Is the above picture familiar to you? The empty chair with the plate of food! But where is your toddler?! Probably trying to find you to ask for boob…
Many of us go through similar steps when introducing solids…
1. Give our child their first piece of meat, mashed up vegetable, fruit or rice cereal mixed with our breastmilk.
2. Clap and laugh at our baby while they look up at us confused. He seems to be thinking, “how can you do this to me? I was so happy just drinking your milk…”
3. Keep trying ever so diligently to get him to EAT. SOMETHING.
4. Start to worry when he will only eat the occasional piece of food thrown at him and wonder how long he can survive on breastmilk only! Will he ever want something besides my boob?! He is already 12 months old! My sister’s kid eats like he has been starved his whole life and my toddler barely eats a crumb. Will he ever eat?!
…yes he will. 🙂 The end. No, just kidding I do have a thing or two more to say about the subject…
Here are important points to remember when introducing solids and when your baby turns into a toddler and continues to prefer boob to actual solid food.
From 6-12 months…the EXPLORATION PERIOD of “eating” solids.
This is the time when your child will either a) go completely crazy excited over food and eat like she has been starving for the last six months or b) look at you like you are an alien from outer-space who is giving her poison (which she will definitely not eat). Both of these reactions are NORMAL! You have nothing to worry about either way. For some reason in our Western societies we have become OBSESSED with how much our babies and toddlers eat!! “Look at what a good eater he is!” or, “Wow! I would be a bit worried that she is not eating much…” It’s not about the amount of food they are eating…it’s about WHAT they are eating and IF they are growing as expected and meeting their developmental milestones. Whether or not they eat 3 square meals a day is not an indication of overall health and well-being with your child. Look at the ENTIRE picture, not just the amount of food they are eating. A baby who is formula fed will have a need to eat more food and a larger variety of food than a breastfed baby. A baby who is breastfed is getting a huge variety of nutrients in their mother’s milk, where a baby who is formula fed is getting the same exact thing every time they have a bottle of formula.
Consider starting solid foods using the “baby led weaning” approach where you feed them a chuck of something off of your plate. Give them a piece of soft, cooked (obviously) sweet potato, a large lamb chop bone to suck on, or a piece of banana. Click HERE to read more about baby led weaning and what it’s all about. It’s not about “getting as much as possible into them!” it’s about exploration with food and getting them used to eating.
If you want your children to eat healthy then start with healthy foods! Sounds simple yet so often we find ourselves buying the “kid” stuff at the supermarket. The “kid” sausages, the “kid” snacks, the “kid” crackers…and then we wonder why they won’t eat our homemade sauerkraut and yoghurt. Start your kids with unsweetened, fermented or cultured foods. This will start their taste buds off on the right foot! Or tongue? Forget about the “kid” stuff, they can eat the same off of their plate that is on yours!
*Take home point…”Food before one is just for fun!”
Now to the 12-24 month period of eating food…the “I want to eat crackers and bread” period of eating. *take note, this period might last for five to ninety years instead of two! Crackers and bread continue to be the favourites for many of us.
This is the time when your child will either a) eat everything happily regardless of whether or not they are still breastfeeding or b) will eat things but be very picky with what they like. So what to do about your picky eater?
Remember your child will want to eat what is around, what is being offered and what you have in the house. If you offer cookies, cereals, cracker and bread then they will most likely want that over veggies, fruit, meat and dairy. STOP THE CRACKERS! When you offer them a plate of food, do not always include carbs or grains as this is what they will go for most of the time. If you want them to eat a larger variety of food then only offer them the variety instead of the “go to” staples that you know they will eat. If they know the cracker or bread will come eventually then they will hold out for that. Before you know it, they will eat fruits and veggies…stop buying the carbs or do what I do and hide in your bedroom while you eat them… 😀 I’m not saying “never give your child another cracker or piece of bread!” Just don’t have it around all the time for every meal.
So what about the “grown up” kid who hardly eats a thing?!
My husband has told the story many times about his “sausage eating years”, where he would only eat sausage for dinner. No vegetables. No fruit. No pieces of cheese. Just sausage. Now it’s important to note that this had nothing to do with my husband but it had everything to do with his parents! They allowed sausage to be an alternative for him every night for who knows how long. *To my in-laws if you are reading this, I love you and pass no judgement! Seriously! He survived the “sausage eating years” just fine…*
When my kids sit down to dinner they know the options, “dinner, fruit or veggies!” There is no option of cooking a separate meal (even if they want to cook it), there is no sausage option, there is nothing on offer except what I have cooked or an apple or carrot. MOST of the time they eat dinner. If they don’t eat dinner and choose an apple or carrot instead then great! They are eating a raw food that is healthy. If they are hungry enough they will eat what I have cooked even if they don’t love it. My oldest boy ate my pumpkin soup last night. He “HATES” pumpkin but he obliviously hated the idea of an apple more.
Your children will grow up eating what you eat and what you offer them. As they get older, head to school or friends’ houses they will of course eat what is offered to them most of the time (especially if it is a cake or cookie) but when they are home it’s all about creating the environment where the choices on offer are healthy. If there is always a cracker, bread, cookie option then that is what they will most likely go for!
Don’t stress if your little one is picky or prefers boob…the time will come when they would much rather eat an apple or avocado than breastmilk. Breastmilk is the most complete, nutrient dense food on the planet which is suited just for your child. Worried about iron levels? Read my article about baby led weaning and “eating” (sucking) on a chunk of kangaroo! Meat is a great first food and is full of iron. Vegetarian? The following are some vegan sources of iron: Spirulina, soybeans, quinoa, blackstrap molasses and spinach.
*There will always be exceptions to the general rule of “don’t worry, they’ll eat eventually”. An example of this is a child who has a sensory issue. If you feel as though your child is experiencing some sensory issues or sensitivities please visit your GP for a referral to get some support with this. There will in rare circumstances be children who have a very real, medical reason for not eating food.