I thought I would take a little time to talk about the goal of feeding your baby and toddler. The goal for me has always been to ween. I feel like weening is often looked upon as a negative term. Mother’s fear the idea of the transition or the emotional aspect of weening from breastfeeding. These are natural reactions, and ones that I’m sure will continue on as your child spends the night away, goes to school, leaves for a trip, moves away, and gets married in the future. However, my goal as a parent is to raise my boys to be independent individuals who can take care of themselves. This being said, weening is the process and is a positive step toward this overall goal.
So, what does that mean? Nursing to bottles to cups to cereal to purees to finger food to self spoon feeding…all of these are natural steps to take in teaching your child to eat with the family. Eating with the family means two things to me.
- Your baby must learn to physically eat his or her own food.
- Your baby must learn to sit and eat at the table with proper manners.
With these thoughts in mind, I have consistently been adding new opportunities for food exploration and time at the table. I must admit that I have a hard time with the finger foods. I like the nice, clean little puffs that stay nice and clean for self-feeding. Many of the other dissolvable snacks are sticky and nasty. Oh, the boys like them, but my controlling self has a hard time watching the disastrous mess ensue. Then, there’s real food. With small, soft bites of fruits and vegetables as well as tofu, cheese, pasta, and other soft, chewable foods, I have a really hard time knowing what size to make them and how to best avoid gagging and choking. One of my boys is a gagger and I hate the sound of it and how it must make him feel. I’m so overcautious that I’m not really afraid of choking, but know that it is a real danger with babies learning to eat.
We don’t own big high chairs with trays, so my boys have always sat at the table in their seats. I think this has been a good thing for us and I see the transition to family meals benefiting from this practice. It has been hard, as these basic highchairs are not super supportive or restricting and require adult attention. They are also within arms reach of anything else on the table, so there have been lots of opportunity for grabbing or teaching opportunities as I prefer to see it. From the first spoon of cereal, I have not let little hands enter the feeding area and this has helped the cause as they grow. I have seen recently a bigger interest in reaching for the spoon or banging on the table. I simply stop, say no and wait for hands to go down before continuing feeding. The other key that I’ve found in teaching patience at the table is to make sure I’m ready. I don’t sit the boys down to have to wait for me to prepare food, then feed it, then wait for me to clean up. This is all just too much for the little guys to handle. I do, however, eat at the table with them once they’ve finished their food and provide some type of finger food or cup with water for them to join. I hope this hard work will pay off in the future.
So, my goal for eating with the family continues. We started around November offering very small bites of our food just on the tip of our finger at random meals. I can remember giving a taste of stuffing and potatoes at Thanksgiving as well as a few other family favorites at Christmas. So, now that we’re well into January, I’ve been adding those finger foods that are healthy snacks in the afternoon or after regular spoon-fed foods at meal times. Some things I have found as great options are pieces of tofu, small cooked whole wheat pasta (even cut if needed), and small pieces of cooked apples. The boys do love the biter biscuits and I offer them occasionally, knowing there will be a sticky mess to clean up. I think these are great for teething and keep them occupied at length.
So far, we’ve had good little eaters, but I do see the signs of impatience and activity setting in. I’m gearing up for next steps in learning to eat with the family.
Share any of your thoughts or ideas for finger foods.