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It pays to be persistent

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Testing times for parents
Testing times for parents

Finding the right food that also meets the tastes of the child is vital

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Do you find yourself buying only fruit infant cereal for your baby, leaving the dal and vegetable cereals on the supermarket shelves? Chances are your baby’s fierce resistance to non-fruit infant cereal programmed you against buying them.

The first few months of weaning are the most stressful for parents. A hungry child who refuses to eat will test the patience, ingenuity and confidence of most parents.

It is easier to give in than to persist with unpleasant foods. Of course, losing to a baby comes with the fear of depriving her of vital nutrients; mothers are especially prone to guilt, particularly when in-laws helpfully rub it in.

“Babies have a natural preference for the foods mothers eat during pregnancy and nursing,” is a common belief. This idea was recently the subject of research, and the results are disheartening. At least when it comes to green beans, and presumably for other foods as well, a child’s taste does not depend on whether it was breastfed or formula-fed.

Children do have an innate love of sweet foods like fruit, while vegetables and other plant foods are an acquired taste. When your child laps up fruit cereal but spits out the vegetable cereal, blame the preferences hardwired by nature in her brain.

The study also showed the way forward for parents. Being persistent and continuing to offer vegetables, legumes and dals is very important. However vigorously the child refuses the food, she will develop a taste for it within a couple of weeks.

Varying the vegetables and the taste and consistency of the dish will help.

No matter if, initially, the child goes hungry for a few hours. Just have faith: after all, this is the same tongue and brain that will grow up to like beer, mirchis, bitter gourd, garlic and pickles.

The other option is to offer a vegetable dish, wait for an hour, and then give a taste of a sweet dish. Children fed this way show less distaste for the vegetable food. Curiously, this does not increase vegetable intake when compared with the “vegetable only” group.

RAJIV. M

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