Congratulations! You have survived the first year of parenting. Your baby is now developing into a personality of his own, with his own preferences, choices and decisions. This will be seen in all his actions, and indeed, in his food habits too.
Actually, feeding a 12 to 24 month old baby is quite easy, since they can take pretty much everything now. (Except the dangerous foods catalogued in the preceding article) However, this is the time when food habits develop and become ingrained, and so, this is that golden window of opportunity which will set you free from being a roaming feeding robot or from sitting in front of TV watching cartoons and feeding a 5 year old child three years from now. If you want to inculcate good eating habits in your child, now is the time to start. Now is also the time to stop ' bottle feeding. This is typically the age when most mothers wean their child from breast or bottle, and shift her to cup. We shall tackle all these issues one by one.
Before you embark on the emotionally difficult and tiring journey of weaning, ensure that your child is taking milk only as a supplement to her main diet of solids and juices. Ideally a 1 year old child should be given milk not more than thrice a day. Bring many attractive cups to catch her imagination. Better still, let her choose one. Do not force the issue immediately, lest the child rebel. Introduce the cup slowly, as a friend of the bottle, gently but firmly. Remember- there is no looking back after this. If you give in to the cries of baby for a bottle/breast , you'll be stuck in weaning-tried-failed-restarted-failed again trap for too long. It will take maximum one week for the baby to get used to the cup, and she'll forget the bottle/breast totally in another month. Kids adjust so much more better than us adults!! Have faith in them. The only thing you must ensure, as I said earlier, is that your child has a set routine of solids and juices before you start weaning him, so that he does not face starvation in that critical one week period of weaning.
1-2 years of age is a period of what I fondly call 'Appe se'. Both my kids (and indeed all kids I know ) want to become totally independent at this age: want to dress, eat, play, even cook themselves. 'Appe se' was the word my kids used to express that they want to do things themselves ; it was a kiddish version of the Hindi phrase ' apne aap se karna hai.' So when my son started crying 'appe se' on seeing a bowl of cereal, I knew I'm in for a long haul of cleaning up!
This, if seen from another angle, is a golden time for parents. If handled correctly, kids take over completely at this age, happy to be independent and 'big', and it relieves the parents the responsibility of feeding them for years to come. Of course it comes with the responsibility of cleaning up the house, floor , chair and the baby after the meal is done, but that is going to last only for a short time. Keep a few rules in mind though: While your baby is still mastering the use of her hands and spoon and fork, you can use another spoon to feed her . This way, she won't get frustrated at her inability to eat food when hunger presses.
Sooner than you'd expect , she'll master the technique of eating herself, and barring a few spills, will start eating a sizeable amount of meal herself. Now, this is your clue to fade in the background. Let her eat her meal herself- totally. Do not insist that she finishes everything. Or do not feed her less preferred meals, or more of the regular food yourself after she's done. Respect her decisions. If you continue feeding her even after she is able to do so herself, she'll soon realize that it is much easier to let mom do the hard work, and will retire from the burden of eating herself. This will also mean that she'll have her hands and mind free for games while you feed her, and will make her more distracted during meal-times. In essence, your help will backfire into more and more difficult meal times as your child grows. By the age of 18-20 months, your baby should be eating all her meals herself.
This will also help as your angel starts school next year, and will be required to eat herself from the tiffin box.
What's that! Do not fret a lot over eating choices. As long as your son eats a selection of fruits and vegetables, it's okay if he dislikes some others. Do not force them on him. The choices at this age are quite flexible, and he may like eggplant later if he doesn't like it now. If you insist on him eating everything, it will only solidify his dislike against eggplant. Of course eating all the veggies is a great habit, but then there's plenty of time to do that. As long as you control the intake of junk food- noodles, candies, chocolates, soft drinks, chips etc. in your home, your child will create an overall balanced diet from his own choices. Limit the junk food to occasional treats, and your job is done!
School is around the corner. As your baby completes her second year, she's graduated from toddler-hood to being a preschooler. Most kids would start some sort of play-school in the third year, and that presents parents with more nutrition dilemma. We'll deal with that in our next article.