Baby brother

Sweet Potato has a new baby brother.  While we were expecting, we’d ask her what we should name him. One of Sweet Potato’s actual suggestions was “Eggplant Tomato”. Needless to say, we didn’t actually  name him that, but that’s what I’ll call him here.

The cutest kids ever

Eggplant Tomato and Sweet Potato

So far, Eggplant Tomato is nursing and growing well.  He is now 6 months old, and I have started to introduce solids into his diet.  From what I remember, Sweet Potato was pretty interested in food, and willingly opened her mouth for the spoon. Not so, Eggplant Tomato.  Whenever I hold a spoon of food in front of him, he looks at it and at me with his mouth closed and a slightly puzzled look on his face.  Then he begins to swing both hands at the spoon, which I finally realized is his attempt to grab it himself.  But when I manage to get a bite of baby food into his mouth he vacillates between gagging, making faces, and grinning at me with his mouth hanging open, food and drool dripping onto his bib.  So, he usually just gets to hold and chew on a clean baby spoon while Sweet Potato and I eat breakfast.

Sometimes I’ll give him tiny bites of what I’m eating. The other day he seemed interested in my slightly spicy beans and rice, so I held up a grain of rice for him to eat. ET dutifully opened his mouth, and even seemed to like it.  He also has gotten tiny bites of waffle cone from my fingers and potato from my fork.  But after that when I tried to feed him baby food again from a spoon, he gave me that confused skeptical look again. He has done this multiple times, while also seeming willing and eager to eat what is on my plate.  I have come to the conclusion that this baby does not like or want baby food; he wants to eat table food.

I can feed myself!

Baby carrots anyone?

I want to do it myself!

So now I have a dilemma. How do I feed him foods that he can “chew” and swallow that are appropriately seasoned (read: not over salted) in adequate quantities to support his growth, all while not needing to cook extra foods for the baby? Or should I just continue to give him our foods in larger amounts and let him gag or spit them out if he can’t tolerate them? Have any of my readers wisdom to offer on this subject?

ET adores his big sister SP.


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?

Pickiness begins

A few weeks ago, now, Sweet Potato started turning up her nose at some foods that I know she likes. This seems to have only gotten worse. Let me give a few examples.

This week I made a casserole using roasted veggies on her Like list- sweet potato (obviously!), cauliflower, and to a lesser extent sweet peppers.  Granted, this recipe was fairly spicy, but she didn’t touch it! And Hubby and I thought it was delicious!

Then, this weekend we were in Lancaster, PA for the Bird in Hand half marathon.  I decided to sign our family up for the all-you-can-eat pasta dinner, but SP ate little of her pasta, none of her meatballs, and an entire  bread stick. I have been worrying lately that she isn’t getting enough protein.

eating like a big girl

Can you say “carb lover?”

Tonight for supper we had the leftovers of a cheesy chicken and rice casserole. Sweet Potato likes carrots, rice, and sometimes chicken, but all she would eat tonight (and the first time) was the carrots. Maybe she didn’t like the cheesy sauce, but really, there’s nothing in this recipe that she shouldn’t like.  She kept hollering and reaching for the fridge during supper, and my only guess at what she wanted was pancakes. I tend to keep a bunch in the fridge because they make an easy breakfast (and snack), but perhaps I’ve come to rely too heavily on them. I gave her a glass of milk, and that comprised the bulk of her supper. Mistake? Perhaps, but I would have let her have the milk anyway.

So what now? I suppose I’ll do more dinners like tonight- foods that she likes, and if she doesn’t eat them, she goes to bed hungry.  Sooner or later she’ll have to learn that what we’re eating is all there is. Hopefully she caves before I do.

Book review: French Kids Eat Everything

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters

I put French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon on hold at the library when a friend recommended it to me after my sippy cup musings. I was a little skeptical that I’d actually read and finish it (I’m not much of one for non-fiction), but I’ve had a hard time putting it down!  There are so many good snippets of wisdom, that I wanted to mark at least every other page, but had to stop myself because it’s a library book.  Shucks! That makes remembering where the good parts are difficult, which in turns makes writing a review a little tricky.

In FKEE, Le Billon writes about her time spent in France as a Canadian mom (kids ages: 6 and “toddler”) with her French husband.  They moved to Brittany, a rural area in northern France where his family lives.  She spends quite a bit of time throughout the book describing French food culture because it has such a tremendous bearing on the way French kids eat.  When she said that the topic of what’s for lunch comes up at the breakfast table, and more often than not what’s for supper comes up at lunch, I thought to myself  “a nation of people just like me! and so many of the other dietitians I know!”

Near the beginning of the book (p 51), she quotes Ellyn Satter’s “division of responsibility” (without actually citing it, maybe because she doesn’t know how right on she stated it or where she actually got it): “Kids get to decide whether, what, and how much to eat.” Unfortunately, in context, she makes this sound like a ludicrous idea, mostly because of the way she was putting it into practice: letting her kids dictate what she cooked for them for meals and letting them eat snacks at any time, anywhere.

The rest of the book goes on to describe her discovery of the French food “rules”- more like habits, as culture is wont to be, and her implementation of them in her own family.  These rules are printed conveniently on the back cover of the book.  Anyway, in her description of how the rules play out in the lives of the French people she observed (friends, inlaws, strangers), she pretty much describes a whole society whose eating culture is a grand example of Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility, as well as all the “mindful eating” stuff that dietitians like to talk about.

In France, parents and schools set meal times. There is no snacking, except for the after school snack.  Wouldn’t you know, Ellyn Satter (ES) says that it’s the parent’s job to set the times of meals and snacks!

