Monday, February 07, 2011

Feeding Titus

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I've been meaning to write about food for kids for some time now. This week, I was interviewed for Expressen, one of Sweden's daily newspapers, about my thoughts on feeding kids, and that gave me the opportunity to think about how I really feel. (And an opportunity to show off a gazillion photos of him - bonus!)

This post will be pretty long, and rambling. Sorry about that. (But I hope you'll find it at least a little bit interesting.)

I want to be really clear from the get-go: This is a touchy subject. I only speak for myself. I don't care - I really truly don't - what other people choose. Their choices are their own, and that is fine. As are mine.

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I only have one kid, and he's just 20 months old. Let's check back in a few years and see if my theory holds, ok?

I'm a pretty confident woman. I have strong opinions, about a lot of stuff. I am used to stand up for my beliefs and I'm comfortable with that. Yet, when I had Titus, I felt so vulnerable and nervous. There I was, completely responsible for someone else, and someone so precious, and what if I did it wrong?

Everyone had an opinion, too. Everyone. People in my family. People I work with. People on the internet. Friends. Experienced parents, as well as those child-less. Magazines. Baby food companies. Health care professionals. And who to listen to? In the end, myself.

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I had so many ideas, before I gave birth. I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding, I wasn't comfortable with formula and felt it to be inferior. It went well from the start. Sure, it hurt like crazy from time to time, and it was pretty awkward breastfeeding in public (and in front of my boss) but on the whole, it was fine. I decided that it was one of the most natural things in the world, and nothing to be ashamed of, and also, nobody's business.

(And about breastfeeding, I recognize that not everyone wants to or is able to. I was able, and I wanted, and it was my choice to do it. I feel, strongly, that it was the best way for me, my baby and our family. It is not the best way for everyone. Ok?)

I had planned on breastfeeding for six months, which is the recommended time in Sweden. And since it's recommended, it seems just about everyone stops at exactly six months. I didn't. See, Titus wasn't interested in food at that time. At all. I tried giving him puréed fruit and vegetables at 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 months - no good. (For the record, I tried processed baby food too, but he wouldn't even try that - he smelled it, turned his head away and that was that.) I had endless lists of food for him - I actually wrote down combinations that sounded interesting for baby purées. (Yes, I really did. Many. Sweet potato-basil, anyone? Peas and mint? Sweetcorn and cilantro? I did this even before Titus was born.) He refused it all - he just wasn't very interested in food. (And on a side note, he's never been one to chew on his toys either - I think it's probably related somehow.)

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So, anyway, we ended up breastfeeding until he was 18 months. (We stopped when I went on my trip to New York for five days - it was the perfect opportunity as he was eating well by then, and mostly nursing for comfort.) He started eating, bit by bit, from ten months or so. Stuff he could hold. Crackers. Corn puffs. Cheerios. I let him try everything, not caring if it contained sugar or a little salt, since he ate so extremely tiny amounts. He was usually eager to try - as long as it wasn't baby food, or God forbid, baby cereal.

We were always excited to find something new he liked, and eventually gladly embraced Baby-Led Weaning. Titus got to choose what to eat, and he also got to choose how much to eat. Choking hazard? Well, I read that a child who is allowed to choose his own bites is much less prone to choking, and that worked for us. I never gave him tiny little bread cubes - he got an entire slice of bread, and handled that perfectly. Before long, he ate a lot of things. Quesadillas. Chicken. Fish. Rice pudding. Pancakes. Meat. Roasted potatoes. Apples. Yogurt. Soft-boiled eggs. He allowed us to feed him some things with a spoon, but preferred to hold the food himself.

And now? He certainly doesn't eat everything - far from it. As for fruit, he'll only have apples or bananas. He eats berries sometimes, usually if they're served, say, on top of a panna cotta. (Yes, he gets his own pot.) The one thing he really never tries is pasta (although he sometimes eat it at his pre-school if he's hungry enough) and he doesn't like pizza at the moment. Also, chick peas constantly gets refused, and he's not fond of any dips or sauces. He doesn't like getting messy, and is much more likely to eat bread on it's own than a sandwich. But he always gets to decide for himself.

