feeding a small child: what has worked for me

As we prepare to plunge into introducing food to our second child, the Pixie, I am reminiscing about Birdie’s food journey. I’ve been wondering if there is anything we need to change this time around, which foods first, prepared how and so on.

From her first ever mouthful pictured above to now, nearly 3, I have to say she has been a pretty fantastical eater. She’s good. Yes there are foods she doesn’t like. Yes sometimes she doesn’t want to eat and then complains fifteen minutes later that she’s huunggg-wwwyyy!!! But on the whole, she eats. And she eats well.

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My Mum was amazed at one point at what Birdie was eating compared to another little gal we know of the same age. I don’t have any huge tricks, and no doubt the Pixie will blow all of this out of the water as she tends to do, but here are some of the food guidelines we have stuck to which I think have helped us get to where we are today, and which I will be repeating for Pixie. If you like them, feel free to try a few yourself. If you think they suck that’s ok too! You have to do what works for you. That should be the first food rule. Actually, doing what works for you should be the first and last parenting rule!

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Here goes:

:: No sugar. We didn’t introduce sugar until Birdie was about two years old. She had her first bit of chocolate a month before she was two, at Easter. Please note that this choice is not for everyone. We copped a hell of a lot of flack and sent back a number of baby-cinos (can you believe what turns up on a baby-cino?) but I would not change this for anything. She still rarely has sugar, we save it for special occasions like family celebrations and that is usually it. People gave us a bit of stick and said we were being mean and depriving her so on, but I personally believe we have done her a huge favour. Besides, how can you be deprived of sugar if you don’t know it exists? I could go on and on here, woah Nelly.

:: Persist. They say (don’t you love “them”?) it takes at least three times for a child to try something and decide whether or not they like it. I have found this to be absolutely true. It would take me all week to list the things that Birdie has turned her nose up at, only to finally eat, chew and swallow happily after it has continually landed on her plate. It would be so, so easy to fall into the trap of avoiding putting certain things on her plate because you are pretty certain she won’t eat it. That doesn’t happen here. She gets all the things she doesn’t like over and over and over again and I don’t think there is one thing that she hasn’t eventually tried and even liked. Persist, persist!

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:: Don’t offer a back-up. By this I mean, we don’t give Birdie her meal and then when she doesn’t eat it, give her something else. What she gets is what she gets. She learnt pretty quickly that there wasn’t going to be any chasers.

:: Learn about your child’s eating habits. Birdie is a grazer, as most toddlers and small people are. Kids don’t eat like adults do. If she has a good go at her lunch or dinner and says she’s had enough, I leave her plate there for a bit. Nine times out of ten she will have a play and say she’s hungry again after 15 or 20 minutes. I learnt this one the hard way!

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:: Get the veg in! Following from the tip above, I know that Birdie eats her best and the most in the morning. So we often grate carrot or other veg along with apples or whatever is in season into her porridge. Wallah! She eats it and doesn’t know any better! I also try millions of different ways of serving/cutting/slicing veg and sure enough she might like one of them. Veggie juice is a favourite around here, and frozen veggie juice is an even bigger hit. Bless her, she’s none the wiser.

:: Serve wholesome food. Homemade, homegrown, basic, simple, real. As much as possible.

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:: What’s good for the goose… Once we had introduced all foods into Birdie’s diet, there was no longer a need to present her with a different meal. Ever since her gut and digestive system have been ready, she has eaten whatever we eat. As a result, she eats normal food, not special kiddie food. And I make and prepare one meal only. Of course if we want to eat something really spicy for example, I will take some out for her before I add the spices.

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:: Take your own food. I always pack Birdie morning tea/lunch/afternoon tea when we are going out. This way I don’t have to buy anything, she’s happy and always has something good to eat, and I’m happy watching her eat good things.

:: Give yourself a break. The 80/20 rule people! I don’t beat myself up if I give her packaged food when we are camping, or if I haven’t done a food shop and I need to buy her something when we are out. This doesn’t happen often so when it does, I enjoy the break and she enjoys a treat.

:: Involve your child. Birdie helps with every meal, be it in the preparation or collecting various items for me from around the kitchen. She has also recently begun setting the table, which is now her “job” each meal. When given the choice she will always opt to help in the kitchen instead of play with her toys or read or do anything else. She loves cooking and she loves trying different things while helping out. Just the other week I turned around in the kitchen only to find her chomping on a whole mushroom that was on the chopping board ready to be chopped. It’s a great way for her to experiment and try different foods without one of us thrusting a spoon in her face.

:: Eat as a family and lead by example! As often as we can we all sit down together for mealtimes. If Birdie is having trouble eating something or doesn’t like the look of something, we try it all together from our own plates. Without making a fuss, just seeing us eating all our veg and enjoying our food is helping her develop a positive relationship with food.

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There are probably many other things that have become habits for us over our kid-feeding path that I can’t think of right now. Instead I will share with you some of the resources that I have found invaluable when trying to get my head around everything from introducing food to feeding a small person to transporting food to packaging and so on:

BOOKS

:: Wholefood for Children, by Jude Blereau.

