by Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD
I have a love/hate relationship with feeding my son. I love watching him try new foods and learn skills like grabbing food in his hand. But on the other side, I am scared he will choke on something (he always seems to gag a lot) and I’ve had many moments of “am I doing this right?”
The only thing I know for sure is that there is no “right” way to feed a baby. As many mom friends have told me, it’s up to your mom instincts and a little bit of guidance from a doctor or dietitian. As a dietitian who doesn’t work with infants, I needed some help. I bought one of the best books, “Fearless Feeding” by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen. (http://fearlessfeeding.com/) These two dietitians have saved me!! I also decided to sign up for an Infant Safety course to review CPR and choking. The class was scary but I feel more prepared. I also now know the difference between choking and gagging, which I learned is common when babies learn how to chew and swallow.
I’ve read the infant section and learned a lot so far. Now I know what’s appropriate for an infant in terms of food groups, portions, and signals to know hunger vs. fullness. I also have learned about introducing puree’s vs. baby-led weaning and slowly learning how to feed himself. The authors also review that as the amount of food goes up, the amount of formula will go down. My 9.5 month old is now eating 3 meals/day consisting of every food group. He mostly does purees and lumpy foods, but we’ve been working up to finger foods and he’s getting better at the pincher grasp every day. He will mostly eat oatmeal, soft mushy fruit, pureed veggies, potatoes, hummus, avocado or guacamole, fish, scrambled eggs, and bread. His favorite food is whole milk flavored yogurt- it tastes like dessert to me! My infant also needs me to feed him with a spoon vs. other babies might feed themselves at this point. I’ve learned to let him practice this in his own time. He has weaned himself down to 4 bottles per day, ranging anywhere from 4-8 oz (all depending on how much food he’s eaten). I’m still surprised at how variable my child’s appetite can be. Ellyn Satter (http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/) created the Division of Responsibility, which says the parent is in charge of what and the child/infant is in charge of how much (and everything else). I try my best to apply these principles now of healthy feeding behaviors to create a healthy relationship with feeding from the beginning.
I admit that even though I “know” a lot about this, I’m not a perfect mom. But who is? There are days when my child gets too much sugar and there are days when I realize he didn’t get any veggies. But there are also days where he eats a lot of healthy foods and I know he’s getting nutrition. It’s all about balance, variety, and moderation. These concepts aren’t just great for adults and healthy eating, but can be applied to children of all ages.