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He won't let us feed him at all anymore - he would allow it for a while, with yogurt and rice pudding, but he quickly learned how to use a spoon and a fork, and since then, he feeds himself. His very favorite foods right now: risotto, any kind. And pancakes with maple syrup. Crisp roasted potatoes is another huge favorite.

Don't get me wrong. We're far from perfect. He gets plenty of sugary foods - most notably the Danonino yogurt he insists on for breakfast. He gets to try just about everything we eat. (He loves to sip my latte in the morning. I let him. It's just a sip - can't possibly be dangerous.) If we eat chips, well, he does too. Dessert? Just try and stop him. (Like all other parents, we've found that if we don't want him to eat something, well, we better don't eat it in front of him.) I'm sure there are loads of kids growing up on processed foods that on the whole gets more nutritious food - that's really not what I'm concerned about.

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My goal is to raise a boy who enjoys food, who likes flavor and who's not a picky eater. I realize that he will be picky, from time to time, and I hope I can manage not to make a fuss about it. I believe that the best way to handle is it to just ignore it. Not give expectations about what he will like or not - not say "oh, you probably won't like this, but perhaps you can try some." Instead encourage, or be neutral. We serve food, expecting him to enjoy it. As we do. I know he prefers his food un-sauced, and serve it accordingly, but I rarely cook something especially for him. (Ok, I confess that we have plenty of fish fingers in the freezer. And frozen potato Rösti, those are pretty exellent to heat up when he's hungry and we're not, or he won't try what we're having. It happens.)

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Baby food. Convenient. Or is it really? I always find it more convenient to give him whatever I'm eating. I get angry with baby food producers who prey on the insecurities of new parents, telling them that they can't decide for themselves what to feed their kids. Of course they prefer people to buy their jars of highly processed foods with added this-and-that. I do believe that raising a child on processed foods will make them less prone to liking "real" food and real flavors. I choose not to do that. I think baby food tastes like cardboard, and is, on average, disgusting. It's certainly not dangerous, and I'm sure it's nutritious, but the flavor? Horrible. To me, and apparently, to my baby.

And a note on gruel. Sweden encourages baby cereal very much, and most kids gets a bottle of gruel (ok, is that really the name? Wikipedia insists, but I'm not sure. It's välling in Swedish.) first thing in the morning and again before bed. It's awfully convenient. It comes with a very long ingredient list, and is highly processed. It's often rather high in sugar. Most kids seem to love it. Titus has never tried, and that's just because I don't see the point. We breastfed for so long that once he was on solids, I had no idea why he should eat liquids. (I myself loved it as a kid, by the way, or so my mom assures me!)


I realize I write about me, and my own opinions. In reality, we are two people raising Titus, and his dad has just as much to say about our choices as I do - of course. However, I feel more strongly about food and cooking than he does and he's fine with that. Sure, he takes Titus to McDonalds more often than I do - and that's ok. Everyone has to find their own way.

Ok. That's the end - for now - of this essay. Kudos to those of you who read all the way to the end! I'll reward you with awesome recipes next week, ok?

26 comments:

mostofa said...

One of your finest articles yet !! :o) !!

Lotta said...

*I press the like button* :oD

...as for "välling" sometimes pap seems to be used and sometimes formula even though my feeling is that formula is more like "mjölkersättning", gruel feels more like "gröt"

Lena said...

Titus är en fantastisk liten kille, så jag är övertygad om att du gjort rätt i alla beslut.
Kram

Anonymous said...

Bästa jag har läst om barn om mat- någonsin.

Skriv en bok, snälla.

Kram!

Dagmar said...

Riktigt bra skrivet!!! Jag är säker på att du gör helt rätt!

Tamsin said...

Excellent article, thank you Anne. I don't have children, but hopefully in a few years it's something my husband and I will be planning. Perhaps my beliefs will change when I have a baby but this is how I would like to feed my child. My mother never made separate food for my brother and I, we had 'adult' food pureed or cut up small. Now we're grown up, my brother and I are both adventurous eaters and have no allergies to speak of. Now we are faced with such a minefield of information I admire people who have the confidence to follow their instincts.

Pene said...

Great photos, Anne & your thoughts are very well expressed. Do what feels right for you as a family. We need to "listen" to our bodies more instead of to other people & advertisers.
BTW my eldest son will only eat apples & bananas, & can't stand the smell of oranges!

Pille said...

