Eight Simple Rules

To start of, apologies in advance if this sounds like a Mommypost. It might appear so primarily, due to two reasons:

  1. It is often perceived that this topic is “usually” a mother’s concern;
  2. This post is really inspired by the missus’s (let’s call her Ja) continued attempts to try and get our 18 month old (let’s call him … say Ri) to eat good nutritious food

Eight Simple Rules

If I could tag people as on Twitter or Facebook, a lot of my fellow Parentous contributors would be the recipients of thank you notes, for having inadvertently inspired me to touch this topic – unfortunately, I can’t seem to find such an option; So here’s a big fat Thank You  – you know who you are!

Let’s rewind to when your little kiddo was, say 4 months old. Ideally he/she would be breast/bottle fed every 3-4 hours, which you’d have considered to be a pretty tedious task at the time. I mean you just had a baby; the last thing you’d want to do is keep getting up every few hours in the night to nurse. I might even go on to say that most mothers (maybe a couple of dads too) were secretly anticipating the 6-month period, after which the little one would start eating solid food (I say solid, but it’s not much more than a mishy-mashy collection of food).

Fast forward to 12+ months. Ideally the little munchkin should be having a number of small-meals-a-day and the milk-consumption should have dropped to a couple of times. Though this trade-off doesn’t come without challenges. For starters, I can confidently say that at some point during this transition, every parent would have fondly looked back at the pre – six month phase and said Life was definitely a lot easier when the baby just had milk”.

Now, I’m not in anyway an expert on kid’s nutrition nor have I had the pleasure of bringing up a number of kids. However based on my observations of first-time parents (including ourselves), I’ve come to formulate a theory. As parents, we often tend to begin off with full gusto when it comes to starting the little one on solid foods. It’s a phase-changer for all of us.

Your little gem has just gone from being a 4-hourly milk-devouring infant, to some one who can possibly sit at the table with the parent, and enjoy a hearty meal – Well, as hearty as super-boiled soft mushy veggies can be. You research for interesting recipes, read up on what kids of a certain-age would like to eat and speak to other been-there-done-that parents. And if you’re remotely anything like us, you even go full gourmet during this phase. Unfortunately for us, and fortunately for the little one, this steam eventually dies off.

As the kid grows up, most of us would have to return back to work full-time, and there isn’t anyone else to rely on apart from the three of you, that makes up your little family. Between the two of you adults, you have to do the laundry, shop for groceries, keep up with social engagements and much more. Amidst all of this, your little one, who is almost ready to start “play-school”, has drawn up his/her own routine.

Fast-forward a bit more, to the 15+month period. I fondly call this phase “the projectile spitting” or “I won’t open my mouth” phase. The little one starts to get a bit picky and choosy about what food they will put in their mouth (though this doesn’t stop them from picking up random pieces of stuff from the floor to chew on).

They need variety, and may not even eat the same meal for two consecutive days. Your mind starts to wonder  – “Why can’t they just eat the food?”, “Doesn’t he/she realize that he/she needs to energy to grow up and play?”, “ What if he/she doesn’t like my cooking?”. To make matters worse, relatives suddenly appear to offer their two-pence worth – “He/She seems to have lost weight”; “He/She needs to be eating more!” and the worst “Here, let me show how it’s done!” Ironically enough, your little one is very likely to cause you a bit of embarrassment by accepting food from your relatives or friends  – the very same food, that went flying past your face, a few minutes ago.

So if and when, you are ever faced with this predicament, remember these 8 simple rules:

