Monday, October 05, 2015

My child won't eat - Carlos Gonzalez

Good read overall!

A doctor from spain talks about our obsession with our toddlers eating ( or lack thereof! ). The central point, repeated from various angles, is actually quite a simple and obvious one - she will (eat)! Stop fretting! Of course he goes with a fine tooth comb over a lot of data. Which immediately caused this book to go up in my estimate, because just by virtue of even trying to get to the data, I think you end up with a more active engagement with the topic, than you can ever get with the wishy washy emotional piece.

He covers various points about how much food do infants and toddlers really need. Much importance is also given to a decent reading of percentiles, which a lot of us read like they are the marks you have got out of 100. ( hint - they are not, you pass even at the 1 percentile) The baby led weaning approach is also emphasized, no bribes, airplane spoons, cajoling etc. The absurdity of various diet charts is shown, with emphasis being on using common sense and offering ( not feeding!) the usual food you eat.

The basic point is that most babies know when to eat, what to eat, and how much to eat, if you will just leave them alone, and give them access to a good set of healthy options, they will self feed.  I would have never believed it, but I have seen first hand, that given choices and exposure to different foods, the baby is quite capable to picking plain carbs over fat and sugar if thats what they need. They can get their proteins from plain boiled kidney beans if they really need it, you won't need to cajole, spice, distract or do anything else. Of course, these ideal conditions won't stay long, soon they will see what others are doing, tasting other stuff, watching their parents with phones while eating, and their own internal compass will start wavering. But it is all the more reason, that you spend the first few years laying down a good solid foundation for them with regard to food.

Sometimes I think this generation is in the middle of a perfect storm. We still have parents and grandparents who grew up in a world where access to food was very different from what it is today, at least in the urban middle class households. Some of us have stood in long serpentine queues for milk, visited ration shops waiting for the monthly quota of sugar. Older relatives have heard first hand tales of what happened in famines and wars. Access to feasts and rich food wasn't unheard of, but it certainly wasn't something you had multiple times a week. All of that has contributed to our relationship with food. It has also contributed perhaps to the universal feeling, that a plump baby is necessarily better than a skinny one. Which is probably true in a scenario with deprivations. I mean a baby who can build up baby fat, on a wartime food ration, probably has a distinct advantage over his or her skinny friends.

But times have changed. People in my peer group are 99% more likely to be worrying about losing weight than gaining it. Food is easily available, unhealthy options more easily than healthy ones. Rather than giving your baby a few extra kgs using all the tricks in the trade, it might be more worthwhile to let them learn to listen to their bodies. Its probably a bigger gift than all that breastfeeding and airplane spoons, in these troubled times of 3 year olds being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

If you have a little kid, its a must read book.



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