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Jan 1, 2012 03:46 AM

Expanding your chowbaby's palate from day 1

Or 6 months, the recommended age to start weaning onto solid foods (disregard if you wean earlier for medical reasons and then consider switching at 6 months if possible).

I want to recommend (no, not spam, I am a real user) "Baby Led Weaning" principles as explained by Gil Rapley. Basically, it involves these principles:
- No puree (unless that is the recipe, ie. soup), only softened/cut if required
- No parent-spoon feeding (you give them the spoon to hold from day 1)
- Eat at the table while parents eat too
- Eat the same food as the family from day 1

I started this at 6 months with my son (he was given puree/spoons from 4 months for medical reasons, acid reflux) and it was AMAZING, I really can't recommend it enough.

By 8 months, he would eat scoops from my proper restaurant meal (ie. risotto, chicken, fruit, even an Indian curry), with his own spoon. He is now 19 months and has no aversion to food except the colour green (which is actually a normal trait for that age, to do with attraction to red/aversion to green, a bit of an instinctual thing).

If any of you have babies that haven't weaned yet or aren't parents yet but want your baby to partake in a foodie lifestyle, I *highly* recommend it. It's becoming more popular in Europe. It isn't "new", it is just the way of doing it before Gerber came along.

Here's the site

And my picture is full chicken fingers with a broccoli/mashed potato combo... :) At 7 months.

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  1. And baby will be able to do fractions at 18 months!

    1. Actually, according to a study I read recently, the time to expand baby's palate is in utero. Babies tend to like what mom ate while pregnant (gosh, wonder how much they spent to figure that out?) Or at least accept more readily. So eat a varied diet, expose baby to a varied diet, and then see what happens. Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Same parents & techniques - one of my sons eats everything, very adventurous eater. The other is very picky and phobic about some things, often not the ones you'd expect.

      Cute baby pic, happy chowing.

      7 Replies
      1. re: tcamp

        This is what I'm seeing with my child. I couldn't eat anything greek style will pregnant. Couldn't eat most meat, it HAD to be comfort food. I felt like I was hung over for the first 4 months! lol. At 1yr she ate almost anything I threw at her. By 19mths she was still pretty good but would only eat 5 different meat dishes I prepared, by 22mths she'd only eat chili or meat sauce. Now. No meat at all! She'll still eat lots of veggies but, gets down right upset if you offer meat or any noodle for that matter. That's just the way it is.

        If I was to do something different I would eat whatever I could whilebreastfeeding. This may have helped her expand her palate a bit more.

        HA! Like that would have helped. would it, would it not?? Who really knows? Kids are all different and they'll eat what they want and they use it as control too. My baby girl can drive me mad sometimes. Just recently I decided to let it go and, wow, has that been a god send.

        1. re: tcamp

          Agree with tcamp that the best time to start exposing your baby to good food is iin utro. But I would add that you have to keep this up when you're breastfeeding. Babies can really taste your food through your milk.I know a lot of people put tons of restrictions on what a breastfeeding mother can eat, but a lot of these restrictions are old wives tales.

          1. re: hala

            I could not eat onions or cabbage while breastfeeding. It very simply made the kid sick and cranky. Ten years later she happily eats onions, will not eat cabbage. So this proves what?

            1. re: rockycat

              Just because you had issues does not mean every one does. And the claim that cabbage and onions make a child sick are new to me. Unless the child has allergies, I have never heard of one getting sick from what a mom eats.

              Unfortunately, a lot of women are so convinced of these old wives tales that they become a self-fulfilling profecy. Babies cry and get irritable all the time. I am not sure that all that can be traced to food.

              1. re: hala

                Hmm. When it turns out that the only times the kid got gassy and uncomfortable and had "that kind of cry" was when I ate only those two foods, it kind of leads one to a conclusion. And if you haven't heard of babies reacting to what's in their mom's milk, then you may not have talked to too many nursing moms. You yourself said that the baby tastes food through the milk. Are you contradicting yourself?

                You more or less make my point for me. I had these issues. Some other moms don't. Therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. When your child has a problem, being told that it's all in your head, a "self-fulfilling profecy (sic)", or an old wives' tale is not helpful.

                1. re: rockycat

                  I was also told that I was just overreacting and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for claiming that certain foods bothered him. Turns out he had a lactose intolerance and severe acid reflux disease until 18 months. Go figure. Try drinking 10 cups of coffee and then nurse, see that it doesn't affect them!

