Sep
19
2009

  My Clean-Feeding Strategy

I came up with an idea for keeping William and his surroundings clean while he eats. While I was shopping I got clips, bar mop towels, and wash cloths.

Today, I used the clips to put the bar mop towel over William like a bib. But the key difference between bibs and my strategy is that bibs only cover the chest area-- those little arms are still waving around. With my method, those little arms are waving around UNDER the towel.

Without the towel-bib, most of the mess came from William putting his hands in or near his mouth, thus getting food on his hands, then waving his hands around and getting food on everything within reach.

With the towel-bib, his instinct to put his hands in his mouth while he eats is unchanged. But since his hands are now under the towel, when he puts them to his mouth, he's putting the TOWEL on his face rather than his hands directly. So instead of creating MORE mess by getting food on his hands and touching things, he's actually cleaning up his face as he eats! Every time he puts his hands up to his face while he's wearing his towel-bib, it's like he's wiping his face with a napkin.

And should his little hands get out from under the towel I have a washcloth at the ready to wipe them off immediately so they're clean when I put them back under the towel.

I could tell that at one point he was getting a little frustrated, like he wanted to feed himself. Since that is to be encouraged, I gave him a piece of celery. He held that and gnawed on it for a while. He doesn't have teeth, so he didn't eat it at all. But I suppose it gave him the feeling that he was feeding himself, since he quit his fussing. When he was ready to put his hands back under the towel, I resumed feeding him sweet potatoes.

I noticed that he was watching me very closely when I was eating (I tried a few bites to see if it was any good). I know he was imitating me since I stuck my tongue out, and he did the same thing. So after that, I made a point of making exaggerated chewing motions with my mouth shut. The food is coming out of his mouth not because of a tongue-thrust reflex, but because he's trying to swallow it with his mouth open. So with any luck, he'll figure out that it's best to eat with his mouth closed. If he masters that, it will be another thing he can do better than his father already. I swear I can hear that man eating cereal from the second floor, it's gross and he doesn't even realize when he's doing it.

When we were out at dinner tonight, Terry was about to let William feed himself some pureed pumpkin with his fingers. What was he thinking?? I told him he could feed it to William, but we absolutely weren't going to encourage him to put his fingers in pureed food. I'm going to get him used to the idea that if he wants to eat finger food, he can feed himself, but if he wants pureed baby food, he must let us feed him and not interfere.

I know I am only forestalling the time he'll make a mess with his food, not avoiding it. But I don't want to give him a spoon to use until he's physically coordinated enough he actually has a chance of getting it into his mouth with food on it. I figure if I give him a spoon too early, he'll get used to playing with his food instead of eating it, since he'll be incapable of feeding himself. And I don't want him to get used to the idea of eating food that requires a utensil with his hands. I know a lot of people don't mind when kids eat applesauce, etc, with their hands, but I really don't think that's necessary since I'm willing to feed him myself.

Of course, he's only been on solids a few days now. So I don't have a lot of experience how this is going to play out, but I am encouraged by today's progress. Heidi 1, Sweet Potatoes 0. William did get some sweet potatoes on himself, but it was just a few small spots on his jeans which were only noticeable if you looked hard, so I figure that's pretty good. He's come a long way from the carrots already. I'm also getting better at feeding him, and that technique makes a big difference, also.