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Introducing Solids – Part 2: Creating a Healthy & Pleasant Mealtime Environment


May 30, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Food & Recipes


Introducing Solids - Mealtime Environment | Baby & Beyond

This is the second part in my series on introducing solids. If you missed the first part (about how my baby skipped purees altogether and was eating family food by 9 months), you can catch up on it here: Introducing Solids – Part 1: How We Transitioned Baby to Family Food by 9 MonthsIn this post I am going to talk about how we created a safe, healthy and pleasant mealtime environment.

 

Why Focus So Much on the Environment…Does it Really Matter?:

In one word…YES! It was SO important in our feeding journey to focus on creating the right environment to make mealtime pleasant, easy, safe and healthy. We did not want eating to become a forced activity that is just done because it HAS to be done. Rather we wanted Baby N to be interested in the meal, to develop a relationship with food, to want to eat and want to feed himself. That is why creating the right atmosphere around mealtime was so, SO important.

 

“We wanted Baby N to be interested in the meal, to develop a relationship with food, to want to eat and want to feed himself.”

 

What we Encouraged:

Sitting down in one place to eat – Baby N has a fixed chair at our dining table, with his booster seat strapped on. Of course safety is one aspect to this, but also having him sit in one place rather than running around helps him focus on the meal which is very critical is developing an interest in meals. When he knows it is time to eat, he himself pulls out his chair and asks us to make him sit. We also take the booster seat with us wherever we go.

Of course there are times when he simply refuses to sit at the table, so I allow him to sit in his play area and eat, but only as long as he is sitting in one place. I certainly avoid running behind him and feeding him, so that he associates meals with sitting down in one place. If he starts running around, it usually means he is not interested in eating, so I give him a break and try again after 10-15 mins.

 

Eating in his play area

Eating in his play area

 

Booster seat joins us on vacations as well

Booster seat joins us on vacations as well

 

Joint mealtimes with family – As far as possible, we have him join in at our mealtimes. Babies learn by observing others. This had 2 advantages – Baby N started showing interest in eating our family food early on, instead of his baby food. Also he taught himself to eat. I have never taught him to scoop food with a spoon or to pick a piece of chapati and dip it in the gravy. He has understood by observing us that this is what is to be done and he has learnt himself by practicing over and over again. Of course this leads to a mess at times and this leads me to my next very important point.

 

joint_mealtime

Joint mealtime made Baby N interested in family food and encouraged him to eat himself by watching us eat

 

Importance of Letting the Child Make a Mess:

Playing with food and making a mess is all part of the learning process. I allow Baby N to pick at his food with his hands and cutlery. Here are a few reasons why:

Learning to pick up food with hand is a form of sensory play – Babies learn to distinguish textures and temperatures – hot, cold, runny, crumbly, sticky, slimy, creamy.

It encourages hand eye coordination and develops fine motor skills – Scooping up food with a spoon and bringing it to the mouth is no easy feat for a baby! It gives them a sense of achievement. Lets face it. Your baby is going to explore this skill anyway by picking up objects off the floor and bringing it to his mouth. Wouldn’t you rather let him explore with food?

It gives them independence and confidence – These days Baby N pushes away my hand if I try to feed him. He wants to do it all on his own. Imagine the relief I feel when I can eat my own meal uninterrupted without having to feed him after every bite!

 

“Playing with food and making a mess is all part of the learning process.”

 

What We Discouraged:

Distractions – We try our best to minimize distractions during meal times. I have mentioned that we “try our best” because at some times it is just not possible. Especially with joint meal time when people are talking around the table to each other or directly to Baby N, he tends to get distracted. However we discourage toys, books, music, phone, looking out of the window etc. while he is eating. I talk to him about the food he is eating, the vegetables, tastes, textures etc. Initially he used to get very fidgety and wanted to play. I used to hand him an empty bowl and spoon to play with. This in fact helped him master his grasp on the cutlery. Slowly I started giving him a couple of spoons of food in his own bowl as well.

 

Force Feeding – One of the reasons for avoiding distractions was also to make sure that I am  not force feeding Baby N. You may have noticed yourself when you are in front of the TV or out with friends chitchatting, you end up eating more than you usually would have.

No making aeroplane / bird actions with the spoon just to make him open his mouth. No scaring him with “if you don’t eat your food I will eat it up / crow will take it away / police will come to take you”, etc.

The focus is never to finish everything on his plate. Force feeding just makes mealtime a dreaded chore for the caregiver and unpleasant for the baby. I want Baby N to be in control of how much he eats because only he will know when he is hungry and when he is full. When he starts indicating that he is done (he does this by raising his hand or he starts throwing his spoon and plate on the floor), I do not force him to eat any further.

 

“The focus is never to finish everything on his plate. Force feeding just makes mealtime a dreaded chore for the caregiver and unpleasant for the baby.”

