It’s Feeding Time!
The day our daughter Hazel was born, the hospital midwife warned us of the dangers of ‘nipple confusion’. Stop tittering at the back! The theory went like this: if you (the mother, obviously) are trying to breastfeed and you give your new baby one (just one!) bottle feed, there’s a chance that they will prefer this easier method of milk delivery and reject your milk production devices forthwith. We bought this one for a while but it turned out, in Hazel’s case at any rate, that there was no confusion. Our girl liked milk – wherever she could get it! She could go from boob to bottle, and back again, without seeming to be the least bit concerned. Just so long as the milk flowed, no questions were asked.
So far, so good. After a few months though, it’s one of your parental responsibilities to introduce the little one to food. Looking back at it now, I don’t know why this one is overlooked when the Top Ten Parental Responsibilities list is drawn up. Everyone knows about toilet training, helping them learn to walk and sleep training. But no-one seems to factor in helping them to eat. This is strange, when you consider that it’s one of the first things you actually have to teach them. They arrive into the world with an instinctive desire to suck down milk and sleep, but they need to be taught ‘how’ to eat.
Our Hazel’s first taste of solid food didn’t really look all that solid. It was a mash of various vegetables, depending on the day of the week. Interestingly, this phase actually expanded our culinary horizons – I’d never tasted Butternut Squash before but Annabel Karmel recommended it, correctly in my opinion, as a tasty treat in her Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. At the risk of gaining a reputation for always writing about books, I’d like to take a minute to mention this one.
This is a lovely cook book which even comes with a hardback cover, so Hazel could play with/chew down on it if she felt the urge. It’s also got little happy and sad faces on each page so you can mark off whether your little VIP liked the dish. In the early days, when we were making anything and everything, this was useful as otherwise I’m certain we’d have ended up making a meal just before we realised that we’d done it last week and she hated it!
In this initial period, Hazel only refused one meal. She absolutely would not eat mashed green beans. She took one spoonful and then clamped her mouth shut. This was a surprise both as it seemed totally unlike her and also because of the fact that I hate green beans too. It’s a bit of a strange thing to have inherited, a detestation of green beans, but at least she has an understanding parent who won’t judge her too harshly!
Since then, Hazel’s food has gradually become less mashed and more lumpy. These days her favourite meals include Irish Stew, Sole, Spaghetti Bolognese and she’s also keen on sampling whatever’s on our plates. This can be a bit of a drawback for her parents, of course. Sometimes I find myself sneaking off into the kitchen for a quick snack, before she cottons on. If I succeed, I eat my sandwich in peace. If I don’t, she’ll be there smacking the palm of her hand down on my knee, demanding a piece of bread crust – at the very least!
The eating of solid food proceeded, obviously enough, at the same time as she started to produce teeth. Teeth are great, they help her to eat. However they also help her to chew anything that takes her fancy. Judging by the sheer number of things we find her sticking into her gob, it must be an interesting, perhaps even pleasurable, experience. Hazel’s mantra must be: “Sticks and stones may break my bones BUT they may also be very tasty.”
The teeth, of course, arrive randomly and are accompanied by howls of pain. We’ve been lucky as the teething pains haven’t really disturbed her sleep too much but they do turn our placid little girl into a howling dervish in the evenings. “Who are you and what have you done with our Hazel?” we ask.
Returning to food, lately we have run in to a slight problem. By now, she should be getting the hang of feeding herself. She should be able to sit in her high chair and get through a small meal, using her hands to lift the pieces of food. Our problem is that Hazel decided the high chair wasn’t cool about two months ago. Don’t go thinking we can put her into a regular chair! She’s only 15 months old after all. So now she gets most of her meals standing up, sitting on someone’s lap or sitting on the couch (watching TV). The last method is the only one where she’s guaranteed not to get bored and wants to leave but it does make us feel a little uncomfortable, as we’re doing our best to keep TV watching to a minimum.
She also isn’t very hungry in the middle of the day. Our plans for three main meals in the day have proven to be a bit of a failure and, if I can get her to take some yoghurt or a banana at lunch time, I feel like I’ve achieved. However, this disinterest in some meals doesn’t mean she’s wasting away. The opposite is the case, actually. Whenever my wife Ev’s worried about her not eating, I say “Look at her!” “If she was a chocolate bar, she’d be a Kit-Kat Chunky.”