I am always so excited when a new research based baby feeding book comes out! This means I have another resource to share with parents. And this book is written by a Registered Dietitian with twin boys of her own at home.
Introducing Yaffi Lvova from Baby Bloom Nutrition and her new Stage-By-Stage Baby Food Cookbook: 100+ Purées and Baby-Led Feeding Recipes for a Healthy Start.
I am so thankful that Yaffi agreed to answer a few questions so we could all learn a few tips on feeding babies, toddlers and about the many amazing nutrition projects Yaffi runs when she is not chasing around her wee crew. My favourite part of the interview are the hands on strategies to get babies and toddlers into the kitchen from early on! So keep reading 🙂
Yaffi, tell us about why you started specialising in child nutrition.
I never saw myself as a pediatric dietitian. When I finished school and my internship, I was a clinical dietitian trying to find my path. After a struggle with infertility, high-risk pregnancy, and subsequent problems with tongue tie, lip tie, breastfeeding issues, and then food allergies, I just felt called to help new parents adjust to parenthood in a way that could be more graceful than my own transition. These problems are all common, so there is a chance to have a great impact during one of the most important transitions in a person’s life – the metamorphosis of self into parent.
What are your top 3 tips for successfully starting solids in a safe and stress free way?
I’m such a big fan of Baby-led Weaning (or “Baby-led Feeding”). This is one of the few times when we as parents can be “lazy” but also be doing the right thing for our kids. My top three tips would be:
1) Wait until the right time. Wait for those readiness signals. These signals allow baby to be confident in feeding and allow the parent to know that their child can eat safely. (Read more about readiness signals – Natalia)
2) Feed in a way that makes both parent and child comfortable. While I love Baby-led Weaning, if it causes undue stress on the parent, then it’s not the right path for them. Ideally, they should touch base with a feeding professional in order to feel more comfortable. Children pick up on stress. We have to be conscious to send the message that food is safe, and something to be enjoyed, not feared.
3) Enjoy food with your child. Many of us, as adults, have a difficult relationship with food and with our bodies. By enjoying food alongside your child, as they explore new tastes, textures, and smells, we can also re-engage with food in an enjoyable and healing way.
Any cooking tips you can share with the parents of babies?
Bring kids into the kitchen as early as possible! If your child is safe to be front-facing in a carrier, they can participate. Make some bread and have them feel the dough. As far as the food you’re giving them, the world is your oyster! Just be mindful of temperature and salt content (little kidneys can’t handle a full dose of salt) and you can have fun with this time. Look at cultures around the world for inspiration! In Latin America, spicy food isn’t avoided. Show your child your own culture through food.
Baby led weaning or purees? Or both?
Both! There is a place for both, and ideally, a combination will be used. Purees can be given in a Baby-led Weaning style way by giving the child a loaded spoon. There are those out there who take a hard line when it comes to this question, but there really is no reason to solidly commit to one method or the other. As adults, we enjoy both solids and purees – ice cream, mashed potatoes, creamy soups, dips. Solid foods and purees also work different muscles – muscles that will be important for language development and even for shaping the mouth! It’s amazing to read about how jaw configuration changed when we started giving only purees to babies.
What can parents expect at mealtimes as their baby grows up to become a toddler?
As with any other area of parenting, parents can expect kids to push back against boundaries as they grow. This is developmentally appropriate and completely expected. That’s why we have to be careful to draw our lines in appropriate places, maintaining our role as the parent while allowing them room to grow in independence and confidence. We should also look for opportunities to say “yes”, even if it’s really just a creative way of saying “no”. For example, we can respond to a demand for a particular food by saying, “That sounds great! Let’s have that for snack later!”
Parents can also expect food jags where kids get really into a particular food for a period of time, or they avoid a particular food. I remember when one of my kids decided he didn’t like blueberries. I watched him make that decision. It wasn’t based on taste or any other aspect of a blueberry-related experience. He was just testing his boundaries. So the rest of us enjoyed blueberries and he eventually changed his mind.
Kids are also extremely intuitive, naturally. They know when they have eaten enough. That might mean that they eat more (or less) than expected at a given mealtime. It might also mean that they skip dinner. All of this is normal and expected. When we can roll with that, everyone is better off. When we try to fix a perceived problem, we can actually cause a bigger problem. If your child is growing – maintaining their own curve on the growth chart – and hitting milestones, they are likely meeting their basic nutrition needs. If you feel more comfortable seeking some professional guidance, by all means, seek out a non-diet pediatric dietitian who can guide you toward a more comfortable feeding dynamic, supporting both your own concerns and your child’s growth and development.
How can we engage toddlers in cooking?
Oh I love this. Kids are naturally so curious, and food is a complete sensory experience. Get a great stepstool to bring your child to a height where the countertop hits just above their belly button, and involve them! You can start with dumping ingredients into a bowl and mixing, washing vegetables in a tub on the floor, or even asking them to hold a peeler or a knife, putting your hand over theirs, and guiding them through the motion. Little kids can start these skills from age 18 months, and sometimes even younger. Younger kids can also hit buttons on the food processor or blender. Discuss colors and shapes, talk about how food grows and where it comes from, even which animals eat which foods. This is an amazing opportunity for interaction.
Tell us about your current projects.
I have a whole lot going on right now! I just published the Stage-by-Stage Baby Food Cookbook, a book with advice on how and when to start feeding your baby. It includes over 100 recipes for baby and for the whole family. I also recently published Beyond a Bite, mindful eating activities for parents and kids at the table. This book helps to boost enJOYment and engagement at the table, bringing more fun back to mealtime.
Nap Time Nutrition is my weekly Facebook Live and now podcast as well! I use this platform to bring in other experts and discuss all things nutrition and parenthood. I’ve covered some controversial topics as well!
Toddler Test Kitchen is my ongoing in-person class where I teach kids ages 2-6 how to cook. It’s my sneaky way of passing along my passion for food enjoyment. Because of the recent quarantines, I’ve taken that online to my YouTube channel with the same name. Parents and kids can join me and cook along!
Thank you, Yaffi! Love everything you do and hope you will stop by again soon!