Recently I saw a post on Facebook from a mom who is a vegetarian who was trying to figure out how to get enough iron in her baby’s diet as the paediatrician was concerned with the baby’s intake. Especially for a breastfed baby, after 6 months of age, iron is a needed nutrient for proper growth and energy. (Formulas are usually iron fortified, so additional supplementation is not as much of a concern.) While I respect every parent for raising their child how they want to with whatever values they want, I think sometimes parents can be consumed with their beliefs that they provide extra unwarranted stress on themselves.
Trying to feed a baby initially and then a toddler is extremely stressful for many parents. All parents want their child to be healthy, and eating is a necessity for that to occur. Babies and toddlers are learning all about the world and everything is new and exciting to them. They are in tune with their bodies and their needs to grow properly as they have not learned cultural, religious or familial expectations yet and do and eat as they want. A study done in the 1930’s by Clara Davis showed the variety of foods a weaning child will consume and they choose foods that provide the nutrients they need to grow appropriately. Some of the babies in this study started the study with deficiencies, but all left the study healthy and growing appropriately.
Weaning infants and toddlers eat extremely inconsistent as they follow their body’s signals for food. There is often no way in predicting what a baby or toddler will eat. A parent may be in tuned with their child, but there will be days that a food that is typically consumed by the child will not be touched. By restricting the foods you provide your child, you are potentially increasing your stress as foods available to your child is limited. Children are very receptive to trying lots of different new foods when they are in the initial weaning stage. Why not introduce as many foods as you can to your child at that time so they know the different tastes? Once they become more aware of the expectations, their preferences start kicking in and when they are old enough to make their own choice to restrict their diet, it will be in their hands.