The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

stuffing the turkey is like spoon-feeding a baby who isn’t ready…

Posted by on Nov 25, 2010 in Blog Posts | 11 comments

Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful to all of you who read, comment and give me feedback. I am grateful that I found this work for the peace and health of my own family and for my clients who trust me to come into your homes and share your stories. I learn from you and your little ones the most. Thank you.

So, I was shoving stuffing into the bird this morning and using the spoon and scraping the stuffing into the cavity by the top part of the bird. It reminded me of feeding of course.

I remember learning to feed infants when I was around 12 from the ladies at the church nursery where I volunteered, or from the moms I babysat for. I loved kiddos. I remember learning all these great tricks for getting kids to finish bottles (but that is another post on how to ignore cues form the child and overfeed with a bottle.)

So, how to feed solids to an infant? The scraping trick is how I learned. The babes (often 3-4 months old) were usually in a bouncy seat like the one pictured above and I would put food on the spoon, put it in the mouth and scrape the food in using the top gums or the upper lip. Much of the food was then ejected, which I then was taught to scrape up with the spoon and stick back in until the jar was empty. Most of the kids did just fine and it was pleasant enough, but I remember in one daycare where I worked a colleague was particluarly aggressive with the spoon and I knew even as a teen that it was not OK as she forcefed the struggling and crying baby who probably just was not ready and did not like her cues being so aggressively ignored.

Anyhow. I know better now. I probably started my little one a few weeks early (mostly out of boredom I suspect.) I learned about developmentally appropriate feeding and the Division of Responsibilitly only long after starting solids.

So, if you are scraping food into your child using their gums or upper lip, he is probably not ready. If most of the food is being ejected (tongue thrust reflex) he is probably not ready. If it becomes a battle where you have to distract, play games, do airplanes etc to “get the food in” he might not be ready.

When do you start solids? When your child shows physical signs of readiness. See this photo for contrast. When your little one can sit up steadily, when she can open her mouth in anticipation of the spoon, when her lips close around the spoon and most stays in her mouth. Many children already want to “do it myself” at this age and will grab and pull the spoon in (my M did this at 5 months.) (I’ll be giving the Baby-led Weaning a close read in the months to come which seems to advocate skipping spoon feeding…) Many children can feed themselves far sooner than parents realize. In Ellyn Satter’s lovely training videos, eight month old Elsa eats the same foods her family does, feeding them all to herself with her little palmar grasp… (Ellyn’s new video will be coming soon! Stay posted!

Remember, you still follow the DOR. You will feed your little one following her lead. She may eat only a few bites as most of her nutrition is still coming from breast or bottle. What she is learning is to feel good about eating, to taste, to play, to enjoy your company, to watch you eat and be ready for the transition to meals and snacks with structure.

For a more thorough explanation, Child of Mine is an excellent resource. (by Ellyn Satter)

Well, off to baste the turkey. Have a great day! Who taught you how to feed your little ones? Do you trust what they told you? How did it work?

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  1. Kris

    My eight-month old can pick up and eat broccoli, beans, rice, pasta, and so forth. But if I’m spoon feeding him, it seems to work better to wipe the food off on his upper lip (while his mouth is closed around the spoon), so either I don’t know what’s meant by “wiping food off on the upper lip”, or I don’t think that means much. I do follow his cues (leaning forward with open mouth=wants some, closed mouth=no thank you) as to whether he wants to eat any in the first place.

    • katja

      If he is closing his mouth around it and you are just pulling the spoon out in an upward angle, that’s fine. By scraping, i mean mostly the upper gum or the lip when the mouth is not closed around the spoon and then most of the food is thrust out. There would probably be more pressure involved as well…

  2. Kirsten

    I learnt how to feed my older two children from the “force-feeding” books – and although I waited until they were a week off six months, I spooned in mush and I used all those silly tricks to try and sneak in an extra spoonful because I felt they should finish off the amount I had put into their bowl…Needless to say that’s why I’m now here relearning how to feed them based on what you are advocating here, Katja, which is what I am doing with my third child, namely BLW.

    When she got to six months and was reaching out for food at the table, I started offering her whatever we were having if it was suitable for her. She fed herself from the beginning. I put food in front of her and she chose what she wanted and how much she wanted. It was (and still is!) messy, but it’s great fun and she loves food and has no fear of new foods because there’s no risk of Mummy shoving in another spoonful that she doesn’t want. Now at 13 months, she has started wanting to use a spoon for spoonable food and loves “forking” pieces of potato, carrot, fruit, etc. All self-taught and very cute to watch. She has gagged a few times, but has always managed to cough up the offending item herself and usually shoves it straight back into her mouth again afterwards. I had to sit on my hands at first, but we are all fairly relaxed now (she never eats alone anyway, so we’re all right there if there were to be a problem) and the older two know that “if she’s not completely silent and going purple in the face, she can deal with it herself”.

