Feeding a baby can be one of the funniest, messiest, frustrating, worrying experiences in early parenting – depending on how you approach it.
The age between 7-9 months, when your child transitions from stage 2 (a child moves food backward with the tongue for swallowing) to stage 3 (requires the ability to manage different textures, mashing and chewing before swallowing) can be a really enjoyable milestone, if we realize that the baby is not only eating for nutrition, but also honing their sensory and motor skills. Food can be used as a fun exploratory tool, and gives your baby one of their first senses of self-achievement.
A baby will explore how the food feels in their mouths, he may push it out with his tongue, blow raspberries, reach for the spoon and try and feed himself. He may be really tactile and love to feel the food within his fingers, smell it, play with it, see it fall to the ground as he discovers gravity and cause and effect. Although your dining room may look like the stage of a food fight, try not to forget that this opportunity to explore and play with food is an integral part of learning how to eat and self-feed. Help guide him get the food in his mouth, as that is the ultimate goal. At the beginning, patience and persistence will pay off. Don’t stress, he will get it. He may also get a kick out of you reacting as you pick the spoon up off the floor for the tenth time. Even though it gets old quick -take it with a light heart – it will take time, but he will find those table manners.
Rather than fight it – just get smarter than the problem – and PREPARE! I live in Haiku and am fortunate to have an outside deck/dining room so it could get totally messy and be easily hosed down afterwards.
When we did eat inside I put a plastic shower curtain (K-mart for $10) under his eating area, which I could pick up at the end of the session, and wipe off. My mother also sent me some great bibs from England. I never could understand the cloth bibs that get soaked. With a plastic bib it was really easy to clean and the trough in the bottom prevented food getting everywhere. I also let him feed himself at the earliest opportunity by giving him small soft pieces of finger food such as soft fruit and steamed vegetables. We all ate together, so this freed me up to enjoy my meal, and helped him establish some independence and self-satisfaction. It also helped him self regulate how much he was eating. I believe a baby knows how much food its body needs, so I never tried to over feed him or worry too much if at some meals he hardly ate anything. I found that keeping regular feeding times each day helped set a routine, and made for a successful eating session, as his body got into a rhythm and knew what to expect. I also made sure that he didn’t fill up on fluids just before eating, which helped encourage a healthy appetite.
A reported 8% of children have food allergies, or more commonly, intolerances. Symptoms range from rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, bellyache, gas, and bloating. If you notice any of these symptoms please talk with your doctor who can test, or refer your child for allergy testing. Also contact your doctor if your baby is losing weight. Don’t feel shy asking them questions about any concerns you may have. It’s better to nip something in the bud before it becomes a bad habit, or is detrimental to your baby’s health. Bon Appétit!
Image Credit: June Harper