My son has always been a chubby bubba and a good feeder, so it came as quite a surprise to me when he didn’t take to solids easily. My passion is cooking, and I was really looking forward to introducing new foods to him. In the week we chose to start solids, I read everything I could about weaning, decided on my approach, bought my supplies and made batches of yummy apple puree. He hated the puree and gagged on just about everything else that I tried.
Aside from this he just didn’t seem interested. He had way more fun playing with the spoon than he did his food. In the weeks that followed my chubby baby started crawling and he lost weight from not eating. Mealtimes felt a bit like a battle. I found this stage really hard, I love food and I love sharing food with my loved ones. I wanted mealtimes at our table to be something that he looked forward to. He began to resist his highchair and when food came near him was very agitated.
We persevered, trialed lots of different approaches and I am happy to say that 3 months later I now have a boy that loves to try new things and joyfully engages in mealtimes. While we are by no means experts, the following are strategies we tried that worked. I hope they are useful.
Sometimes as parents we get so concerned about how much our babies are eating that we forget to make meals engaging for them. Its no surprise that toddlers can get quite resistant and stubborn at mealtimes. I suppose if we think about it from their point of view, it would be pretty horrible to have someone shoving unfamiliar food into your mouth at a pace you cannot control. We stepped back from this and allowed my son to pick at small, soft chopped up food. There were a few days when he ate barely anything but slowly he started to engage with what was in front of him. The best part about this approach is you can relax, eat your own meal and allow your baby the freedom to explore.
Take away the pressure:
No one likes being pressured to eat. We have stopped trying to force him. We talk, laugh with him and eat our own meals. Despite my worry that he might not get enough food, he has really responded to our trust. Instead of resisting us he engages with us and happily chomps away on what we are offering.
We got rid of the bib, bowl and spoon. They were all distractions and he spent more time playing with them than his food. We pop foods onto his highchair and let him go for it! Food gets EVERYWHERE but he loves it. Babies are sensory, they need to touch and smell foods before trying them. The mess and the chaos has a purpose.
Build in LOTS of snacks:
Babies have short attention spans and a meal can feel like a long expanse of time for them. Its no surprise that many kids wail when placed in their highchair. I allow my son to graze throughout the day, rather than pressuring him to eat huge amounts in three sittings. It means that I can factor in quite a few food groups and he has the patience to eat them. Now that he is crawling around, I also leave tiny torn up bits of sandwich on a plate on our coffee table. He is quite good now at playing for a while and then stopping for a bite or two of the sandwich. I monitor him quite closely though to ensure that he doesn’t choke.
Keep offering foods but don’t pressure them to eat them.
I read once somewhere; that a baby needs to taste, feel and smell a new food 30 times before taking to it. So if at first they don’t like a food, try again. I have offered a little banana to my son every day for 3 months. Each time he pulls a funny face and pushes it away. To my amazement this week he actually picked up some banana on his own accord and ate it. It may not be his favourite fruit, but it is great to see him trying it.
Eat with your child:
Aside from a couple of on the go snacks, we always eat together. I really believe that children need good eating habits to be modelled to them.
The grater is your best friend:
Once your baby has learnt to chew and has some confidence with eating, grated food is a good way to go. It is far easier for babies to pick up and chew. Cheese, cooked pumpkin, pear, carrot, cucumber and apple all work well.
Make food easy to handle:
My son hates anything that feels a bit slimy and he also has trouble picking it up. If you have this issue, try coating finger sized pieces of food in breadcrumbs. Something like avocado or fish becomes much easier for little hands to grab. I also leave a little bit of peel on a banana so that it is easy to pick up.
Tear it up:
I tear up bits of what we are eating and pop it straight onto the highchair for him to grab. No need for a processor here!
Rissotto is your best friend.
My son loves risotto. It is sticky and easy for him to grab and I like that I can pack lots of different veggies into it.
Well that is it from me. What has worked for you?