My baby has just turned one, so it has been a little over six months since we started our feeding journey using a mixed approach. She has done very well, challenging me at times, learning nonstop and creating as much mess as she possibly could.
I have been posting photos and little videos of some of the transitions she has been going through on Facebook. My main goal was to share with other parents that some typical changes were not feeding issues but rather pretty normal stages. This post is a collection of some of these observations.
Most of these changes in babies’ eating can be observed at around 10-14 months although it is not uncommon to see them earlier or later.
1. Let the throwing games begin. As soon as my baby leaned to open her palm to drop things, food throwing started. She was so excited about this new skill at first that she would throw out most of the food from her tray except a few of her favorites. Now that the initial excitement has passed, she is doing it less often. I interpret food throwing as a signal that she is done. So I push her highchair away from the table when she throws food and says something like “you are all done”.
2. No spoon-feeding, please. At around 10 months she started refusing spoons. It is a fairly normal stage but many parents are alarmed that their baby “stopped eating”. I have seen quite a few such cases in my practice. See this video where I am trying to help my baby self-feed with a spoon and she is clearly objecting to it. The best solution is to 1)let them self feed with a spoon or fork even if it means little eating at first and 2)offer finger foods more often.
3. More mess! Since becoming a pro at finger feeding from early on, she treated me to a few weeks of relatively clean post-meal kitchen floors but then she started to self-feed with utensils. Now all the food is on her face, hands and fair. No solution here, really, we are just waiting it out. In fact, I do not mind her touching, squishing and smearing food on her tray with her hands or utensils. It provides important sensory background she needs to learn to eat a variety.
5. Less appetite. Most babies start eating less at around 1 year of age because their growth slows down. She eats almost nothing on some days, surviving mostly on some fruit and breastmilk. It is also very normal. If I push her to eat more, she will stop enjoying mealtimes and her eating will become worse, not better, so I let her eat as much or as little as she wants.
6. Miss Choosy has arrived. I feel that our initial “honeymoon” with food is coming to an end as she has firmly decided on her favorites: fruit, pasta and yogurt. This repertoire must be very familiar to parents of toddlers.:)
It is obviously quite tempting to offer these 3 items to “top her up” when she eats very little at meals. But I know that it will not be helpful in the long term. We eat pasta from time to time, she gets a portion of fruit or yogurt at almost every meal but I also serve her everything else the rest of the family is eating.
7. Grazing, please. Babies and toddlers love grazing! I think she would prefer little nibbles of solids and sips of milk to structured mealtimes. In this article I described what a day of grazing may look like for a toddler. To avoid this, we stick to 3 solid meals and at least 1 solid snack plus breastfeeding a few times a day.
Establishing structure is hard and counterintuitive because it may seem like denying food to a hungry baby. But if meals and snacks are offered every 2-3 hours, she will get a chance to eat again pretty soon.
Before, she could munch on half a dozen rice cakes on our afternoon walk and be not hungry for dinner afterward. She also started begging for them every time we were on a go and she was getting bored.
We minimized eating in the stroller and incorporated a proper sit-down snack before we head to the park. And If she is hungry half an hour before a meal, I just let her wait for a little instead of offering a snack or breast. Tough, I know….
I am also working on incorporating more structure in breastfeeding. Although breastmilk has tremendous benefits and I plan to breastfeed her for at least a few more months, I know that I need to offer her breast on a schedule, just like other meals so she does not graze on it all day and has the appetite for solid meals.
As you can see, some of the changes babies and toddlers go through as they grow up are just phases, not feeding issues. With the right tools and encouragement, you can let them pass without stressing out.
Your baby is unique.
So why copy how everyone else is starting solids? Welcome your baby into the wonderful world of food using this safe and responsive method.