Ask Amma

Trying New Foods

In How on 10 May 2013 at 8:00 pm

How many times a day should I offer solids to my baby?  How do I encourage him to try new foods?

– mother of a 1 year-old in Delhi

Rather than timing and offering foods, if you think of ways to create an environment where appropriate food is available, your baby can be the one to figure out how much and how often to eat, if at all.  Freedom is a delightful form of encouragement.

If you are still timing your own meals to coincide with baby’s naps, then probably you can try offering once a day.   He will let you know if he wants it more often.  If he doesn’t want it, that is fine too.   Be glad and accept that he made a choice – whether he chose to eat or not.

Sooner rather than later, you should welcome baby to family mealtime and see that there is something available that he can also eat.   Baby may not yet be able to chew a chapati, but you could prepare some ragi porridge, soup, soft-boiled vegetables, or chunks of soft fruit.  Place it on the table along with the rest of the dishes for the family and let baby have some if he wants.   A baby who is new to the family table might find the array of foods dazzling, but will soon get used to the setting,

You need not measure and count how much baby is eating.   If you both eat from the same plate then you may each be happily unaware of how much the other is eating.  Even if you serve baby on a separate plate, don’t watch and comment on his eating any more than you would if I came to your home as a dinner guest.   (Well, if you are like certain Aunties of mine, you might, but then all I would have to do is smile sweetly and tell you how kind and generous you were.  I would not have to eat unless I wanted to.)

When I say “offer” the food I mean just let him come take from your plate, or present it on a plate, bowl, or in your hand and let him decide what, if anything to do with it. If he is not showing interest in eating it, no need to offer.  Breastfeeding provides all the nutrients, so he can explore solids at his own pace, with no pressure to meet any targets.

Thanks to breastfeeding you don’t have to worry whether your kid is eating any other food.  When the worry disappears completely from your mind and heart, then the child is free to eat without the complication of what you think.   When I say to parents, let the baby exclusively breastfeed, it’s okay not to eat solids, it may sound like I’m not a fan of solids.  Quite the contrary.  Breastfeeding is the key to developing enthusiastic appetite for other foods, especially wholesome foods.  There are several reasons for this.  First of all, through Mama-milk, the baby gets to taste  all the foods that Mama eats.   Secondly, mama-milk provides the right blend of nutrients at every age and indeed, is custom-made every time, day or night whenever baby breastfeeds.    Therefore, assured that baby is just fine even if s/he eats no solids at all, you will not “push” solids or sing songs or play games to jazz up the eating experience,  but rather give baby the chance to get curious, ponder the smell, sight, texture and taste of the food  and eat according to the signals of his own body.  Third, when you are not aiming to feed more or feed sooner or feed, period, you are immune to the assault of advertising, particularly of powders and packaged foods that make the absurd claim of being better for you than traditional home-made food.   Remember: if it grows on a plant, eat it.  If it was made in a plant, don’t.  Thanks to Michael Pollan for that vital reminder.

Children who are not exposed to the industrially synthesized flavours, textures and colors of packaged foods will develop their palate according to the diverse taste of whole and home-made foods and not expect food to be uniform every time.   Different varieties of potato will have different flavor and texture and be suitable for different dishes.  Potato chips are so processed that the potato is overpowered by the salt, oil and trademark flavours the industry synthesizes.  One orange may be more or less sweet, tart, juicy or aromatic than another, but branded orange juice will be the same every time.   Moreover, laboratory testing and market research ensures that the added flavors, whether “natural” or “artificial” will bring the consumer back for more.

When you understand this you will  not be tempted to drown out the messages that baby receives from within with your own expectations  or the messages of the food industry or the manipulations of the multibillion dollar flavor industry.  Oh, and about that:

In sum: ditch the packaged foods and food powders, in direct proportion to the frequency with which they are advertised.  Good riddance especially to those advertised with the help of “scientists,” “nutri-absorb scientists” and other professionals in white lab coats.  You won’t miss a thing.  Nor will baby’s taste buds be vulnerable to the manipulation of industrially prepared flavours.

The only demand modern life places upon us is that in the first couple of years you (probably) should take care not to introduce highly allergenic foods.  There are different theories about allergies and some people don’t think you should worry much about them.  I did not find it difficult to delay allergenic foods, so I did.   So far,  things have turned out fine.   I have detailed our experience here:  Introducing Foods.

See also:  How Children Learn to Eat

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  1. […] The only demand modern life places upon us is that in the first couple of years you (probably) should take care not to introduce highly allergenic foods. There are different theories about allergies and some people don’t think you should worry much about them. I did not find it difficult to delay allergenic foods, so I did. So far, things have turned out fine. I have detailed our experience here: Introducing Foods. ▶ Commnet Online […]

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