  1. Check with your kids pediatrician; As long as they are happy with the developmental progress, you have nothing to worry about.
  2. Yes, kids get hungry too. And they will ensure that they are fed when they are hungry.  Sometimes you just have to give them some space.
  3. Patience is the key. Try not to rush through any of their meals.
  4. Engage them during meal time; If it means that you have to sit and animatedly talk to him/ her about “how a piece of pasta wants to get into their stomach to be with its other friends”, so be it.
  5. Try and break down the meals. It might take a while for the baby to eat just three meals a day like us grown-ups (Aha – I definitely eat more than 3 meals :)). Give him/her a few small meals during the day.
  6. Repetition is a sin. If you feature his/her favorite dish on the menu everyday, it will soon become a “not-so-favorite” dish.
  7. When in doubt, milk it up. Whilst not a substitute for a hearty meal, there is no harm in occasionally resorting to topping up their meals with the “well-trusted” bottle of milk.
  8. No Junk food – Yes, it’s a hard rule to follow some days; especially if you, like me, enjoy the occasional indulgence. But junk food is just that – Junk! I know I’m going to sound like a two-faced monster for saying this, but let them have junk food when they are past their developmental stages, and can make up their own minds. Not at 2 years old.

Always remember that your little munchkin goes through a lot of rapid developmental milestones during this period, which may keep them anxious or irritated turning their attention away from food.

I suppose bottom line is – babies get bored very easily, and they need a lot of attention in general. Add another “generous helping of attention and a dollop of creativity” when you are trying to feed them, and we’ll be fine.

Sidharth Balachandran is a 30 something proud newbie dad who recently relocated back to India, after 7 years in London. He is a self-confessed techie, will-read-most-things-er, photograph-anything-er, love-to-travel-er and wannabe masterchef-er. He is the “carefree, relaxed and spontaneous” ying, to his wife’s “meticulous, practical and perfectionist” yangcharacter. Though academically an engineer and a product manager by profession, he strongly believes that eventually at some point his “creative” side will lead him to his true calling. He loves connecting with new people and you can catch him at www.facebook.com/sid.balachandran

  • ParentEdge

    All parents worrying about food (read: all parents!) must read this wonderful book: ‘French Kids Eat Everything: How our Family moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters’ by Karen Le Billon. It explains how we can establish Food Rules right from infancy to ensure that kids eat well, eat everything, and most importantly – enjoy eating! And whom better to learn this from than the French!
    Kritika Srinivasan

    • Sid Balachandran

      Thanks for the tip Kritika – though not sure I’m entirely happy at hijacking the post 😉 (holding up a sarcasm board)

  • Nischala

    Hi Sid – firstly great to see a DADDY write such a post..:).. in most homes, dad’s are rule makers & breakers w.r.t food n eating healthy.. from my 3 year of parenting experience, i’ve come to believe that if as parents you eat healthy as an everyday practice, your child will fall in line sooner than later.. sadly, not the case in many homes w.r.t food and eating habits, and hence it appears to be too much of a trouble.. and hard to keep at it if you don’t otherwise eat healthy! happy parenting. nischala

    • Sid Balachandran

      Hi Nischala – Thank you 🙂 To be honest, even in our household, this DAD is still the rule-breaker. There are days when I just ask the Mrs. to feed him biscuits or anything that he’ll have. But I have to agree with you 100% – we set the example, and sooner or later, the kid will definitely follow suit! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reema Sahay

    In most households, mommies make the rules and daddies follow them. I mean, about the food baby would eat… ha ha. Yes, I have been through some frustrating times too. And now we are on a phase when our son eats what we eat. I am a monster and I don’t give my son any chocolate. I haven’t even taught him that word yet [but then remember, he is yet to go to school]. I stop other mommies when they try to give any to him. Same goes for junk. I don’t stock junk food [otherwise I would gulp that myself] but yes, if he asks for an occasional biscuit, I give it to him. I have read we must be attentive of our food and that is the reason it is said one should not eat while watching TV or doing other work. But as you already know, that does not work many times with a toddler. In our case, he is aware about the food he is eating but sometimes when he starts dodging us, saying ‘no’ ‘no’. We have to bring out our arsenal [read blocks, puzzles or whatever is the favourite at that time].

    • Sid Balachandran

      Spot on @reemasahay:disqus ! Junk is out…Good food is in ….and we just need to keep it creative, not just the food but also the way in which we actually interact during that period. Well, we can do what we can do , and hope they understand. Thanks for reading

  • Mona

    Sid, very well written. Your love and tender caring for Ri shines through every word:) Can’t wait to come see you guys