In honor of the new year, I really need to finish my recap of this (although I have been dishing out bits and pieces to anyone who will listen at playgroups since the presentation).
On November 7, Coco and I got a special invitation from our friend Erin to go see Dr. Alan Greene in Dallas. Dr. Greene is currently promoting his books, Feeding Baby Green, and Raising Baby Green. While Dr. William Sears will always be my first doc love (even if Jean Liedloff says he stole her ideas), I have to say Dr. Greene kinda rocks too. I will mention upfront – I didn’t take notes, so this is from memory and if I misconstrued anything I sincerely apologize. I have tried to fact check where ever I could.
There was definitely a theme here – parental choices directly impact life long eating habits, in a combination of the example we set and actions we take when feeding baby. After all, what a child eats in his first few years will create the foundation for the foods he desires as an adult.
- The most startling thing he said (startling to me, at least, although it makes sense), a child under the age of around 36 months needs to be exposed to a food 6-10 times before they will begin to like it. A 7-year-old needs to be exposed 89 times. THAT IS EIGHTY-NINE TIMES. So, expose them young and often.
Dr. Greene talked about an experiment where a group of parents were asked to feed their baby a single bite of their least favorite food first before every dinner meal. If the baby spit it out or make the gross-out face, they could put it away and move on to foods they liked. But they had to keep trying it. At the end of two weeks, most all of the kids liked the least favorite food, and a portion of them had now decided this was their favorite food. Most parents (likely fueled by their own food preferences) will not feed a food the baby hates over and over again, but this is exactly what we should be doing.
- During the prenatal period amniotic fluid is flavored by the things we eat. By term, most babies swallow up to 24 oz a day of amniotic fluid each day, so we are setting the stage for taste preferences even before birth. I swear this explains why my 13 year old only wants to eat chicken nuggets and salad.
-Breastmilk is flavored too by what we eat. This isn’t really news (or at least it wasn’t to me), but bears repeating.
-For formula fed babies, consider switching up the brand and type of formula you are using. Most FF babies are eating the same thing every day for the first 4-6 months, where breast-fed babies are getting the benefit of a changing taste in their milk. By varying it up, at least your FF baby is getting some exposure to the idea that different flavors are good. Of course, use good sense if your little one has a sensitive stomach.
-Start solids for baby at 4 months if they are formula fed (or as early as practical), and 6 months if breast-fed. I don’t recall if Dr. Greene mentioned physical cues that would help mom and dad know when is the right time to start, but typically a baby ready for solids is reaching for your food. They should be able to sit in a highchair pretty well too. Since I am a fan of Baby Led Weaning (which is recommended for breast-fed babies), I can’t really advocate starting a baby on solids at 4 months, but I do understand his logic. A FF baby doesn’t get the variety of tastes a BF baby does.
- Avoid processed baby food. Logical, if you are shaping lifelong eating habits, you want to start with the most basic stuff you can. No preservatives, or processing needed. Dr. Greene advocates puree-ing your own, and go organic if possible.
Dr. Greene also cited some really logical and interesting research from the animal world illustrating a point that seems like it would be common sense: what mommy eats, baby will want to eat.
You can read the actual study info here:
Imitation in Human and Animal Behavior, Wyrwicka
…but the point is this – if I eat a cheeseburger and feed the baby a plate of vegetables, eventually she will want to eat what I am eating. That’s how she learns what is appropriate and safe to eat. While she may shove a handful of dog fur in her mouth now and then, she is learning that it is best left for the vacuum cleaner by witnessing the rest of us NOT EATING THE DOG FUR. Even when the dog fur is sitting right in front of her. Now, replace dog fur with green beans, and you have the typical American child, who has been taught that unless it comes out of a package, survives a trip through the microwave or is neon orange, it just isn’t edible.
Come to find out, we really do need practice what we preach when it comes to food.
I was really tempted to get in on the Q & A part, but I was too shy to raise my hand. That is probably a huge shock to most anyone who knows me, but for some reason I chickened out. But, I did get to ask my question during the book signing (and get Dr. Greene’s 14 year old son to snap the pic):
Me: What do you think about Elimination Communication?
Dr. Greene: Love it!
Awesome, all I needed, doc – carry on signing my copy of the book.
Thanks E for the invite!