most children, the honeymoon doesn’t last long and the child who seemingly “ate anything” soon begins to start loudly and stubbornly making his own choices about how much and whether to eat the foods offered.
When the honeymoon is over, be thankful you started positive food habits by offering a variety of foods at regular mealtimes in a pleasant environment with minimal distraction. This is always your job in the feeding relationship till your kids are teens, no matter what.
How do children eat?
Do you have picky eater? If you’re constantly comparing your child with the kid who “eats everything” then it may seem as if you do. Get ready for a healthy dose of reality and make peace with the fact that it’s really OK if your child does not finish everything on his plate.
This is how normal, healthy, growing children eat (and still grow):
- I sometimes eat a little, sometimes a lot and sometimes nothing at all.
- I often eat only one or two types of foods that are offered.
- Unfamiliar foods may be scary to me. I need time to learn to like them.
- I put food in my mouth, and take it out again, and put it in, and take it out (this is how I learn about food).
- I sometimes throw food on the floor or drop it to the dog.
- I eat food because it is familiar to me.
- I eat food because it tastes good to me.
- Familiar foods are safe to me.
- I eat food because it smells good to me.
- I squish food in my fingers.
- I make a mess with food.
- I will eat a particular food one day and not the next.
- I eat food because it looks good to me.
Appreciate the little things
Feeding kids is so much more than nutrition. It is a time to explore, to delight, to experience, to connect, to understand, to grow, to nurture, and to love your child. It truly is about the journey more than the destination.
Enjoy the journey and eat happy!