Of Babies And Feeding
Why you should not worry about what your baby is eating and what he is not.
Undoubtedly, feeding is instinctive and even if the new born infant is taught how to suckle for the very first time, it isn’t very long before they learn how to feed and how to demand food. Yet this very basic activity that should come so naturally is fraught with challenges for both mother and child.
Of course, breast feeding is not as simple as it sounds particularly in the early days of motherhood when both mother and child are new to the whole process but gradually things do get easier and after the initial awkwardness of breast feeding goes away, and a feeding pattern develops, feeding becomes more regularized. With the modern day trend of exclusive breast feeding till as long as it is possible, feeding an infant is child’s play especially once you’ve mastered the art of not feeling embarrassed at feeding in public and if you’ve learnt how to time your baby’s feeds so that you can have life between feeds. There are some mothers who manage to express their milk in bottles so that they can breast feed without being tied down to the baby for all feeds but since this is not something I’m familiar with, I won’t even touch on the benefits or otherwise of this form of breast feeding.
Then what seems like a challenge becomes even more daunting when it comes to introducing the child to solids. How does one introduce a child’s palate to different foods? And what foods does one introduce the child too? I remember my paediatrician said that I should start out with vegetable soup and happily told me to cook a whole tomato, pulverize it into a soup and then feed it to the baby, sugar, pepper and all! My daughter who was told to introduce baby to apple sauce and then poached pear was horrified with the thought of tomato soup and that too with salt and sugar! A few months later it was my turn to be horrified when she was told that baby was to be given regular adult food albeit without any salt or sugar!
Every mother I talk to has her own schedule of introducing baby to solid food but by a year and a half almost all babies are sitting on the dining table with the rest of the family and eating exactly what they are – or at least the mother likes to imagine that. Babies like all humans have likes and dislikes and no matter how much a pediatrician or child psychologist may tell you not to pander to baby’s whims and fancies, it becomes quite apparent who’s the boss.
Some babies have a distinct preference for non-vegetarian food while some just hate even a bit of egg. Babies who love chapatti will suddenly go off them one fine day and absolutely refuse to eat even a small morsel! With their developing palates and growing independence they soon want to eat by themselves – a messy task no doubt but one which should be encouraged as eating is a multi-sensory experience with the child learning the different textures and tastes. And that is when feeding a child becomes a real challenge. How does one make sure that the child eats a balanced diet? How can one cook little quantities? When do you allow the child to eat food from restaurants? And how much of a mess do you allow your little one to make?
There is no formula for feeding now – all these are questions that somehow get answered organically. Sometimes you may find the food you carried for your child in a restaurant a waste as he prefers to try something new rather than his tried and tested food while other times your little foodie adventurer will spit out something that you thought he’d like and make you feel bad that you didn’t get him food from home. Sometimes he may shock you by not liking the universally popular potato and go for something totally unexpectedly adult-like fried brinjal or roasted pumpkin! Sometimes your baby will land up flinging everything off the table in pure glee while at other times he will succumb to the luxury of literally being spoon fed.
So like everything connected with rearing babies, there is no hard and fast rule about feeding babies. There are pediatrician’s findings on what makes babies grow, there are grannies’ advice on what babies should eat, there’s a mother’s instinct that tells her what her baby would like but there is only one truth – a baby will only eat when he is hungry and he will only eat how much he wants to eat.
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share her experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.