In France, kids eat what the adults eat. One meal is prepared, and everyone partakes of it. ES also recommends no “short-order” cooking.

In France, parents tell their kids to try a food, and expect that it may take as many as 10 or more trials before a child likes the food.  ES tells parents to expose a child to food at least many times before throwing in the towel.

In France, when a child doesn’t like a food after tasting it, the adults say “you just haven’t tasted it enough times yet. Maybe next time!” and move on- no stressing and agonizing about what the child will eat.  ES says to keep meal times stress free.  The main difference between what ES says and what French culture dictate is that the French, apparently, do strongly encourage a child to taste a food, whereas ES doesn’t recommend this.

I could go on and on about how what the French are doing (according to Le Billon) is almost exactly what Ellyn Satter recommends after all her hours of research and working with kids and families on eating. Funny that someone could spend a lifetime in America discovering that the French cultural way of eating and teaching children to eat is the best way to get kids to eat a healthy, varied diet, and to enjoy eating for what it is rather than emotionalising it. Huh.

I’ll just end by giving you the rules for school lunches set out by the french National Ministry of Education, which I think are some of the best I’ve heard.

“Vegetables had to be served at every meal: raw one day, cooked the next.  Fried food could be served no more than once per week. Real fish had to be served at least once per week. Fruit was served for dessert every second meal, at a minimum; sugary desserts were allowed- but only once per week.” (p 42)

I have found this book very inspiring, and I recommend you read it- especially if you have kids or are just interested in the food culture of another nation.

Le Billon, Karen. French Kids Eat Everything. 2012, Harper Collins, New York.

Picky eaters

I know a lot of moms who think that their kids are picky eaters, and they all have a somewhat different way for dealing with the problem. Since I haven’t had this problem (yet! I’m sure it’s coming!), I don’t have a lot to offer as far as personal experiental advice. However, I have read a bit about how to deal with it, and this is a good article I came across recently that gets the main thrust of all the RD advice I’ve heard.  When you look at the rules Ms. Wallace offers, it takes the stress off. Parents, just offer your kids healthy foods, at regular times, and keep the stress level low. Give your child the opportunity to decide the rest.  Ellyn Satter calls this “division of responsibility in eating” and also says to also offer something like bread or rice at each meal- something that you know your child will like even if she refuses everything else.  Even if all she eats is bread for a couple days, or weeks, she will eventually eat something else!  I plan on using this advice when Sweet Potato decides that she only likes carbs, and I’m confident it will work.

Cups, cups, cups

I discovered at a recent barbecue picnic that Sweet Potato is enamoured of drinking from a cup. I’m not sure if she’s more interested in the cup or what’s in the cup.  Probably the former given that she often spits out what I let her try.  She really liked the Spelenda-sweetened tea they were serving, but that’s hardly surprising. It was quite sweet, and the tea wasn’t particularly strong.

That got me thinking: what did parents do before sippy cups? The sippy cups we have today are “spill proof,” but even in past iterations, the cups had spouts to make drinking easier. I know, because my mother in law still has several of those Tupperware cups- and they work well for a baby who hasn’t figured out how to use the modern kind that only operates with significant suction.  Or were they really invented to keep things cleaner? I think that’s the more likely scenario.  I doubt that moms let their toddlers run around the house with glasses full of apple juice before these handy cups were invented, but there were surly a number of accidents while children were learning to drink.

Did moms have to be more aware of their children’s thirst and make a point to offer water on a regular basis? I’m sure that if there had been car seats, there would be no integrated cup holders. At what age would a child be proficient at using a regular adult glass? Because I’m sure this was in the era before plastic was ubiquitous.  And would it be so bad to go back to this era?  Are sippy cups an invention of modern times in the same vein as the “kids meals” that I find so exasperating? Are sippy cups training our children to be gluttonous slobs who think they can eat and drink anything, anywhere at any time?

Okay, maybe they’re not that bad. But I think that this summer, Sweet Potato will get plenty of chances to drink water out of a solo cup. Outside.

The great appetite change

Well, I think it’s upon us. Sweet Potato is finally not finishing her meals, and refusing foods that I know she likes. Case in point: the other day I decided to use some of the chard from the garden, and some beans I had in the fridge to make us a quick lunch. SP doesn’t always eat greens, but she often does, and she loves beans.  So I sauteed the chard with a fair amount of garlic and some red pepper flakes, let it cook until fairly dry, then added the beans to wam through. I was skeptical that it would be good, since I didn’t grow up eating greens and am still developing a taste for them.

Beans and Greens

What a pleasant surprise! It was quite delicious. And I felt quite virtuous after eating it, especially because I had even already run that morning. But my sweet baby had a different opinion of our healthy lunch. Here is Sweet Potato at the beginning of lunch.

She is still figuring out how to use utensils

Here she is when she was waving her hands franticaly to communicate that she was “all finished!”

“all done, Mama!”

What did she eat? A half a muffin. Then I gave her the other half because I didn’t want a whiney starving baby in an hour. What happened to my good eater? I guess her growth, and appetite, has finally slowed. Or maybe she doesn’t prefer really garlicky food. Either way, she has definitely been eating less, and showing stronger preferences. I suppose this is okay, as long as I keep offering her healthy foods, including several good protein sources each day.

Now for a gratuitous cute baby picture:

Vampire baby!

Enjoying cherries

And here is the pizza I made the other day. I cut a small slice into small pieces for Sweet Potato, and she gobbles them up. It was a good pizza, if I do say so myself.

Pizza with sauteed onion and pepper