                2. re: hala

                  Hmm, you say that babies can taste food through breast milk, but that you never heard of a baby getting sick from what a mother eats. Seems to me that there's either a connection between what she eats and the effect it has on the baby, or there isn't. I know lots of normal sane non-neurotic-crazy-food-theory people who have noticed dramatic effects on their baby from dairy or unusually spicy foods (uh, me, in regards to dairy -- I was apparently a crying, screaming terror until my mother stopped eating it).

          2. One of the most important things my husband and I did to encourage our children to enjoy foods beyond hot dogs, fries, and mac n cheese was to eat dinner with our children. I'm not talking big family dinners - more often than not, hubby's not home for dinnertime with the kids - but we always eat what we feed the kids and feed the kids what we eat. They see us eating brocolli and cauliflower and guess what - they like it too! We eat lamb with cous cous and so do they. Now, I'm not saying they have the most adult of palates, but when my son tells me my date rice - stuffed chicken is his favorite dinner dish I know it's all worthwhile.

            14 Replies
            1. re: brooklynkoshereater

              I ate dinner with my parents every night growing up. Though everyone else in the family, including by older brother and sister, I refused to eat rice, onions, most vegetables and lots of other ingredients. As an adult, I am the most adventuresome eater in my family and my older sister hates all the foods my mother hated--dark meat poultry and lamb especially--while my brother eats virtually anything but has no specific tastes. So guess it all depends.

              1. re: brooklynkoshereater

                We have always had family dinners, at the table, despite are hectic schedules. It was always important to me for some reason. My 13 yr old recently told me that her girlfriend was excited to have a "family dinner" and my daughter felt bad that her friend rarely experiences a home-cooked meal with her family. In any case, I have always prepared one meal and eliminated choice - I'm no short order cook. A wise mother told me to do this and it has served us well. My kids don't love every food but they do eat what's served for dinner. They don't make a big deal about it if it's something they don't love, they just eat it. We do talk about likes and dislikes and take their personal preferences into consideration when making plates (daughter isn't big into cream sauces, son is). But all in all they have wide-reaching palates and love food just like their momma. ;-)

                I think the difference between now vs. generations ago is that kids today have far too many choices.

                1. re: lynnlato

                  lynnlato, it's a good thing my brother wasn't your son. he ate about a dozen foods and would not eat anything he didn't like.

                  1. re: Jay F

                    Ha! He would have sat at my table until he finished or it was bedtime. Ever see the movie Mommy Dearest? ;-)

                    How's his palate now that he's an adult? Is he still a picky eater?

                    1. re: lynnlato

                      He would have sat at my table until he finished or it was bedtime. Ever see the movie Mommy Dearest? ;-)

                      That was my house growing up! I have horrible memories of family dinners where the adults would chant "eat CleoBeach, eat!"

                      So completely ridiculous as I was off the charts for height, head and shoulders above all the other little kids in my school. By no stretch of the imagination was I lacking in the nutrition department.

                      Everyone got a HUGE earful about this once I became a parent. My mom is horrified by her past parenting practices.

                      1. re: cleobeach

                        OMG, brutal!

                        Although it wasnt' like that for me personally, my mom did do something similar with my brother, even brought the meal out for him at breakfast the next day Somethign she would never ever do now. In fact, many things she tells us she did she wouldn't do again and it saddens her that she did them. Oh well, we turned out OK and she is a wonderful grandma.

                        For me it's a pick your battles thing and I'm not going let her sit there all night because of something on her plate she doesn't like. I'd rather focus my energy on say, instilling proper behaviour in her. And that a hard enough thing to do when she at the stage of wanting to be independent and do things her way. Oy.

                        1. re: cleobeach

                          Uhm, you do know that I was joking, right? My kids do know that I make one meal and that is what's for dinner. I don't make them choke down food they hate. But, interestingly, I can count on one hand what they don't like and I think that has A LOT to do with the fact that we didn't let them turn their little noses up at food. I also have let them help me in the kitchen so that they know what is in the food we're preparing - that removes the mystery. They aren't big on oysters, mushrooms and some sushi. Beyond that, they've got very expansive and diverse palates and that is what I hoped for.

                          What's ridiculous is that many people are raising kids who only eat chicken nuggets and mac n' cheese.

