Today we will discuss about how to feed your “picky” baby without bribing, blazing & begging. Being a mother of a 11 month old baby, I know how much patience it needs to handle a picky baby when they throw tantrums of unknown origin. Every session of meal can stretch to about 45minutes. The tight-lipped, mouthshut child always crawls away in the opposite direction when being fed.
While it gets very irritating, you should remember that your baby needs time to get used to the various colors, textures & tastes. Something that she relished two days back might be a put-off for her today. Their taste buds change. Their moods change. They become independent by the day. Discovering new things, making choices about food, toys, people, environment & anything new he comes across. So, give your baby enough time to develop a liking towards new foods. Respect her opinion. Pushing too much may totally put her off & invite more whining & crying.
So what do I do? From making funny faces & funny sounds to singing rhymes & bhajans(if elders are around.lol) to playing with countless musical toys to showing the kaa-kaa(crow) on the tree to carrying them in our arms and walking around, I do EVERYTHING. EVERYDAY. I’ve got abundant tricks up my sleeve to get that bowl of porridge empty. Getting her to eat variety of healthy nutritious food feels like completing a Marathon. We have enlisted few tried & tested methods that work well with kids.
1) Let there be peace – A child, no matter how small, you child can understand your mood & feelings. Do not stress & cascade the same to your child. Just stay calm & complacent. Let’s admit it. You won’t enjoy eating Ragi every day. But, you expect your child to relish it because it is very healthy. Don’t make your dinner table a war zone. Children ape their parents. Even their anger & frustration. So, watch your move. Shun distractions at the table. Let the atmosphere be calm & relaxed.
2) Do not bribe – It may be the easy way out. But never bribe for child for a chocolate or an ice-cream. You do not want him to develop a sweet tooth & a cavity right? Neither do you want to keep providing sweets with every meal & make your child prone to gestational diabetes & obesity.
3) Take the first bite – Like I just mentioned, children ape their parents. Take the first bite. Let your child watch you eat it, and then offer it to your child. The chances are that your baby will agree to try something new, much better. Your excitement can be transferred to your baby into trying the new recipe you learnt online.
4) Strike a balance – Striking the right balance is very essential. For the quantity, for the frequency & for the timing of the meal. Remember, your baby probably has a fist sized stomach. You can’t over-feed the child just because you want him to look like the royal Khandani types.
5) Feed when your baby is hungry – Don’t keep feeding your child every half an hour. Let there be enough gap between meals. A hungry kid eats better than a kid who is fed very frequently.
6) Space it out – As recommended by doctors, introduce a new food every week. This way you can ascertain if the child is allergic to that particular food and also gives him enough time to get used to the taste.
7) Don’t force feed the child – It is always good to instill the right values from childhood. Wasting food is a bad habit. But, your toddler may not understand this. It’s not a feat to make your child cry just to see the bowl clean. So, do not force feed the child till the last bite. There are good chances that the child will dislike that particular food even more. Mothers get a weird satisfaction of accomplishment if they are able to force the entire food down the throat. Isn’t it?
8) Time it – Well, may be easier said than done. But try to time your child’s meals. This way he can eat proper meals with some healthy snacks in-between.
9) Early introduction of foods: It’s never too early to introduce new foods to the child. Let the child have a roller coaster on the taste buds. He or she should be used to eating something sweet, salty, bitter, sour or bland for that matter. Early introduction of foods will help the child to better adapt itself to all the array of foods that the family eats.
10) Let them watch you make – Allow children to watch you cut & make the dish. They can also be encouraged to help you if the activity does not include playing with sharp knives or fire. They will be excited about trying the dish & act as a food evangelist urging other family members to try it out because they have lent you a helping hand.
11) Avoid too much variety – When there is too much to choose from, people will conveniently pick up something they like the most. Many parents resort to the 2-minute Maggie noodles which is worse thing to offer a hungry child. If rajma-chawal is the only dish served on the table, the child learns that he has to eat it or go hungry to bed.
12) Fun, facts & figures – “I’m Popeye the sailor-man…” “Guess what made Popeye super-strong? SPINACH! Do you want to become strong like popeye?” Tell the child why a particular fruit or vegetable is good for health. Relating & mapping the food helps the child associate & might pick a liking for it.
13) Repeat value please – If I discover that my child has liked a particular veggie, I try to incorporate the same indifferent ways. For instance, if your child likes carrots, you can make gajar ka halwa, carrot juice, upma with carrot, beans & peas, in poriyal & in mixed salad.
14) The Domino effect – Often children adapt to what the other family members do. If someone refuses to eat something, it won’t take long for the rest to follow suit.
15) Bring it on – My child likes small spoons, small idly, small dosa, small anything edible or non-edible. Wonder why they are attracted toward miniatures. They love plaing with toys. Bring them their favourite toys so that they are distracted playing with their best buddies.
16) Give it time – Research has proven that a child may take around 7-14 times to get acquainted with the taste of a particular food.
17) Beg not – It’s nice to be good & coax your baby to try new things. But don’t get them used to being requested repeatedly to eat food which is good for their own health.
18) Everybody deserves a treat – It is ok to let the strings lose sometimes. While you should be conscious of a healthy diet all through the week, it is fine if you let them have pastry when they are out for dinner, movie or visiting friends & relatives.
19) Miniatures are always a hit – Half the battle is won if you and your baby is having fun. Make interesting shapes out of vegetables & toasts with different toppings to make it an instant hit with the kids.
20) One size fits all – It is important to set the right precedent. If you are going to cook two different breakfasts, lunch & dinner that’s absolutely exhausting. Let the child learn to eat what ever is cooked for the entire family.
21) Axe the junk – Let’s admit it. Junk food is always tastier than healthy food. It may be easier to cook or readily available or ready-to-eat. Be a role model. Your kids would think that it is normal to eat junk everyday.
Every child is different. And so are their taste buds. It’s best to go with your instinct. As a parent you can best judge what your child enjoys the most. Give special importance to any allergies caused due to foods. Consult your pediatrician & restrict your child from consuming the same. Wishing you a blissful parenthood. If your baby rejects the idea of something, try again after few days or a week. even if it few spoons. Let the child get acquainted to the taste gradually.