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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Baby Feeding 101

I am no expert in this arena, and it's been a process of trial and error in our house, but if I can help, read on!
My son was breastfed until about 6 months, when we moved and my commute turned from 15 minutes into 45; it was just too difficult. From then on, it was formula (Expensive! Stinky! Still a great option for moms who can't breastfeed for any reason). I noticed he might be ready for solid foods when he started to take a deep interest in what my husband and I were doing when we ate at the table.

I tried rice cereal, which he hated. When we moved on to baby food I discovered that some of it is a home run (sweet potatoes!) and some of it gets slapped away and, eventually, spit out (those apple-banana-blueberry mash-ups that sound like a delicious smoothie? ....huge failure with my son).

I also discovered that some of it has a great consistency and some of it is runny and slops all over the highchair tray... and him. A few examples:

Great Consistency Foods:
Green beans

Runny Mess Foods:

Note: If it's runny and you think, I'll just put some rice cereal in here to thicken it up! but your kid hates rice cereal, he will reject it. Listen to your kid; he is the boss.

Well, at first my baby was so choosy I was afraid he inherited it from his dad, who refuses to eat - among other things - tomatoes, eggs, mashed potatoes with lumps in them or instant mashed potatoes, and anything with "casserole" in the name.* However, according to my pediatrician, this is completely normal for 1 year-olds (no word on whether it's normal for 32 year-olds). So, having been in the trenches, here is some advice:

Tip One. A bib in my house is referred to as a cape (inspiration here.) When it's time for baby food, I ask Johnny if he's ready for his cape, make an elaborate whoosh sound, and Velcro it behind his neck. I've found if I don't do this, he rips the bib off in a mixture of disgust and protest (sometimes he does anyway).

Tip Two. Make lots of noises. Airplanes, birds, choo-choo trains - they all work (unpredictably, so change it up). If you can get your kid to smile or laugh, that mouth is open and it's go time! Sneak the spoon in there while they're laughing and you scored because it is now in their tiny bellies.
At the risk of looking like a total doofus, here is me looking like a total doofus getting my baby to eat.

Tip Three. Get crazy. I have danced, sang, made crazy hand gestures with the spoon, rapped, and beat-boxed to get my little guy to eat. Again, variety helps, and bonus: it's pretty fun.

Tip Four. Be persistent. If green beans are rejected, try carrots. And don't be discouraged if he eats something today and refuses it tomorrow. As someone pointed out to me: for a 10 month-old, a whole jar of carrots is like an adult eating a bag of carrots in a day. Would you even want to look at carrots a day after that? It's all perspective.

Tip Five. Let him eat what you eat. Johnny was always very curious about what the "adults" were eating. So I started feeding him pieces from my plate or giving him a Goldfish or Cheez-It cracker here and there, and now I hardly have time to eat myself. Bonus: when you have to shovel food into your own mouth quickly so you can pick off pieces of ground beef or slice up veggies for him, you unintentionally lose some baby weight.**

In Conclusion...
Don't worry. Whether your child is a tank, a grazer, or just stubbornly loves his milk (mine has been all 3), it's normal. Babies, for the most part, know when they're hungry, so pay attention to their cues. For weeks I thought Johnny was being difficult and trying to play with his food because he insisted on dropping Cheerios into it. Eventually I realized: he just loves Cheerios. Once I fed him a Cheerio in every bite, he ate it all!

...And over time, feeding him became easy. He grew up; he realized he wanted food, and now he only rejects the stuff he actually thinks is gross (still anything that sounds like a delicious smoothie - go figure).

Note: DON'T be sad if your little one eats better for one person or another. For a long time Johnny ate nothing for my mom (who watched him full-time while we were at work), sometimes for me (who he sees in the morning and at night), and always for my husband (who he hardly ever saw). Once my husband stopped working during the day to focus on school, everything flipped. Johnny was home with him during the day and refused to eat, continued to eat sporadically for me, and ate much better for my mom, simply because Granny's house was now a treat.

My theory? Baby-feeding is one-on-one attention in a rare form. You are standing, or perched, directly across from your baby, making every effort in your arsenal to get a bite of apple sauce into his mouth. I think mine craved one-on-one attention from whoever he saw the least, and that's why he always ate readily and happily for that person.

*Side note: If you have a choosy husband you can always try what I did. Since Matt turned up his nose at casseroles, I changed the names to things like "Crunchy Green Beans" and "Sausage Surprise." No joke: he did not catch on until I confessed to it years later.

**As previously mentioned, we parents learn to do things very quickly. When you have a newborn you're all, "Oh my gosh I have to pee because he might wake up any second!" By 10 months, you're peeing one-handed with the kid under your arm. By 15 months, you're eating meals in under 4 minutes while your little one squawks and grabs at the food on your plate... if you have time for plates.

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