Nice write-up.
We followed baby-led weaning with our first-born as well - and at 2 years old now, she's a very good and adventurous eater. She loves pasta, seafood, soups, ALL fruit and berries, carrots and broccoli etc.. Breastfeeding (17 months) was so much more convenient and easier than playing with bottles (especially when travelling), and Nora's been eating on her own since she was one. (Actually I cannot really remember spoonfeeding her much at all). Suits us perfectly well :)
No, with little Aksel, we plan to follow the same path.

Noname Egoisten said...

Härlig son du har & det är ju så kul när de är matglada! Min lille skrutt äter också allt! Han har inte eller fått burkmat utan fått prova sig fram på vad jag äter, hans favoriter just nu är getost & rökt lax. Inte samtidigt då förstås! :)

Debbie Koenig said...

Love this post, Anne! We did some limited baby-led weaning, too, until our ped (who wasn't really familiar with it) told us H wasn't gaining quickly enough & we needed to get him on solids, pdq. Still regret not holding my guns on that. And I totally agree with you about not stressing about what T eats--once Harry caught wind of how important food is to me, it was all over. My boy who ate everything has been driving me bananas for 2 years now, only recently agreeing to try things again. If you can keep the power struggles out of it, things will go much better for you than they did for us!

Trogen okommenterande läsare said...

Tack för detta inlägg! Intressant tanke om sambandet mellan att inte äta på leksakerna och vara ointresserad av annat än amning - stämmer precis på vår tvååring. Det vände till slut och nu är hon matglad, men det kanske ligger nåt i det - får se hur lillebror tänker göra (och oj vad mycket mindre stressad jag kommer vara med hans smakisar).

Lena said...

Fina bilder på en supergullig liten kille! Himla bra skrivet också! Har inte själv barn (ännu), men jag kan tänka mig hur mycket information om barn och mat som flyger mot en från alla håll. Verkar som om du har hittat en bra lösning some funkar för er både just nu och framåt. Toppen! Jag absolut älskade äppelgröt när jag var liten (i den där gröna kartongen!) och kan bara tänka mig vad den egentligen innehöll!
Skriv gärna mer, det var kul att läsa.

alissa said...

Lovely post Anne! I remember writing to you about baby-led weaning :) It is great to see someone so widely read introduce a potentially new audience to the idea.

In the UK they call 'gruel' baby rice.

Anne said...

Thanks so much everyone! I was expecting far harsher comments, which is why I was so reluctant to write - see, there I go again with my insecurities!

Alissa, a huge thanks for that, and thanks to Pille for recommending me the book - it really helped me relax quite a bit :)

I do love this subject and would like to write more about it eventually - a book, perhaps not, but perhaps a bit more than this. We'll see.

Alexandra said...

Jag tycker du gör helt rätt! Tummarna upp! :)

Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed this article! You are absolutely right, Anne. The baby should lead the way. So much of infant care and feeding is actually stuff recommended by big business.

Children have their own timetables, and we should heed them. I breastfed my daughter solely until she was 7 months old. At that time we started her on a few solids, fearing that she wasn't getting enough to eat. It probably was the right time, because she did like the food we gave her, once she got used to it. She hadn't shown interest in food, though, we gave her solids because we thought we should. I made baby food for her by putting parts of our dinners in the blender. We never, ever, bought commercial baby food.

Because our daughter was so slow in eating, we didn't really think our son was ready, but he was. At 5 1/2 months old he rolled over the floor to his sister, took her banana bread from her, and stuffed it in his mouth! I tried that night giving him homemade baby food from the blender, and he wouldn't eat it. He wouldn't eat until his little plate looked just like ours - so - his first meal was roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. I ended up just making him little plates of whatever we were eating, and mashing it up with a fork.

I nursed both of my children for several years. It is for comfort after a while, I suppose.

My Swedish American mor mor was really enthusiastic about nursing because a doctor had told her that it was the reason my mor survived the flu pandemic after WWI. My Mom was the only baby her age in his practice who survived the flu, and she was also the only one still nursing.

As adults my children don't really like dessert very much. I don't know if it's from the nursing and natural food, but I'm pleased that they aren't sugar addicts. My daughter is nursing her 8 month old daughter, as she did her first child.

I really have run on - guess I'm still an old hippie anti-establishment type at heart. Eileen

Anonymous said...

