Monday, August 8, 2011

Feeding a Pre-Toddler

Friday’s dinner started off the same as most nights.  We sang Ryan’s mealtime song (“It’s time to eat, eat, what a treat…”), strapped him into his high chair, and made silly noises to keep him from crying while we got his food and bib.  Ryan is very impatient when it comes to food, and will usually fuss right up until the point that it is in his mouth.  Then he quickly gobbles it down and opens his mouth wide, wanting more. 

Yet this time, as I fed Ryan a big spoonful of sweet potato puree, he began to cry louder.  He shook his head back and forth, turned away from the me, kicked his feet, and screamed.  “But you like sweet potatoes,” I said as he dodged the spoon.  I continued to try to squeeze the spoon between his quivering lips.  After all, I thought, he needs the nutrition to grow and a full belly to sleep.

Ryan kept crying hysterically and his little body was practically shaking from being upset.  I felt so bad for him that I just had to stop and try to soothe/comfort him.  Maybe he doesn’t like sweet potatoes anymore.  

We mashed up a banana and tried to feed it to him with a spoon.  The same thing happened. 

Why was he refusing foods that he loved just yesterday?  I considered letting Ryan come down from his high chair to play, but I really wasn’t comfortable with skipping his dinner.  Then, I thought of something.  I put the banana into a baby safe feeder that we had, and sat it on Ryan’s high chair tray.  Then I simply walked away, pretending as if I didn’t care what he did with it. 

Almost instantly, his cries diminished and I looked back to find Ryan happily chewing (gumming?) on the net and eating the banana.

When I gave him some pieces of whole wheat spaghetti (left over from our dinner), he eagerly reached for them.  Ryan spent the next thirty minutes trying to figure out how to use his fingers to get the pasta pieces into his mouth. 

It was clear that the problem had not been about the particular foods, it was that he didn’t like the way that he was being fed.  Ryan was letting us know that he is ready to start learning how to feed himself.  He was asserting his independence.  (I have a feeling that we will have many, many more of these moments ahead of us to look forward to.)

Yes, it took us a long time to finish dinner with Ryan picking up the pasta one. piece. at. a. time.  But he enjoyed this dinner, and ate the whole bowl of whole wheat pasta plus the banana and his milk. 

I am so proud of our baby for letting us know what he is ready for and what he needs.  I think that as parents, we sometimes get used to doing things a certain way, and our children are here to remind us to look at things differently.  

On Saturday, we took Ryan out to dinner with some of our friends and he loved experimenting with all of the different foods that we put in front of him. 

Ryan wants to do it all himself, but many of the foods are hard for him to pick up.  Also, he only has two little teeth.  I found some ideas about how we can start Ryan with “independent” feeding:

1.  Give a variety of foods on his tray at the same time, so that he can choose what to eat and when

2.  Let him hold his own spoon and attempt to use it himself, while I feed him mouthfuls between

3.  Crush rice krispies and pour them over pieces of sticky foods (like bananas or avocados) to make them easier to pick up

4.  Spread pureed baby food over pieces of toast that he can pick up himself

Does anyone have any other suggestions/advice about what works for babies who are ready to start self- feeding, but don’t have many teeth yet?  


  1. Try hamburger meat. I gave Jason hamburger meat and he liked.

  2. I'm not a mom, but I do some feeding therapy with some of my families. I'm SO glad that you figured out that he was trying to assert independence! A lot of my families force-feed, and that causes all KINDS of issues... not a road you want to start down!

    As far as suggestions/advice, think about what foods you could eat without teeth - if you can smash it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue, it's probably safe for a little one with few teeth! Soft fruits and veggies, ground meat, rice & beans, and so on. You can also try those gerber graduates snacks if you're looking for more finger foods. Is Ryan getting much food off his spoon? Yogurt, purees, etc, are easier than foods that don't stick to the spoon as well.

    A lot of foods WILL be hard for Ryan to pick up right now... but think of all the great fine motor practice he'll be getting as he tries! If he's really motivated to feed himself (and it sounds like he is), he'll find a way to get that food to his mouth!

  3. I LOVE this picture of all of us! I still need to get a ton of photos from you since I can't save any of them from your blog in a file size that will print well. Maybe I should just come over and burn a cd at some point since I think they go back into January :)

  4. Even without teeth, our little men can eat most foods. They chew in the back of their mouths, not the front, and they won't have rear teeth until past a year. So anything that can be "gummed". A trick someone told me is to wet your fingers and press an item between them. If it breaks apart, they can eat it (for example, chicken will break apart, an apple slice won't!).

  5. @Paola- Thanks... I will have to try giving some to Ryan!

    @Erica- I agree that we definitely wouldn't want to force feed him. I'm just glad that I finally figured out what he wanted! Ryan doesn't really understand how to use a spoon yet. Thanks for all of your suggestions! I will give them a try.

    @Karen- Yes, we can definitely copy some pictures onto a cd next time you come over! =)

    @Heather- I will keep that helpful trick in mind! Thanks!

  6. I know you asked for the advice over a month ago, so not sure if you still need it, but here are some more suggestions:
    Shredded cheese (no prep required :), shredded chicken deli slices, hummus or smooth peanut butter spread on mum mums (Milo's favorite), diced fruit, diced sauteed zucchini, acini de pepe or blocks of couscous or tofu, diced Arnold's high protein bread. Also, I know these are recommended for 2 and up, but Milo likes YoKids Yoghurt Squeezers-

  7. @Sasha- All great ideas.. thank you! I especially like the idea of spreading hummus on mum mums!


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