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Posts Tagged ‘solids’

Baby-led Weaning

In How on 30 October 2014 at 5:24 am

I want Ragi“What do you think of baby-led weaning?”

I was calmly chopping vegetables with Radhika, a friend and member of Ask Amma today when she asked me this question.  What is baby-led weaning?  I thought.

“What are the possible thoughts about this?”  I asked.

“I mean, should you purée the food?  What about the baby food they sell in the store?”

Hmm … As someone who never bought baby food from the store, and who did not purée food that is not normally puréed, I had to take a few steps back to answer this question. Read the rest of this entry »

How children learn to eat

In How on 23 July 2013 at 4:00 am

How often do we hear that children won’t eat?  No one loves this message more than the food industry, which is ready to jump in with factory-tested flavours and bliss points, adding salt, fat and sugar, flavor, color and stabilizer in indsutrially calibrated quantities to design foods that hold mass appeal.  “Kids today don’t eat food!” declares an advertisement for a popular packaged meal.   On the screen we see a child pushing away a plate of vegetables, dal and roti and brightening up considerably when the packaged bliss comes forth in steaming digitally enhanced ringlets.

How often have we seen parents or grandparents run behind a child with a bowl of food or hire someone to perform this task?   Read the rest of this entry »

Trying New Foods

In How on 10 May 2013 at 8:00 pm

How many times a day should I offer solids to my baby?  How do I encourage him to try new foods?

– mother of a 1 year-old in Delhi

Rather than timing and offering foods, if you think of ways to create an environment where appropriate food is available, your baby can be the one to figure out how much and how often to eat, if at all.  Freedom is a delightful form of encouragement.

If you are still timing your own meals to coincide with baby’s naps, then probably you can try offering once a day.   He will let you know if he wants it more often.  If he doesn’t want it, that is fine too.   Be glad and accept that he made a choice – whether he chose to eat or not.

Sooner rather than later, you should welcome baby to family mealtime and see that there is something available that he can also eat.   Baby may not yet be able to chew a chapati, but you could prepare some ragi porridge, soup, soft-boiled vegetables, or chunks of soft fruit.  Place it on the table along with the rest of the dishes for the family and let baby have some if he wants.   A baby who is new to the family table might find the array of foods dazzling, but will soon get used to the setting, Read the rest of this entry »

Downside to whole grains?

In Yes / No on 23 August 2012 at 3:42 am
Seeing how difficult it is to move to whole grains after being used to everything white from rice to bread to semya, nan, pasta, etc, I wanted to make it easier for my children by serving whole grains from the start.  Recently a friend told me that giving brown rice cereal as first food is not as good as giving white rice cereal, because of the phytic acid issue (the brown rice contains more phytic acid than white).  Now I am confused, what should I do? 
– Mother of 4-year and 4-month old in Mysore
Several issues are bundled up in this question.  First food, digestion and nutrient absorption, and food preparation.  And brown rice.  Amma is ready 🙂
First, first food.  Obviously the “first” in question is not breastmilk, which is normally the first and only food for babies for at least the first six months of life.  Six months is not a fixed target for the entrance into solid foods.  These days when deadlines and schedules seem to hover over everything people often forget that a baby’s readiness for solid foods depends on maturity of the digestive system, and there is no benefit to introducing solids before a baby is ready for them. Read the rest of this entry »

Weaning … and Free Learning

In How on 27 October 2011 at 3:00 am

My weaning story, originally titled “Weaning: Fountain of Free Learning,” was edited and published in Breastfeeding Today, October 2011 here on page 14. I think they did a decent job condensing.  Here is what I wrote in 2009:

Weaning: Fountain of Free Learning

Weaning: Fountain of Free Learning

     We often hear that nursing a baby provides not only food but also love, comfort and immunity.  As a mother, I found it was all this and more.  I discovered breastfeeding to be a quintessential experience of free learning, right up to and including child-led graduating.   Natural, free, unscheduled, ungraded, untested and self-guided, the experience of breastfeeding gives the child far more than nutrition or even the oft-remarked “brain-boosting DHA.”  Reflecting back on nursing my daughter, I find that it gave her precious time, space and context to learn numerous life skills – not only eating, but also ways to understand her body, her mind and the world around her.  No one could give her a certificate that she had learned.  She moved on when she was ready.

*   *   *   *  *

It is over year since my daughter’s last breastfeeding.  She weaned over a period of 2-3 months, as the gaps between nursings became longer and more frequent … and then I realized it was no longer a gap.  It was all.  One June day when I first noticed a gap of more than a week, I couldn’t resist asking my daughter about it, though I was not sure if I was “supposed” to bring it up at all.  She simply said, “I don’t need it anymore.”  (She did nurse a few more times in July and August.)  My husband gasped, “what?  but you are supposed to have ampa (short for amma-palu, which in Telugu means mama-milk).”  They both giggled.

At the time I hardly talked to anyone about it. I have always been vocal about breastfeeding, calmly answering people who were shocked to see me breastfeed and NIP (nurse-in-public) well past the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 2 years.  Though I was bursting with it, what time or place to bring up the story?  Most of my family and friends might not have known she was “still” nursing, or even thought about it.   Without planning to, I did pour out to one friend, a fleet-footed newlywed engineering consultant in Washington, DC, whose views on breastfeeding or motherhood I knew not in the slightest.   She listened.   We laughed through moist eyes.   Later one day, entirely by luck, I found myself in the library on the day of our monthly La Leche League meeting.  I shared my experience.  Recently I again attended LLL after more than a year’s gap and a couple of moms remembered my story.  They had understood (of course).

