“My kid is a picky eater. How do I get him to eat nutritious food?”
“My child is not gaining weight. What should I do?”
“My breastmilk stash is slowly depleting. What do I feed my daughter?”
These are just a few of a mom’s child feeding dilemma and I also experience some of them. As a mom of a 3-years-and-9-month old pre-schooler boy and a 1-year-and-7-month old toddler girl, it’s always a struggle to get my children eat the right food.
My Big Boy loves rice so much that when he does not like the food served on the table, he could get through a meal with just rice, no viand. (Carbs overload, I know! I suppose he knows he needs it for his all-day kalikutan. Hehe!) He likes fish — fried, grilled, steamed, sinigang — and would sometimes finish the fish without eating the rice. His favorite is fish fillet. 🙂 He’s not so much of a fan of chicken, pork and beef and especially vegetables, which he always segregates on the side of his plate and calls “junkfood” when he is no longer in the mood to eat (that kid! :D). We just sneak in some meat or veggies in his spoon of rice so he would have an intake of other nutrients. He’s also not fond of hotdogs, unlike most kids I know, and would rather eat the marshmallows in a hotdog on a stick at a kiddie party. His mealtime usually takes 45 minutes to 1 hour! He wouldn’t chew his food and let them stay in his mouth for so long until I or his Daddy scolds him. Or he would get off his chair and play with his cars which of course, will get another scolding. And oh, like any other kids, he loves biscuits, cookies and chocolates!
My Little Princess, meanwhile, enjoys eating. We practice baby-led weaning (BLW) starting her 6th month when she could sit up unassisted and began showing interest in solid food. BLW is an approach of introducing solids to your baby with age-appropriate food that are soft-cooked or cut into slices (no purees/mashed food) by letting him/her feed himself/herself (Babyledweaning.com, Wholesome Babyfood). She started with steamed veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, sayote, carrots, and brocolli then fruits such as banana, mango, watermelon and papaya. Beginning 9 months, she eats whatever we have on the table and at around 14 months, she started using a spoon by herself. At the same time, she is still exclusively breastfeeding/drinking breastmilk, meaning no follow-on milk. However, when she reached toddlerhood, my breastmilk supply started to dwindle and my stash began to slowly run out. What would I feed my Little Princess then? Panic attack! Plus, for some reason, there was a point when she would just eat 2 or 3 spoons then play with her food and throw them on the floor.
To address feeding concerns like what I experience with my kids, the Facebook breastfeeding support group I’m a member of, the Breastfeeding Pinays, holds a monthly or every-other-month seminar, called the “Tamang KAIN”, on proper infant and child nutrition which goes hand-in-hand with breastfeeding. I’m blessed to be able to secure a slot on the session held last October 11 at Citadel Inn Makati. The talk was conducted by Velvet Escario-Roxas, a breastfeeding expert, head of the breastfeeding-advocate NGO Arugaan and founder of Breastfeeding Pinays. I know it’s been almost 2 months since the event but I find the seminar very informative not to share. I really learned a lot on how to properly feed our little ones.
For the benefit of moms or dads who may be going through any feeding dilemma with their children or soon-to-be moms/dads, let me share what I’ve learned during the Tamang KAIN seminar.
BREASTFEEDING AND COMPLEMENTARY FEEDING
- Babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months. Nothing should given to them except breastmilk/breastfeeding — no water, tea, juice, am, vitamins, pacifier or any other food because breastmilk provides all the nutritional needs of the baby for the first 6 months of his life. Contrary to the common notion, infants 0-6 months should NOT be given water but breastmilk alone as breastmilk is composed of 80% water. When giving medicine, use breastmilk instead of water.
- After 6 months, complementary feeding can be offered to babies in addition to breastmilk. Solid food is given to complement breastfeeding and not to replace or substitute mother’s milk or breastmilk.
- Amount of solids to give to your child depends on his age. As the baby grows older, he consumes more solid food than breastmilk.
- Babies can regulate their natural caloric intake so there is no need to give them too much milk. Small frequent feeding of 2oz is what is recommended.
- “Follow-on milk is NOT NECESSARY” for children as breastmilk contains all the essential nutrients needed for baby’s growth and development which are not present in formula milk.
- A mother’s milk will always be enough for baby no matter how much breastmilk she produces, coupled with the right complementary solid food.
- Artificial vitamins are not needed for as long as baby is breastfeeding and eats proper nutritious complementary food.
- Food and Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) are inter-related. For children to develop, they should be encouraged to explore and experience their surroundings and get exposed to different textures of the things around them. The hands, feet and mouth have the same senses and the texture that the child feels through his hands and feet sends signals to his brain on the texture of the different food.
PROPER EATING HABITS
- Do NOT force feed the child. Let the child consume the food that he can as children have the ability to control their food intake according to what their bodies need.
- Mealtime should be FUN. Encourage a pleasant eating environment — avoid yelling and being too strict during mealtime. Avoid pleading or bribing the child to eat or finish his food.
