3. Feeding Children
This period of feeding children after breast-feeding is one of the biggest changes in infancy. It is the mother’s responsibility to see to it that the child is properly nourished and develops good eating habits. Before this time, it was easy—all mother had to do was put her baby to the breast. Now she has to provide the proper foods at the right times so that baby can make best use of them and be healthy.
3.1 When Is Baby Ready to Eat Solid Foods?
As mentioned in the earlier parts of this lesson, when baby has all the physiological tools necessary to chew and digest foods properly, he is ready for food. He is also ready when he shows an interest in foods and a disinterest in breast milk. Baby, when gradually introduced to new foods, will eventually be completely off breast milk and have a regular diet just like the rest of the family.
Many books on the subject of infant feeding will tell you how to feed your infant solid foods and what foods to feed them and in what form, “infants,” however, do not need anything other than breast milk. When baby is ready, there will be no need to spoon-feed him/her. This is clumsy and messy because baby is not really ready for it. In fact, most of the conglomerations or purees, cereals, etc., end up spit out by the baby because his/her senses have rejected them.
In The Complete Book of Breast-Feeding it is said that “an easy way to provide a balanced diet is to take advantage of the many strained baby foods on your grocer’s shelves. These are prepared under strict Hygienic conditions and are extremely convenient to use.” This is pernicious advice.
First of all, I wonder if the author visited the factories at which these “foods” are prepared to prove they are prepared under “hygienic conditions.” Secondly, these foods are generally unfit for the human diet. As well they are cooked with sugar, salt, and preservatives added to enhance flavor that was taken away by the cooking process. If baby has to be fed his food on a spoon by his mother, then he is not ready for solid foods. When he is ready, he will be able to hold a food in his hands and chew it. These foods are often called finger foods. Give your child a piece of banana or some other raw fruit and see if he can handle it or if he merely plays with it or throws it on the floor. This will determine readiness.
If baby is prematurely introduced to solid foods, overfeeding can be the result. He is only used to sucking. The mechanical motions of chewing food are much different and require a period of adjustment or changeover.
Food “allergies” are not so much the result of the food not being right for that particular baby’s constitution as they are the result of introducing foods too early. Baby is not allergic to the food but instead does not have the digestive enzymes to sufficiently break down the foods being given. Therefore, he/she naturally rejects it. Wait—do not force food on your baby when you think he/she is ready. He/she will let you know.
3.2 Baby’s First Food
What should baby’s first food be? Experiment. Some babies love bananas, some watermelon, some peaches, etc. Try one fruit at a time but never more than one at a time. Once you find a fruit your baby enjoys, stick with it for a long enough period for your baby to get used to it. Also give only small amounts at first.
Never be in a hurry to try new foods. If he sees you eat something and seems interested, let him try it (provided it is wholesome). Fruits are naturally the best first food for baby as humans are natural frugivores. The baby is already used to the sweetness of mother’s milk and will accept fruits before vegetables. In fact, it is a rare child indeed that even enjoys vegetables. Their taste for vegetables has to be “cultivated.”
You need not worry about deficiencies if your child won’t eat vegetables at first. Once he is used to a wide variety of fruits, serve him these, one at a time, and he will get a variety of nutrients.
You can add vegetables later. Many children like carrot juice as it is sweet—try this. But not too soon, as carrots are starchy vegetables and children before the age of about two do not have the physiological tools necessary to digest starches. Starch merely ferments inside them and causes indigestion and discomfort. Stick to foods that are easy for him/her to digest—namely fruits.
As the child gets older, about five or so, you can add nuts and seeds. Before this it is difficult for baby to properly masticate nuts and, therefore, they’re difficult to digest. Wait on these. The article in this lesson, “Feeding Your Child From Two to Three Years,” is very helpful in suggesting particular menus.
3.3 Developing Good Eating Habits
Good eating habits are the most important aspect of diet. If a child learns these when young, they will carry over into adulthood. Good eating habits begin with breastfeeding which is totally up to the mother. She needs to breast-feed him only when he is hungry and only in the proper amounts necessary to sustain him. A fat baby is a sign that poor eating habits are already being established.
Many parents try very hard to feed their children right at home but have a difficult time getting others to accept their rules of feeding their children. For example: some mothers might send their children to their grandparents’ house for the weekend and grandma feels they’re being deprived by not being allowed to have candy. She gives them candy, cookies, cakes, etc., to supply this “deprivation” and gets them hooked on these. She is not respecting her daughter’s or son’s wishes to raise a healthy, well-developed child. Perhaps it would be best to allow your children to be with their grandparents only when you are there. Of course, it is impossible to protect your children from all the evils (“foods”) that are about (and screaming out at them through the media) in this society, but if you teach them good habits and why they need to eat right and if they respect you, they will follow your rules. (See Lesson Fifty-nine on “Teaching Your Children About Healthful Living.”)
There are some rules to follow to assure your child is getting good nourishment:
- Never add salt, sugar, honey, etc., to any of their foods.
- Only feed natural, uncooked, unprocessed foods to your child.
- Teach them not to drink with their meals. On a proper diet they will not want to anyway.
- Teach them how to properly combine their meals for best digestion if more than a single food is served.
- Feed only three meals a day, and don’t allow them to eat between meals.
- Show them how to chew their food well.
- Have only natural foods in the house so they will not be tempted by others.
- Keep meals simple—don’t combine too many things at once.
- Do not stuff your child—feed only moderate amounts of food.
A child usually refuses natural foods when he/she has had enough.
- Provide a calm, relaxing environment for him/her to eat meals in.
- Teach him/her to sit and relax while eating.
- And most importantly, show a good example. If you’re eating all sorts of wrong foods, it will be very difficult to teach your child otherwise. That is cruelly hypocritical!
Dr. Tilden has said, “Fit children to the food and never attempt to fit the food to the children.” This means that a child must learn good eating habits by your example and words. If a child does not like a certain food, do not force him/her to eat it. There are plenty of good foods available and missing one particular item of food in his/her diet will certainly not create any sort of deficiency. Never force your child to eat anything.