 

Negative Comments – I know some people have a problem with looking at the mess. I try to discourage people around me from making faces or negative comments such as messy / dirty / piggy / monkey / clown etc. (believe me I have heard them all). If Baby N is made to think that he is doing something wrong, he might just give up trying altogether. I will admit, it can get difficult if you are out in a restaurant or at someone’s house. People may have been silently judging me for allowing my child to make a mess in public. So what I do when we have to eat out is to take dry food such as paratha, idli, dosa, pulao etc. and avoid daals and gravies. And we make it a point to always clear up ourselves after Baby N is done eating.

 

To sum it up, we provide a safe, healthy, easy and positive mealtime environment and Baby N decides how much and how fast / slow he wants to eat. This takes a lot of patience, but in the end it makes mealtime pleasant for all of us.

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Comments
  1. Jiya B said on June 29, 2017 4:46 pm:

    I loved reading your blog. The pictures were superb. Kids enjoy company while eating. We all insist to have food together. Yes, it helps in bonding as well as it is good for Gut. While instrodung solids we make sure that every meal we do sit with our kid for meal.

    https://themommytale.com/motherhood-celebration/

    1. Baby & Beyond said on June 30, 2017 12:25 pm:

      Yes family meal time is so important for good eating habits as well as for the family to stay connected!

  2. Zainab said on June 29, 2017 6:36 pm:

    This is a good post again!
    I know when we are distracted we tend to eat more!
    It’s good to instill good eating habits in kids right from the start!

    1. Baby & Beyond said on June 30, 2017 12:24 pm:

      Thanks Zainab!

  3. Geethica Mehra said on June 29, 2017 11:23 pm:

    I also practise having dinner at one place and with family without tv. I got to some really important points when they create a mess.

  4. Shubhreet Kaur said on June 30, 2017 12:57 am:

    So with Karma we always did a high chair. From the time we introduced solids. and it worked. There were times she would not want to sit in it but then food was delayed a bit. I basically wanted her to have a habit of eating on the table. Yes, vacations were exception until I got a benbat for her. Now she has moved from the high chair to the benbat on dining table (its like a booster only). I totally love your point about not force feeding the child. That is so important. It can discourage a child from eating too. Really helpful article!

    1. Baby & Beyond said on June 30, 2017 12:24 pm:

      I had to lookup what a benbat is. Yes it does look super helpful for when traveling. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Priyadarshani panda said on June 30, 2017 9:06 am:

    Your Arti le has some very important point highlighted forced feeding is something makes them hate food and sitting at one place is definetly a win win for both baby n us mamas

    1. Baby & Beyond said on June 30, 2017 12:21 pm:

      Yes I hope more parents understand that it is not about force feeding but about the child developing a lifelong relationship with food.

  6. Kavita said on June 30, 2017 10:30 am:

    This is a really informative post. Your munchkin is so adorable. Thank you for sharing this, I am sure many mom would find it really useful when they start with meal routine for their kids.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on June 30, 2017 12:20 pm:

      Thanks so much Kavita <3

  7. Charu Sareen Gujjal said on June 30, 2017 11:57 am:

    You have some very useful tips here. It’s very important to set up the right environment during kid’s meal time. It helps to form right habits at the right age.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on June 30, 2017 12:20 pm:

      So true! Thank you.

  8. Minakshi bajpai said on June 30, 2017 3:32 pm:

    Its difficult to start solids for new toddlers..mine little one still dnt want to eat as he is two yrs now…its really important to set a environment of eating for them..will try ur ideas..hope this will work

    1. Baby & Beyond said on July 3, 2017 12:14 pm:

      Yes family meal time is very important for setting the groundwork for healthy food habits. Good luck!

  9. Shipra Trivedi said on June 30, 2017 5:00 pm:

    Great and useful post. With similar thoughts I am able to make my son a NO fuss eater 🙂

    1. Baby & Beyond said on July 3, 2017 12:13 pm:

      That’s great!

  10. Nayantara Hegde said on June 30, 2017 5:07 pm:

    Wonderful to read this. BLW has been a saviour here. But enter grandparents and they just dont let him eat on his own and we are back to square on on things. But BLW has at least helped us develop a taste for every kind of food and texture. I am glad he loves his fruits, veggies and all else.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on July 3, 2017 12:13 pm:

      Ahh I can understand. I didn’t follow BLW so it was relatively easier for me to get the grandparents on board. But when I started daycare and hired a nanny I was very clear that he needs to sit in one place and be allowed to eat on his own without being force fed. Thankfully they also recognized that its much easier on them to do this rather than running behind him for an hour and its all worked out with everyone.

  11. manveen said on June 30, 2017 10:39 pm:

    Such a useful post and I agree with so much in this!!