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            oh if only my daughter would eat either of those

                            Gotta keep telling myself, she eats brussel sprouts, over and over and over.

                            She turned her nose up at Pakora's lastnight. Fine, whatever but, how did she know there wasn't chocolate in the centre :P

                            1. re: livetocook

                              Ha! Kids who eat and love brussel sprouts are awesome! ;-)

                        2. re: lynnlato

                          I am so glad my parents didn't act like you. What on earth would torture by food have proven? It was easy enough to let him mostly eat the few kinds of soup and sandwiches he liked, and join the rest of us when we ate something he liked.

                          Yes, he is still a fussy eater. It's just how he is.

                          1. re: Jay F

                            Ouch! Really? You're insinuating that I'm somehow torturing my children? How?

                            But, you've more or less proven my point - your brother is missing out on a world of deliciousness.

                            1. re: lynnlato

                              My brother may have missed out on a lot, but to him it was not "deliciousness." And if your foodstapo "Mommie Dearest" way of feeding isn't a way to torture a child, what is?

                              1. re: Jay F

                                IT WAS A JOKE!!!! See the "Ha!" and the wink???

                                I was telling my husband and 13 yr old about this thread and your suggestion that I 'torture my children'. My daughter rolled her eyes and said "That's crazy. You don't make us eat stuff we don't like, you just encourage us to try new stuff." -all the while eating her gaeng dang. Her response not only warmed my heart but also confirmed that we're doing mighty fine.

                                Good day, Jay.

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  I had no idea you were joking, Lynn. It must be my vision or something, but "winks" simply fail to register for me (this isn't the first time--they always and only look like typos to me). And "ha!" can be a very angry sound.

                                  In any case, I was responding to your "He would have sat at my table until he finished or it was bedtime. Mommie Dearest" comment, as I've read enough stories, here (in this thread, no less!) and elsewhere, of parents who created just that kind of food intimacy with their children.

                                  I'm glad your 13-year-old was around to prove me wrong.

                                  Good day to you, too, Lynn.

                  2. Interesting link. I don't agree with everything there, and some of the info seems a little misleading (I'm not sure how they are using the word "weaning" vs. exclusive breastfeeding, but anthropologically, 2.5 years is the typical minimum age for child-led weaning, otherwise it's mother-led weaning) but I think it's a good general philosophy (that kids get a varied diet from real foods when they start on solids). I think letting our dd take the lead on eating has been the key for us. She's the most adventurous eater of anyone I know, including adults, outside of dh and myself. What we did was: fully weaning much later, introducing solids much later (closer to 12 months), me eating a varied diet when pregnant and breastfeeding, starting with table foods (and yes, skipping purees) and letting her try whatever we were eating once she was eating solids.

                    I think raising an adventurous eater continues on beyond that, though. We don't eat fast food or and avoid as much processed food as possible, so she only rarely eats that kind of food, for example at parties with friends. (I think kids *can* become addicted to sugar/salty/processed/chemical tastes that make scratch-made food seem bland in comparison.) It starts young, but if you are giving toddlers chicken nuggets, hot dogs, bologna, doritos, and fast food fries, your initial efforts could be for naught.

                    Unfortunately, the suggestions of that website are not mutually exclusive with raising a chowpup because children are unique... I hear a lot of mothers say that their kids are picky in spite of all their efforts.

                    1. This book was an invaluable resource for us - Child of Mine, Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter.

                      Baby food, "puffs" (those little puffed air stars) and the like are marketing gimmicks and completely unnecessary. As I mentioned on another thread, corporate America has done a fantastic job at convincing parents kids need special food products and "child-friendly" fare like chicken nuggets.

                      I watched our son go through phases where he ate absolutely anything as well as periods where he limited his intake to a small circle of foods. I think the key is to keep putting family food (no special kid meals) in front of them and it all swings back around to normal.

                      6 Replies
                        1. re: lynnlato

                          I can't take credit for it.

                          One of the reasons I love the book I recommended is that the author does an excellent job at explaining the physical and mental development of children and how that impacts their eating patterns.

                          Being educated on this saved my husband and I from losing our minds, we were able to stop worrying about food and what our son was or was not eating. We both came from families with major food "issues" and the book and the information it provided us freed us from repeating past mistakes.