    As you know, Katja, I have gone back to the beginning with the older two and we are all learning what our responsibilities are in the feeding game. And my children are slowly starting to trust me not to interfere and to trust themselves to try new foods. I suppose the baby is teaching her older siblings how to handle food and teaching Mummy that it’s OK to hand over control!

  3. katja

    Michellers, wonder what your daughter did to let you know she would not let you feed her. Can you imagine if you had persisted? I’d love to see RIE materials on feeding. Might be like BLW, and sounds consistent with DOR. Gagging is totally normal, as you know. I have a post on gagging (you can search for it, I don’t think I can link in comments) gagging is how they learn, and also how they move that reflex farther down in the throat. it can look scary.Best prevention for choking is eating with the child, having appropriate foods and being trained in the appropriate CPR techniques-all things you did it sounds like! It is crazy though. Anatomically kids are much more likely to choke than adults with their shorter necks and distance between the swallowing and breathing tubes. Adults are less likely to choke as we grow etc. I saw a show that said as a species, we are uniquely susceptible to choking because of the size of our larynx. I guess that trade-off of language for species survival outweighed a few more choking…

    • Michellers

      My daughter showed us that she did not want to be fed by grabbing the spoon, grabbing the food off the spoon, turning her head away when the spoon got near her mouth, yet eating happily from her own hand. She didn’t cry, she just refused to open her mouth when we tried to feed her.

      Except for the mess, it was actually much easier to let her feed herself. Eating out was rough, though–we bought plastic sheeting to put under her chair and always brought a complete change of clothes with us. And we spent a lot of money on tips that first year. 🙂

  4. Michellers

    Because my daughter would not allow us to spoon-feed her, we unintentionally skipped the force-feeding that I had always assumed was the right way to do introduce solid food (based on many many tv shows and commercials, I think). Plus she was in a RIE daycare and they don’t believe in feeding babies until they are able to feed themselves, so we just plunked stuff on her tray and let her go at it. And I have so many pics of my daughter covered in food to prove it.

    But the weirdest thing to me was how much she gagged and choked on food at first, even when feeding herself. Seriously, I read up on performing the heimlich on a baby (answer: don’t) because I was really concerned she was going to stop breathing. By the way, she never actually choked. But watching her stuff food in her mouth with her little fists and gagging on it really made me wonder about the survival of our species.

    On the other hand, I had friends who put food in little mesh baggies for their kids to gum. What marketing genius came up with those?! I figure if your kid can’t eat a whole or mushed up strawberry by him/herself, then maybe you shouldn’t be feeding your kid strawberries?

  5. Cecile

    Yeah, they were too ! But I guess it’s one good thing about being so far away from your family… nobody actually is there to look. And you end up doing what you want.

  6. Cecile

    I started both of them late… Chiara around 7 months (she was definitely not ready before that, and it did not feel right to me to scrape and push the food in her mouth !), Lucas around 6. People around me thought I was a little crazy, now I feel better ! What sounds crazy to me is the idea of feeding solids to a baby who is clearly not able to process them.

    • katja

      sounds like you really were tuned in to your little ones! it is amazing how differently children develop. It’s why it’s silly to say, “start solids at X months” as some kids will be ready earlier and some later… Unfortunately many folks are feeding kids who aren’t ready, often at the advice of a family member or even physician. It’s why I was curious to know who taught readers how/when to feed. Both Grammas on my side were pushing putting rice cereal in her bottles from birth…

  7. Kate

    Yes, do read about Baby-led Weaning. A developmentally ready baby does not need purees and does not need to be spoon fed.

    • katja

      I’ll be interested to read it. While they likely don’t need it, I don’t think doing purees is wrong either and can be done with respect, in a developmentally appropriate way etc. BLW does seem to make it easier to follow the DOR since the child is putting the food in their mouths themselves. I see many parents get pushy with purees in terms of quantity. This might be a nice way of getting around many feeding problems that start when parents get pushy with spoon-feeding. I’ll be interested in how BLW lays out the case for trusting the child to know how much to eat. That seems to be the piece most parents I talk to struggle with. Parents seem to want to control portions of young infants… Are you a mom, teacher, professional who has done/teaches BLW?