Self-fulfilling prophecies

I’ve noticed that Sweet Potato rarely eats meat. I try to give her a little piece every time we eat meat, but I can’t remember the last time I saw her eat chicken, beef or sausage. Last week we had talapia, and she was brave enough to try it, but promptly spit it out. (I told her “you just haven’t tried it enough times yet,” and felt good about remembering that line.) Now I’m beginning to wonder how much I’ve talked about her distaste for meat in front of her. And how much of this talk is she internalizing and then acting out? Is her little brain thinking “Mama says I don’t like meat, so I’m not going to eat that chicken.”?  Do we, as American parents, sabatoge our own efforts to get our children to eat good food by reminding them that they “don’t like” something?

Just in case, I’ve decided to stop talking about Sweet Potatoe’s dislikes in front of her. If I’m going to talk about her food preferences, it’s going to be to brag about what she does eat, and how she is adventurous and brave about new foods, even if that stretches the truth a bit.  If Sweet Potato is going to fulfill one of my prophecies, I want it to be a good one.

Now for some gratuitous photos.

Baker in Training

Chip off the Old Block

 

I love Brussels sprouts!!

What I ate at our meal. I had to take a picture because it was really pretty, and particularly healthy.

 

What Sweet Potato started with (except that she had already eaten her strawberries)

What Sweet Potato started with (except that she had already eaten her strawberries)

 

Isn't Mama proud?

At meal’s end. When comparing these photos, it becomes clear that healthy food brings joy.

This was the first time she had eaten her entire slice of quiche in several months.  I was elated! I also discovered that she’ll eat Brussels sprouts if they’re quartered, but not if they’re halved. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the difference.

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Interpreting food refusal

Since Sweet Potato’s unexpected acceptance of cheese and eggs, she has continued to (usually) turn up her nose at these foods.  She even occasionally refuses pancakes and raisins.  I had been wondering how a child who normally loves pancakes will all of a sudden decide she doesn’t want one, and then it struck me.  Who of us doesn’t go through a phase of liking a food, and then a phase when we’re not in the mood for it? Especially if we’ve eaten that food every day for 3 or 4 days? Of course Sweet Potato is sick of pancakes by the fourth day; so am I! And a child learning to talk can’t tell me “Mama, I like pancakes, but I’m just not in the mood today.” I suspect most toddlers can’t put that concept into words either, hence my friends’ comments that their child who liked macaroni and cheese yesterday is today saying that it’s “yucky.”

In a book I read recently (I can’t remember whether it was French Kids Eat Everything or Bringing up Bebe), the author stated that adults will encourage kids to try a food, and if the child says that they “don’t like it,” the adult says “Oh well- you just haven’t tasted it enough times yet.”  Instead of getting riled up, they accept the statement, but don’t expect it to define their child’s taste for the rest of his life. How freeing!

So, as I continue to feed Sweet Potato, and introduce new foods to her, I’m going to take these attitudes. If she refuses food that she has previously liked, she’s just not in the mood today. If she tries something once and dislikes it, she just hasn’t tasted it enough times yet. I’ll keep offering new foods. One day she’ll come around.

Ten things I wish I had known

aka “Words of wisdom for weaning”

1. Take a deep breath. Relax. Nothing you do out of love regarding food/feeding at this point is going to scar your baby for life. It’s okay!

2. If you decide to make your own baby food, do so with the knowledge that much if not most of it is going to be thrown away rather than consumed, and with the attitude that that’s okay. If you can’t take that attitude, you may want to rethink making the food.

3. If you “cave” and buy baby food, even the non-organic Gerber food, that’s okay, too. It’s actually rather liberating. There are good options for pre-made baby food out there, and you can still teach your child to like good wholesome food. It’s also very convenient, and you need a little convenience once in a while.

4. Save some effort and use a food mill to puree some of what the family is eating. Why spend extra time making something for baby if you don’t have to?

5. If baby refuses a food, try again later. Later could mean tomorrow, in a few days or even a few weeks.  If you forget to introduce the food again for a few months, that’s okay too. It may even work better than giving it again right away.

6. Don’t feed your baby rice cereal unless it is very thin. And if you’re waiting until your baby is 6 months before trying it, she probably doesn’t need it to be very thin, so you may want to just use a different cereal. Believe me, you do not want a painfully constipated baby.

7. Work on introducing a cup or bottle. This is especially for breast-fed babies. I don’t think it matters much whether you pick a bottle, sippy or open cup, but your child will need extra fluid as she nurses less. Make acceptance of your chosen vessel a priority to avoid a dehydrated, constipated child.

8. Children acquire new skills at different rates. Just because your friend’s son can hold and appropriately use a spoon at one year doesn’t mean yours will. It’s okay.

9. Plan on sleeves and shirts getting dirty. If you don’t think you can mentally handle this, strip the kid down before meal times, and hose her off after she eats. Or just think of messy meals as an opportunity to change your kiddo into a different, but equally cute outfit.

10. As American women, we tend to over-analyze everything. Just remember that women have been having babies with no idea how exactly to do any of this stuff for thousands of years, and yet the human race has managed to survive and thrive. Also, your child will have no recollection of any of this anyway. I think God knew we were going to make some stupid mistakes, and this way our kids won’t be able to bring them up ad nauseam for the rest of our lives. Relax and enjoy this phase. It’s going to be okay!

What about you other moms? What do you wish you had known when you were starting your child on his or her food journey?