                          1. re: cleobeach

                            Your last paragraph really resonates with me cleo. I was about to lose mine when one of my really good friends told me to start letting it go. Your daughter will be fine, she said. She'll eat it when she's ready. Just make sure there's at least one item on her plate you know she loves.

                            My daughter is 2 1/2 and the last few months she's also been using food for control. She may normally eat said item (and love it) but, will only eat one bite and want something else. GAWD! (Which I don't give in to). I also know that my husband and his mother both had/have food texture issues and I think this is why my girl doesn't like meat or pasta. My MIL told me hubby didn't like meat until he was well into elementary school. (Which is insane because if I suggest a vegetarian meal he's silent, processing the fact I'm not going to serve a meat). And she said that he eats WAY more different foods than he ever did after meeting me. So exposure

                            My daughter outright cries when I try to get her to eat pasta or meat. I've given up on putting meat on her plate but, always asks if she wants some of momma's (at every meal) or at least get her to smell it. One time she even licked a slice of That's something! I stil put pasta on her plate but, the last time I told her to take a bite, it took forever to get her to even try. And all I wanted her to do was put in her mouth and just bite into it. She kept gagging and cried. And it wasn't an "I'm annoyed" cry. It was a "desparation, please momma I don't like this" cry.

                            After that I thought"F" it. She eats flippin' brussel sprouts. Heck, how many kids do you know eat those?? Why am I putting her or rather us through this? So I'll put it on her plate and not say anything. If she tells me she deosn't like it. I say, just leave it there than and eat the rest of your meal please. If she eats every thing else around it I am happy.

                            So instead of meat she gets nuts, beans, cheese or plain high fat yogurt. Everything else on her plate is what we eat. Sometimes deconstructed if it's a casserole.

                            Sorry if this is a bit long, I am getting tired of threads about so and so having a foodie kid or "here's what YOU are doing wrong" especially from someone who doesn't even have kids! (Not talking this thread). Pulease I've tried and tried but, she eats what she wants. I no longer make a big deal out of it. There are times when she'll go on what seems like air for a few days and then she'll eat me out of house and home the week after. Growing, changing etc. All I can do is have her help me and educate her on food. And then offer said food. On a side note: She loves her little kitchen we bought for Christmas and always wants to cook for us. Hell, she even knows that an eggplant is also called an Aubergine.

                            I also remember the story from my bother in law told me last week. His daugter was like mine. Never ate meat (and her Dad's motto is "Vegetables are what food eats!"). Then by age 4 she started to eat chicken but, ONLY the rotisserie kind you can buy at the grocery store. Then just this past week at 5 1/2 she asked if they could stop for a double cheese burger on the way into Xmas eve dinner! LOL.

                            So if there's anyone else reading this who feels like they are losing their mind b/c they are a chowhounder and their kid barely eats anything but, bread. It'll get better. Just stay the course, offer, offer, offer. You can't make someone eat something they don't want to let alone don't "like". Something we may forget, kids are people too.

                            1. re: livetocook

                              "So I'll put it on her plate and not say anything. If she tells me she deosn't like it. I say, just leave it there than and eat the rest of your meal please."


                              We do the same thing, put a litle on the plate and be done with it.

                              Further, Mr. CB is under strict instructions to NOT make a big deal about it when our son does eat something that he previously "didn't like." Excessive praise and cheering backfired on us more than once.

                              I just smile and say "I am glad you enjoyed it" and leave it at that.

                              When one thinks about it, food and eating or not eating, "liking or not liking" something is just about the only thing a little kid can control.

                              1. re: cleobeach

                                Control. That's the key. When my daughter was about 2, she ate P&B sandwiches a lot. They were typically cut on the diagonal, which my daughter christened "a triangle and a mountain". But I always had to ask whether that was how she wanted it cut. She always answered the same: "a triangle and a mountain". Once I forgot to ask, and went ahead and cut it. I said "oops, I already cut it-- is a triangle and a mountain ok". She opened her mouth, clearly about to complain, then struggled for awhile (because that's really how she wanted it) and finally after a long 10 seconds, said "ok, a triangle and a mountain".

                                1. re: DGresh

                                  hahah. Omg, love her. heehee.

                                  Last night daddy tried to get our girl to eat bacon. Hey maybe, right? She said, "no tanks." And he left it beside her yummy cheese bread when she wasn't looking. We caught each others eyes, and i started to laugh. Our girl found it not even two minutes later and promptly gave it back. So funny.