Hi, Anne,

I did feed my children formula, and they turned out okay, so I appreciate your comments.

I have raised four, and they're all terrific cooks and conscious of what they eat. I'm proud of that.

Food should never be used as a power ploy. It shouldn't be used as a substitute for love or attention, or to keep a tired child quiet when we drag him through the stores when he should be home napping or eating dinner. That, I believe, is what makes a child overweight or a picky eater.

I agree with what you say, and I think that you're doing a great job. Your son is beautiful.

Ája Voráčková said...

Want a harsch comment? ;)
McDonalds? Really?
I like your oppinion and the article, but you "killed" it (for me) with this ending :o)

milimina said...

fantastiskt roligt att få läsa om blw och jag hoppas många ser det som ett alternativ efter att ha läst om det i din blogg :)

vi har använt båda metoderna, den förstfödde (klassiker) fick puréer, välling och industrigröt. visserligen gjorde jag nästan all hans mat själv, men han åt lika glatt färdiga burkar. han var av olika orsaker ett delammat nappbarn, och jag vet inte om det spelat in.

vår andra har haft _mycket_ vilja i matfrågor. för det första bestämde hon själv när det var färdigväntat och rent ut högg en bit bröd av sin bror som första smakis. för det andra har hon alltid vägrat puréer, välling, ersättning, gröt och industrimat. hon var i princip helammad upp emot året, med undantag för de smakbitar hon fick i sej på egen hand, och hon ammar än (fyller snart två). hon hatar fortfarande med passion allt som i konsistens påminner om puré och gröt. för henne passade blw utmärkt och vi har gjort på samma sätt som ni och erbjudit av allt.

inget av mina barn är någon storätare, men de smakar på allt och på nåt sätt har målet varit att förmedla den där matglädjen. finns den, så kommer det andra också.

Helena Ljunggren said...

Riktigt bra där Anne! Nu har jag inga egna barn men det var liksom bra ändå :)

Titus har de vackraste ögonen jag har sett på väldigt länge. Rar kille!

Anne said...

Thanks so much everyone! I love hearing your input and your stories about this.

McDonalds. Well, we're not super-parents and the reality is that yes, we do go to McDonalds sometimes. Partly because my husband really likes it (and I get cravings for it sometimes too, but not very often) but more because when we've failed to plan and find ourselves out and about with nothing to eat: McDonalds is there. I think of it as the devil you know, basically. And I think that as long as you don't use the option all the time, there's not much harm in it either.

So far, I think it can be pretty convenient - Titus will eat a few pieces of chicken, some fries, a side of bread, a carton of milk and his apple wedges. And he gets a balloon - always a great end to a meal, in his book.

Cupcake said...

Excellent post! Your child is adorable.
Cupcake
www.thefamily-table.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Anne, I love your article. My girls are all teens now and they love to eat and cook healthy food. Whatever you are doing must be spot on because little Titus is a beautiful baby. The whole McDonald's issue is a matter of moderation. When I was little, McDonald's was a once-a-year treat and we were never hurt by it. Now we rarely, if ever, go, but my husband loves their breakfast burritos! It's the people who eat it on a regular basis that will feel it's affects on their health. I'm so glad you wrote this article. Titus is a fortunate baby to have you as a mom!

Kelley said...

Hej Anne,

Tak for the post. I'm expecting my first baby (a boy) soon so I'm really interested in kid's food too. I like your blog and added it to my blog roll.

Wish I could write all this in Svenska. I studied it years ago (jag borte en ar in Tyskland..somehow fell in love with Swedish too). Sverige is a beautiful, beautiful place.

Kelley
Chicago, Illinois

G said...

As a mother who's unable to breastfeed for medical reasons, I find the whole baby food even more aggravating. In a way, I feel like a hostage. As an immigrant in Sweden, I've been unable to figure out the point of vällning vs more regular food or more formula (which is a kind of known evil at least, despite it's million ingredients). As a person who cooks primarily ecological food, and eats very little processed stuffs, I'd much rather just give my babies whatever we make.

Granted, in another day and age, both me and my kids would be dead on arrival and the whole feeding thing would be moot, so in a way, medical science goes hand in hand with food science in this case.

maegen said...

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very 17th century English portraiture! except totally modern content. "I'm a baby, so what". love it.