Parenting is never easy! Some things are tricky for parents no matter what culture or nationality. Transition to solids, establishing routines, and being worried that you’re doing something wrong are all really very common concerns.
“Our big problem is feeding. We try to feed but still it’s too hard. She is 14 months and still avoids bottle completely. She was six weeks premature. Sometimes yoghurt is okay. She vomits a lot because she can’t chew and swallow.”Parent
At some point, children need to move from breastmilk to other sources of nutrition, including moving through different food textures. Knowing when and how to do this isn’t easy. For Nepalese families, these issues often come up around the time of paasni, but can be tricky for a long time after that!
“He cannot walk yet, so I’m not sure whether he’s ready for solid and salty food.”Parent
“My close friend, I tell her so many times about what I am giving to my child. “No, what if she will choke?” she asked. I can’t give that to my daughter’. It’s the parent that is scared, not the child.”Parent
“Maybe with the first child like me they are scared to give solid foods. Maybe the kid isn’t ready to eat, chew and swallow. Maybe they are going to choke. Lots of my friends, their kids are 18 months, and so for one year they have been giving only really soft food. They are scared they are going to choke. That’s why they don’t offer solids.”Parent
Parents had lots of tips and stories about how they encouraged and helped their children with solid foods. One parent explained how she let her child’s reaction to foods help her know what to do
“Suppose I am giving her purée food but I want to give her some solid food. Just let me try to offer something, little bit one step more than purée. Just offer and if she likes it, then why should I purée it, instead we can go to soft food, then gradually harder food.”Parent
A key thing that lots found useful was offering different foods separately so children could see different colours, and test and taste foods one at a time. They will be curious to explore new food, but also sometimes a bit cautious, so separating the foods makes it easier for them. Children can also enjoy eating alongside their parents, and learn a lot from this, especially when it is relaxed and fun and you can make a mess and explore the food together.
“I try to give different food with different texture, that makes it more interesting to him. Instead of mixing in a bowl, serving in an interesting way – with plain rice and other food.”Parent
“I stopped blending after 9 months. I would give varieties of food so they can see what they are eating.”Parent
“I use English spinach as well. I fry slightly with ghee and he would eat well. I don’t feed him puree. Since the age of nine months, I introduced solid food and he eats well.”Parent
“Plain rice and accompaniments with them allows kids to experiment and makes it interesting.”Parent
“We eat along with them. My husband tries the same food. We make it fun by giving two spoons. We eat what they are eating but on a separate bowl. It’s a bit tasteless for us but it encourages them eating.”Parent
Lots of parents would like to get a routine or timetable established with their children, and feeding is a big part of this. Particularly for young children, when so much in the world is new to them, being able to anticipate what will happen can be really comforting. But should the routine follow what suits the parents or what the children seem to like? And what if things keep changing?
Children often challenge our plans for a nice routine! Having two children of different ages can make this hard, and every child will be different.
“Almost every mealtime is a bit messy and haphazard. We try to set up some timetable, but both sisters follow their own timetable and are inconsistent.”Parent
When parents do shift work this can be even harder. Maybe the shift patterns don’t match what the children would prefer, or maybe work hours change so it’s hard to feed at consistent times.
When possible, having some routine is very helpful for families. In real life however it is often not always possible to stick to a routine, and that is ok! If meals, play and sleep times have to change to suit your family then children can manage this well. What really matters is that you learn what your own child prefers and ask for help or advice from your doctor or community nurse if you are feeling worried.
It is totally normal to worry about parenting! Sometimes parents worry when their experiences aren’t what formal guidelines or medical advice tell us is ‘right’. Sometimes, parents worry when things are what others say is ‘normal’ but still it doesn’t feel right to them.
“She can go without food for 6-12 hours. Doctors say it’s okay. But I cannot accept that as a mother. It bothers me. During the day, it’s too much for me if they don’t eat for 7 hours. We wonder, whether we are making a mistake as parents. Maybe it’s because we don’t know the right way that we are unable to get this feeding right. Because she kept vomiting, we tried soft food, but now she can’t chew and swallow.”Parent
While it is natural to think in terms of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, often reality is more complex, and what works for you and your child might not be exactly what others say is ‘right’.
It is really important to trust your instincts if you think something isn’t quite right, and to get things checked out.
“Our first born, any time of day, he would eat, we were relaxed and took it easy. This became his habit. He wouldn’t chew, but swallowed everything. We would give him food mixed in a bowl and he would eat without fuss… Generally kids pick things up and put it in their mouth, and we used to take it easy and feel good that our son was not doing that. But later we realised it was not a good thing. As a new parent, we didn’t realise it was anything to worry about.”Parent
Rather than wondering if you are responsible for a difficulty your child has now, it can be more positive to think about what kind of help will be most useful to get the changes you’d like to see. If like this parent above you have concerns about your child not being able to chew you could ask your doctor or community health centre. It is very important to never force your child to eat, as that can cause serious problems in the future.
If you are feeling very low, sad or worried yourself, please consider talking to your doctor, family health nurse or start by calling a friend and speaking with them.