Recipes from introducing food to age 7. And so much food information. Sometimes I don’t have all the ingredients on hand but this book has been by far my most used resource on this topic. I totally love it.

:: Well Adjusted Babies, by Dr Jennifer Bargam-Floreani.

Information about which foods to introduce and when and why.

:: Baby Love, by Robin Barker.

Information about which foods to introduce and when and why as well as some basic recipes.

WEBSITES

:: This Whole Family

Great kid friendly recipes.

:: Little Eco Footprints

Lots of information about packaging, food and snack ideas and as the title suggests, decreasing our eco footprints in the process.

Enjoy!

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on a whim…

I saw some information here the other day about a a cleansing whole food online workshop – the 30 Day Vegan. The workshop is run by Heather from Beauty that Moves. I thought it looked interesting. I do not want to be a vegan, but when I read the information about the workshop, a lot of things resonated with me and I just loved Heather’s kind and flexible attitude. But then I got distracted, my day flowed on and I forgot about it.

At 4.45pm today, while I was sitting at my desk at work getting ready to wind down for the day, the workshop popped into my head for some strange reason. I went back and followed the links. I read the information again. I called Prince Charming at work and began reeling off the benefits of the workshop while he himself was trying to get organised to come home. I got in my car and drove home. I turned on the computer. I followed the links again and on a whim clicked… ‘add to cart’. All that happened within forty-five minutes. And here I am!

As you know, I have just welcomed yoga back into my life. I have recently finished breastfeeding. I really feel like this is the time for me to re-group, re-ground and re-connect.

To enter Spring fresh and abundant and new.

And now I’m nervous!

Food, Food, Glorious Food

But where does it come from?

This is the question that has been burning in my mind for a long time now.

It’s been around 10 months since Baby tasted her first mouthful of food other than breastmilk. The responsibility to feed and nourish a baby, well, it’s been one of the biggest challenges. A fun challenge, but a challenge that has certainly taught me a lot about the food that all of us, Prince Charming and I included, eat. I was always suspicious of packaged food, and the more I have been spooning home cooked food into my baby’s little rosebud mouth, the more I have wanted to know more about each ingredient, each place where the food is made, each animal that has died to be on her plate.

I’m quite sure most of my family and my mother think I am mad. What is wrong with a little piece of chocolate here, a little bit of drugged chicken there, a few teeny tiny preservatives, colours, flavours? I mean, we all ate it when we were kids, and we turned out fine… right?

The more I read about the food industry, the more I realise just how much it has changed over my lifetime. According to many, food production has changed more in the last 50 years than in the last 10,000. Isn’t that just unbelievable?

There have been a few very recent things that I have seen and read that have sparked the issue of food and my relationship with it…

This episode of Australian show Four Corners exposed the treatment of cattle exported from Australia to Indonesia. It featured horrific images of this live cattle trade. This was a turning point for me. I was a vegetarian for a little while prior to getting pregnant. When I was pregnant, being my first pregnancy, when my mum convinced me to eat some meat I did, and have been eating meat ever since. It’s not something I regret. But I realise now it’s just a habit.

A few days later I watched this documentary called HOME, the link to which I found here. It was a real eye opener as to how we humans have removed ourselves from the delicate lifecycle that is Earth. It also showed that because we eat SO MUCH meat and the demand is so high – over 50% of the world’s grains are fed to cattle! Common sense tells me this just isn’t healthy for anyone involved.

Then just the other day I read this article that was featured on Freshly Pressed, reviewing Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer which I just happen to have on hold at the library.

The issues of globalisation, factory farming, mass production, global warming… they are all swimming around my mind and I don’t quite know how to process it or what to do with all this information.

image from green bristol

One of the things I have decided to do is to stop eating meat. Despite the cliche, it really was like a weight lifted from my shoulders. That is how I knew it was the right decision for me, at this time. Prince Charming has also jumped on the band wagon. It’s really nice to be doing something like this together. We are still eating fish once a week, but using the Sustainable Seafood website to make better decisions about which fish we select.

Another is to put more effort into our veggie garden. We are not the best gardeners around, and we did promise ourselves we’d fix our patch and put a winter veggie garden in but we have been sick and have not got around to it. Any veggie gardeners out there – is it too late in this crisp Melbourne winter to start? I have to find out and get onto this!

We will continue to use real, whole foods as the bulk of our diet.

I will go back to sourcing more organic foods and making it a priority in our budget to do this as much as possible. As Baby got older I became more blasé about it. It’s time to tighten the reins!

The last thing I am now trying to find out is what my options are to buy meat for Baby that is produced locally, treated well, organic, etc. At the moment she is still going to eat meat. I don’t feel qualified enough to make those decisions about her diet. Before Prince Charming and I stopped eating meat we rarely ate it anyway so things won’t change much for her.

cannot for the life of me rotate this photo…

I also have the Food, Inc. DVD on hold at the library…

It will be interesting to see where all this takes us.