- Encourage INTERACTIVE feeding. Mealtime is family time. Stay with the child when eating and do not leave him as this brings an opportunity for the child to learn the proper eating behavior. Encourage communication and interaction on the dining table to foster family relationship. No mobile phones, gadgets or tablets during mealtime.
- Allow baby to experience eating by HIMSELF. Do not spoon-feed baby. Give him finger food or a teaspoon and plate for him to learn how to put food in his mouth by himself.
- Turn off the TV during mealtime. Do not let a child eat with the television on. It serves as a distraction and the child loses his focus on his food.
- Parents should be the one to decide on what food the child will eat. The child eats what the parents eat so prepare nutritious food. Do not ask the child what food they want to eat as this may encourage a picky eater. Teach the child to eat what is served on the table.
- Give small, frequent meals to the child.
SMALL AND FREQUENT FEEDING
- Babies explore their surroundings to develop and grow and their energy gets used up from all the exploratory activities that they do like crawling, walking or running around, climbing up and down the chairs or stairs. So they need to eat more frequently to fulfill their energy needs for the all their activities.
- Babies do not need to consume big meals that is believed to last long given their energy requirements. What is essential is for them to have their fill every now and then for their continuously active bodies.
- A baby’s stomach is just about the size of an egg so it is important to give them just the right amount of food and not overfeed them. For example, you may offer a baby around 5 teaspoons of mashed or cut-into-pieces viand (with or without rice) for a mealtime. After an hour, add another 5 teaspoons.
- How often should the small frequent feeding be done? Every after 1 to 2 hours (maximum). But if a new type of food will be introduced to a child, a leadtime of 3 hours before feeding should be followed so that he will accept the new food more than when he is not too hungry.
- What food do you offer to baby every 1 to 2 hours? It can be the same as the previous meal or a variety of food as long as it is nutritious. It can be a rice meal, a viand, cooked or steamed vegetables or fruits. Besides, even adults wouldn’t want to eat the same food all the time.
- Until what age should the child be given small frequent meals? For as long as he wants. A child can regulate his caloric intake and his food consumption will adjust according to his caloric needs.
- If a child wants to eat more, offer him more. An empty bowl or plate is an indication that a baby wants to further eat so put more food on her bowl or plate.
- When a baby is sick or just healed from sickness, increase breastfeeding or make it more frequent than the usual to supply baby’s energy needs as his appetite for solid food is still low and his tastebud is bland.
PROPER FOOD TO OFFER TO OUR CHILDREN
- Complementary food to be given to our children should be age appropriate, rich in nutrients, easy to prepare, can be grown around us or can be bought from the market or talipapa and affordable.
- Do not put thin/watery food in a bottle. This will not help baby recognize texture of food. It might also cause baby to consume more than what he should or need that may lead to indigestion and sleeplessness at night.
- Baby’s first food should be indigenous food that are natural, fresh and safe. Do not give children chips and softdrinks which contains artificial flavoring and chemicals that are not good and safe for a child’s health.
- Do not offer food with preservatives and food colors that may lead to certain diseases.
- Commercial baby food such as cereals are also not good for children as they are too sweet, too salty, heavily processed and lacks nutrients.
I want to share also some breastfeeding and child feeding facts I learned from the seminar:
- Babies who are pre-mature by 6 weeks should be introduced to solids by his 8th month to maximize the nutrients obtained from breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding is a child’s “first school” as he learns the sense of touch between him and his mother.
- When breastfeeding, the act of moving from the left ot the right breast brings balance to baby’s brain.
- The hindmilk in breastmilk is rich in fats that is good for brain development.
- Breastmilk production peaks at 12MN to 4AM as prolactin goes up while sleeping.
- Illness among children peaks between 1 and 3 years old so don’t stop breastfeeding.
- The greener the leaves, the higher it is in iron and calcium.
- Do not give peanuts to babies until 9 months old.
- Cow’s milk is a phlegm former that causes continuous cough and colds. Hazelnut, soy or almond milk are better options for children.
- Baby’s weight gain begins to slow down after 6 months based on the growth curve.
I had a lot of light-bulb moments during this seminar and I felt enlightened on how we should feed our children. Some of our feeding practices were really challenged — force feeding, pleading and bribing for our child particularly the Big Boy to finish his food and a heavy instead of happy dining atmosphere because the Big Boy doesn’t want to eat and I’ve learned the proper way to make feeding more enjoyable for my child and less stressful for us. I was also able to take deep breath upon learning that my breastmilk, no matter how much (or little), is always enough for the Little Princess and there is no need for us to give her “supplementary” milk, but complementary healthy food instead.
We’re still in the process of applying all these learning and I hope that we will be able to practice the “tamang kain” in our home. 🙂 I hope also that the moms who would stumble upon this post will learn as much as I did. 🙂
P.S. While I shared my learnings during the seminar on this post, I still encourage parents to attend the Tamang K.A.I.N. Seminar because I promise, there’s a whole lot more facts and information that can be learned during the discussion. Join Breastfeeding Pinays on Facebook and check out the seminar schedules. 🙂