They encouraged me to “write it down.”  And so here it is.

I always knew that I would breastfeed.  My mother was in La Leche League when my little sister was born and I went to my first LLL meeting  (as an adult) while I was pregnant. Though we had difficulties in the beginning, we got established after a few days and nursing was smooth after that.   There were ups and downs, of course.  At nine months my daughter loved idlis (steamed rice-and-bean cakes) so much I worried that she was not nursing enough.  At 15 months there was a time when she did not nurse for more than 24 hours and I worried because I knew that was too early to wean.  At 22 months she was nursing like a baby, waking up every 2 hours at night and all.  (Soon after the nursing spurt she had a growth spurt.)  Through all these ups and downs, I never lost confidence in nursing; moreover I had terrific support from and La Leche League online community forums, even though I knew few nursing moms in real life.

When my daughter was three I observed that she was nursing 3-6 times / day.  To sleep, to wake up, once in the middle, and often a couple of times during the day.  I remember noting that it did not seem to be tapering off in any way.  Could this actually end?

When she was 3 ½, I was most grateful that she was nursing.  That winter she got sick three times in three different places  – Delhi, Bombay, and Rasuru (Orissa), each time with high fever, and once with measles.  Each time she nursed right through her illnesses.  Though she was sick and needed to direct all her energy towards healing, she was not uncomfortable.  Through breastfeeding, mostly in her sleep, she was getting plenty of fluids, rest and nutrients.   She certainly couldn’t keep any food down (we tried that too).

Nursing helped our daughter to develop healthy eating habits.  She ate on her own, right from her introduction to ragi (millet) at 6 months, and soft fruits like banana and sapota, soft vegetables like peas, sweet potatoes, plantain, beets, and onwards to grains, beans, and beyond.  She ate whole grains from the beginning – whole millet, brown rice, whole wheat bread, mung and urad dal were also unpeeled.   We simply served her food and she ate as much as she wanted, with her own hand.  We usually ate together.  If she needed more time she would eat by herself as I took care of other work.  Or read a book.  Eating was always a happy and relaxed experience; never a chore, either for her or for us.  Through mother’s milk she became familiar with the diverse tastes of all that I ate; I think that served as a preview to whet her appetite for the real thing. Since she was breastfeeding I knew she was getting her nutrition so it did not matter how much solid food she ate.  With this freedom she embraced, at her own pace, the array of whole, natural foods we prepared.

Weaning from the breast signified not only a transition from one source of food to another, but also a transition in the way my daughter understood herself and dealt with the world. The basic ability to gauge one’s own hunger and satiety, cultivated at the breast, will serve one well at the plate.  Over the years I came to recognize that breastfeeding offers so much more than nutrition.  It offers immunity not only to germs but also to excessive stimuli from the environment.  It nurtures one’s sense of wholeness, it is comfort after a fall or stress, and of course, it is a warm cozy place to let down one’s guard and sleep.  The world offers alternatives for all of these functions, and the child who learns to avail these at her own pace will utilize them wisely.

Because breastfeeding often required me to take my daughter to work, it allowed her to be in interesting environments observing adults busy in various activities.   Also, it gave adults a chance to share time and space with a child and accept a nursing toddler as normal.  One small step towards building our continuum society.

Around age four, I again noticed that she was nursing nearly every night and sometimes during the day as well.  I wondered how long she would nurse, but did little more than wonder.  Once when she skipped a day I spent hours writing in my journal.  What does this mean?  But the next day she was back; meaning was forgotten.

It started soon after her fifth birthday.  Till then she was going strong with no signs of tapering off.  Two weeks later however, I observed that she’d skipped several days.  Was I ready for this?  I couldn’t say she was too young.  She was even past the oft-quoted “worldwide average” of 4.2 years.  So what was I missing?

Wasn’t I now supposed to be celebrating – increased wardrobe choice, one less mile to go before I sleep?  Sure, there would be plenty of days ahead to enjoy that.  Now I was immersed in a rush of feelings, and savoring that rush.   It passes all too quickly.

The author nursing her daughter at the grand canyon, Arizona.

The author nursing her daughter while on a hike.

Aravinda Pillalamarri, 2009


Introducing foods

In What on 17 October 2010 at 4:10 am

My baby is six months old. When should she start eating solids, and what should we start with?

If you can, as Michael Pollan might advise, find out what your great-grandmother, or better yet, someone of that generation living where you currently live, did. That should lead you to something that grows well in your region and climate, and that babies digest well.  And also ensure that you eat whole-grain and home-made rather than out of a box.

Before I start listing foods to offer, let me emphasize that the key word is offer.  Let the baby be the one to decide whether to eat and when to stop.  Does anyone really doubt that a six month old baby can put food in his mouth?  Hasn’t he been putting all kinds of random things in his mouth?   Babies explore with their mouths and when they are ready to explore food, they will find the way.  Your job is only to ensure that the food within reach is appropriate for baby’s age and to offer it in a pleasant, sociable environment. Read the rest of this entry »

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