Feeding Solids With Love

Vegetable stand
flickr/comprock

Feeding with love is an incredibly challenging yet important part of our parenting adventure. My husband has a ridiculous number of food allergies, as a toddler I had tons of allergies and my daughter is at risk for allergies. Early in my pregnancy, I came to the decision I would delay solids for our daughter, Arbor, to give her a better chance at avoiding the allergy issue. To me, this was feeding with love. Arbor is exclusively breastfed, which is a great victory to me because she spent her first ten days of life in the NICU. We had some challenges getting started with our breastfeeding relationship so our success has meant the world to me. I had great support and managed to avoid formula, thanks to the great ICN staff and lactation team at Duke. This was also feeding with love.

Now I have a happy and healthy five-month-old who nurses like a champ. Our nursing relationship is one of the single most important parts of our family dynamic. However, we’re getting to the age where most babies start solids. I was really hoping to avoid this until she was a year old. Some people have told me that’s utterly ridiculous while other moms have shared their experience with delaying. Arbor is at the age and developmental phase where she is gaining an interest in food. She’s started grabbing at our plates, has attempted to snatch food from our bowls and follows our every motion as food is moved from fork to mouth. She can now sit independently, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex when her lips are touched and can grab her toys, bring them to her mouth and chew like there’s no tomorrow. Developmentally she’s exactly where she should be in order to begin experiencing solid foods. I’ve been sticking to my guns about waiting until a year though. If you want to learn more about bay food nutrition facts, check this dailymom.com out.

This weekend we had a total game-changer. While my husband was snacking on a bowl of oatmeal, Arbor began her usual visual analysis of this whole “eating” thing Daddy was doing. Then she started chewing her mouth along with him and imitated his motions. She began grunting and leaning in towards him, all but begging for a bite. She grew increasingly frustrated that Daddy was not sharing that marvelous goop with her and I felt like we were being mean for upsetting her. I asked him to go eat in another room so she wouldn’t be as mad, so he hid behind a giant pillow where she wouldn’t see hIs food. I offered her the breast in case she was just hungry… she had no interest. She wanted Daddy’s oatmeal. Fortunately, out of sight, out of mind works for little babies. This frustration didn’t last long but it did open up the weaning discussion for Izzy and me.

We weighed out the pros and cons of both options… but it’s definitely not an easy decision to make. I almost went to the store that instant to pick up some avocados for her to try but Izzy reminded me that it’s only another three weeks until she hits the six-month mark. She might really need those three weeks to let her gut finish closing. After that date, we will keep good wholesome foods on hand that can be her starter foods when she is expressing a deep interest in starting solid food. We believe in baby-led weaning, so it’s important to us to allow Arbor to initiate the process, within reason. This too is feeding with love.

It’s my job as her mother to protect her and I take this role very seriously. It’s equally important that I not get so hung up on my individual goals for her that I’m preventing her from a normal, healthy and even fun part of her growth and development. I’m incredibly excited to see how she reacts to her first taste of flavorful food and am allowing that excitement to be greater than my fear of allergies. So we are preparing to lovingly usher in the next era of our parenting journey. Time to stock up on drop cloths and fresh veggies!

Involving Children in Food

I breastfed both of my babies. Once we got the hang of things, it was easy. When they were hungry, or wanted comfort, they nursed. Simple. Then I introduced solid foods, and the world changed. Feeding with love and respect took on new meaning. Food altogether took on new meaning. Suddenly, there was a question of what and how much to offer. Suddenly, I could see exactly how much my child did (or didn’t) eat. And frequently, I worried.

Thankfully, I found a lot of gentle and common-sense wisdom on feeding kids. I realized that just as at the breast, I could trust my children to set their own pace and schedule with solid foods as well. As long as I generally offered them healthy food, I could leave the rest to them.

Hannah and her seed packets

Even after making this realization, I am still not as zen about my kids’ eating habits as I would like to be. Sometimes when they’re being really picky I still sweat it. And sometimes they really chafe against the healthy options presented. I decided that presenting healthy options wasn’t enough — I needed to get them involved in the food they ate.

After all, I am raising people who will hopefully feed themselves one day. I want them to know where their food comes from. I want them to appreciate the impact of their choices on their own health and the health of the planet. And I want them to have basic food preparation skills. And I think that steps I can take now can help.

I grow children, too

I involve my children in food a few ways:

  • They help me prepare meals. This doesn’t always go smoothly, but most of the time I can find tasks that are age-appropriate and fun. Sticking fruit on skewers, stirring and pouring are 3 favourite food prep activities for my preschoolers.
  • We work in the garden together. No food tastes better than the food you’ve picked fresh yourself. And growing your own fruit and veggies provides the ideal window into where food actually comes from.
  • We visit farmer’s markets and buy fresh, local, whole foods. I chat with the growers, sample heirloom tomatoes, and give my kids a window into a world where food doesn’t come in boxes with cartoon characters on the front.
  • We visit farms. Our home is in the suburbs, so my kids don’t get to see chickens or cows in their daily life. By heading out to the country they can see where their milk and eggs come from, and how the animals live.

By following my children’s own hunger and thirst cues, I am teaching them that I love and respect them. By providing them with healthy options I am trying to ensure that they eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet. And by involving my children in the food that the eat, I’m teaching them that there is a whole lot of backstory to every bite they take. I hope that by knowing that backstory, they will come to appreciate their food much more.

How do you involve your children in their food? I would love to hear!

You can catch up with Amber’s regular adventures in food on her blog at Strocel.com.

They Swam and They Swam All Over the Dam

As we finished putting dinner on the table tonight, my two-year old burst into hysterical tears. It was the kind of cry that happens when he’s injured or very scared. My best friend Jocelyn and her daughter are staying with us this week and they were in the dining room with Cavanaugh but neither of them had any idea what had happened. Jocelyn held Cavanaugh while he sobbed and when he’d finished crying, he wanted to draw. I asked if he’d hit his head or if he’d slipped trying to get up in his chair, but he only hugged me tighter. He refused to sit at the dining table with us. We brought one of his little tables and a chair into the dining room and he drew while my husband sat across from him and offered him food. Cavanaugh wouldn’t eat.

Continue reading “They Swam and They Swam All Over the Dam”

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