Your baby at war with greens? Here’s how to keep the peas
Infants squinting at new food is not necessarily a negative reaction
Most parents will at some stage find themselves sitting glumly amid the purée-spattered wreckage of a disastrous mealtime wondering what their precious baby was trying to tell them.
Now help is at hand, as infant psychologists claim to have cracked the meanings behind the faces babies pull as they are weaned off milk and on to new food.
By and large, it is positive news. The main message, according to the experts, is not to give up: parents too often assume their baby hates food, when really they are just getting used to it.
Pursed lips and a mild squint, for example, should not be taken as a sign of dislike. Instead, it is simply the face babies make when introduced to sour food.
Similarly, a look of surprise, even of concern, does not signify rejection, but rather the curiosity that overcomes an infant when it comes across a new flavour.
Even classic signs of dislike such as a squint or a lowered brow need not discourage parents, according to the guide, because when babies really object to the food on offer they will turn their face away altogether.
Dr Caspar Addyman, a developmental psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, compiled the Nine Faces of Weaning guide with Piccolo, a baby food company.
“Learning to read your baby’s new feeding time expressions doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience,” he said.
“Just like learning to interpret your baby’s signals for when they’re sleepy, hungry, or happy, introducing foods to your child for the first time means you get to know your little one even better, understanding what’s really going on behind that furrowed brow, wrinkled nose or gaping mouth.
“If a baby is really unhappy, you will know about it.”Sweet and savoury flavours elicit the most positive reactions from weaning babies, possibly because breast milk contains both of them.However, the guide warns parents not to restrict their new child’s diet to only those flavours which prompt a contented look, because the greater the variety of tastes they encounter at an early stage, the broader their palate is likely to become.Parents should not be put off by the gaping mouth babies make when introduced to green vegetables, as that is merely the standard reaction to bitter tastes.Alice Fotheringham, an infant nutritional expert at Piccolo, said: “Parents hate seeing their child distressed so there is a tendency to give up on a new food if your baby pulls what you perceive to be an unhappy face.
“However, it can take up to 12 tries for a baby to get used to a new food, so understanding how to read little faces can be useful in helping you persevere.”Previous research has indicated British parents are more impatient and persevere less than others in Europe when it comes to introducing new foods to their babies.A survey by the European Toddler Nutrition Index in 2013 found 26% of children under five in the UK were allowed to refuse a meal at least once a day compared with 15% in France and Germany.– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)