Ever since Kaia started eating solids in June, I’ve been preparing all of her food. There’s a section of the fridge with little containers to store food I’ve either prepped, cut, or made specifically for her. Most of the food is just the same food Chris and I eat, just separately portioned out for her, cut a little differently for easier/safer consumption for her, and also with no added salt/sugar and less heat/chili. Originally when we started feeding her solids in the early weeks, I only gave her one or two things at a time, but I realized that it probably wasn’t enough variety for her because there are only so many meals she can eat in a day in addition to her breast milk, which will continue to make up the majority of her calories until she turns 1. So now, I try to give her anywhere from 5-8 different things for each of her two solid meals per day. Part of it is for exposure and familiarity so these things are just normal to her. The other part of it is that I want her to know what variety in food exists… because if she isn’t exposed to variety early on, then she will never be comfortable with it and may write off new foods as “foreign” or scary. I never expect her to eat everything I portion out for her, nor do I expect her to eat every single thing I present, but I want her to get used to different foods, textures, flavors, and to at least see it and feel it with her own eyes and hands.
My nanny thought I was a crazy woman when I first started putting her solids plates together. “This new mom is putting 6 things on her plate… is she crazy? Kaia is not going to eat all these things!” she thought to herself. She did imply a few times that she thought I was giving a bit much for variety, but I insisted to her that I wanted Kaia just to have the exposure, and if she didn’t eat it, I’d be okay with it. I didn’t want to force feed her because force feeding early on can lead to unhealthy associations with food as early as before the age of 1, which I obviously don’t want. But to my nanny’s surprise, Kaia has at least tried every single thing I’ve ever presented to her. Most things she has embraced. A few things took two or three tries, like plantains or eggs, but by the second or third time, Kaia has always willingly self-fed herself and eaten. And after the last two months, our nanny admitted to me that she was wrong. She watched Kaia self feed herself cut up buckwheat noodles today, and our nanny was so intrigued that she asked me if she could try some herself (our nanny didn’t know what buckwheat noodles were).
“I didn’t think she’d eat everything you gave her, but she does!” the nanny exclaimed. “She really does eat everything. I’m just used to moms only giving 2-3 things at most for solids meals. Some moms don’t give anything and expect me to whip up food for their children with their empty fridge with just condiments in it! Then, they come up at the end of the day, and the first question they ask me is what their son/daughter ate for lunch or dinner!”
I cannot guarantee that my baby will embrace all foods and not be a picky eater. But I think that the proactive steps we’re taking right now with finger foods, self feeding, and a wide variety of exposure to different foods will set the best possible foundation for her to be a good, confident eater who loves and appreciates foods from all cultures. It’s a huge time investment, as her self feeding meals takes about 45 minutes to an hour per meal on the weekends, but I love watching her explore food and hope this helps her future.