Monday, May 14, 2012
The Basics in Transitioning (or Starting) with Solids
I’ve always been big on nutrition.
During pregnancy, I was advising other moms on healthy diets—how to cook and eat whole foods (not the organic store chain, but rather brown rice instead of white, using more legumes, etc). I was super annoyed when my pregnancy blood work came back showing me borderline gestational diabetes and borderline anaemic in spite of my stellar eating habits. I’m proof positive that hormones can and will screw you over in that department anyways, but it’s still no excuse to slack on a healthy diet!
Later, I was huge on breastfeeding (or rather, exclusive pumping), taking vitamins and continuing to eat right in order to provide my son with the best nutrition—putting wheat germ on my cereal… the whole nine yards. It shouldn’t have been any surprise to friends after that I’d be super keen on my son’s diet when he transitioned from breast milk to foods.
The question always comes up: what do I feed my toddler? And there are many answers to that with a whole array of options that can sometimes be confusing or difficult to break down. The purpose of this post is an attempt to make it all a little simpler.
First, I want to put down some ground rules that seem to get forgotten in all of the hoopla on toddler nutrition.
Until your baby is 18 months to 2 years, breast milk and/or baby formula will very likely be your baby’s primary source of nutrition and calories. So if your six month old isn’t keep up with the champion Baby-Led Weaners eating chicken straight off the leg, you are so far from alone… and in fact, the six month old eating chicken straight off the leg is the odd ball out. So up until 18 months to 2 years, solids are for fun. Relax, introduce them and see how much enjoyment your baby gets out of them!
Variation is the key to better nutrition and to keep things interesting. But always have your fallbacks ready. Try introducing a new food, or an old food presented in a new way, every week. Some things will fly, some won’t. A lot of food ends up on the floor. Don’t sweat any of that. Now is not the time to be talking to your baby about starving children in African nations. Now is the time to keep eating interesting and fun.
Don’t be afraid of mess. Fearing the clean up after only holds your baby back. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll quickly see how fast and easy post meal clean up can be.
Encourage without pressure or stress. Babies are little empaths, reflections of you. If you’re stressed over meals, that teaches baby that meals are meant to be stressed over… and they’re not. If you’re having difficulty with the process (fear of gagging, fear of baby not being able to control their portions, etc.), take a break from trying to re-examination in yourself what the issue is and try to overcome that on your own before trying again. Or sometimes a little exposure to the issue helps.
For example, I had a great big huge fear of my son gagging and choking and I wouldn’t be able to save him. It would keep me up at night with worry. What I discovered was that I was PPD and I couldn’t find it in myself to trust my son with his food. So when I got treatment for the PPD and when I did other activities with my son so I could learn to trust him better, I was able to trust him more with his food. Now I fully know that he knows how to handle himself with his food. It took some time and a little exposure, but under different, less stressful circumstances.
So with those ground rules in place, on to the adventure of eating!