Hello my fellow pvmom’s, my name is Shannon and I’m our new mommy blogger. I am a native ‘Zoni that has lived all across the globe, most recently Dubai and San Francisco to relocate back to be closer to family. Both my husband and I are entrepreneurs and have 21 month old boy/girl twins named Dermot and Amelie. It takes a village as we all can attest and my #twinmomtribe has come to the rescue many a times to save my sanity. I hope this little monthly slice into our lives brightens yours! (photos courtesy of Mama Shannon)
To piggy back off our January meeting with, Megan McNamee from Feeding Littles, I would love to shed light on our feeding journey with 21 month old boy/girl twins. I’m sure you hear it, or you yourself say it, but my husband and I are foodies. Food is important coming from my husband's Italian background and our extensive expat life living abroad - we LOVE spice and different ethnic cuisines.
Food was a hot topic for us from conception (I kid you not) as we had been a practicing Paleo family where I diverted away, due to needing to gain weight for the twins. Our only examples for feeding kids was watching our friends and family members with at least half of them struggling through major food battles, having to “kiddify” every meal item or not even stepping foot into a restaurant because the kids wouldn't eat anything off the menu (this made me shiver in my boots while we were still living in San Francisco surrounded by unbelievable food). The icing on the cake was watching my sister cook three different meals for my nephew on a family holiday because he wouldn’t eat what was offered to the entire group (every single meal). Not only did I want to squash food battles before they happened, there was no way I would have the time or energy to become a short order cook for TWINS! No way. This was our #1 reason to approach this topic early on and learn as much as we could to set ourselves up for success. We were prepared for the twins to have completely different tastes, deal with textures differently and go through phases where they were picky. For us, it was the importance of eating meals as a family, eliminating distraction at the table and offering tasty, textured, healthy food options that divert away from the typical “white foods” for kids.
Baby-led weaning was our first step in the right direction at 6 months old. We took a great class offered by Megan and learned from our European friends that this was the way they introduced foods to their children. This allowed us to skip the pureed stage of food introduction and incorporate soft whole food instead, while promoting independence with self feeding. We did this very slowly only incorporating food once a day for quite awhile. Each week we would graduate to a few new items and they thrived. I was fascinated watching how they both learned about food differently. Amelie would have to touch, smell, taste and play with each food item before she would ever consume it. She would get very upset if her food items were touching each other (like her father) and Dermot was happy as a clam with a pile of goulash mixed together. He would throw fists full of food in his mouth but would hate the aftermath of dirty hands. Their favorites were sauerkraut, meatballs, broccoli with apple cider vinegar and sweet potatoes - for 10 month olds - Go figure right!?
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns people. We struggled with readiness on many levels - from a very sensitive gag reflex, throwing up, to throwing food; throwing lots and lots of food - oh the MESS. The mess is REAL! The mess was something to embrace. Embrace the dirty and invest in a dog! But the twins were able to not only explore an endless variety of textures and tastes but they worked diligently on their pincer grasp and dexterity by having to pick up items off their tray on their own. It gave them a sense of independence very early on.
Now fast forward to 21 months. We still have brilliant eaters 75% of the time but we’ve entered the toddler stage and certain food items have become big aversions - they immediately put their nose up to sauerkraut and won’t touch broccoli unless it’s freeze dried. But in my book we are still winning. What’s worked for us is offering them variety coupled with a consistent item we know they will consume.
When I reminisce of my childhood a favorite were our big family dinners. We wanted to instill this (when achievable) with the twins, where we model good eating and dinner table behavior together as a family. We all eat the same food as to not confuse them that I will turn into a short order cook at a snap of their precious little fingers! I mean maybe I will, on those cute days they sleep in and waffles with whip cream is what is being chanted! I give I give. We’ve recently struggled or dare I say regressed to wanting to sit on someone’s lap during mealtime (I slap my own wrist for allowing this to even begin) and eat off my plate or their own plate in front of them. Sometimes they oddly want that feeling of being taken care of and throw all independence out the window and hand over the fork to me to feed them. Which slays me, as we never fed them this way in the beginning but sometimes it must be comforting. Or lets be honest it allows both hands to be free to act out the very exagerated sound effects that are taken after each big bite — NUMMMMMM. Heard miles away.
A few best practices for this toddler stage:
1. We look at the twins food consumption by the week and not by the day. My husband was having the hardest time switching his thinking from the “clean plate club” before you have more of something, to the understanding that our daughter may just have 3 servings of toast in the morning (who can blame her - YUM) and no protein. We trust that she will be hungry for protein and veggies within the next two meals - it always wins. We've learned that Dermot is the opposite (so sensible) and enjoys a balanced meal each sitting and loves savory over sweet.
2. Mix it up - Incorporate variety. This falls across all categories from eating utensils, plates, highchairs vs little table, or even a new bib. We rotate our plates from 3 category plates to silicone muffin tins for snacks to incorporating toddler proof toothpicks. I've listed our favorites below.
3. Incorporate new foods in different forms. We offered freeze dried broccoli for the first time since they stuck their nose up to steamed broccoli for months on end. They devoured it! I encourage them to take the amount they would like from the bag and put it on their plate - this was the aha moment for us. Allowing them to have control and independence over how much of the item we are providing stops the fight dead in it's tracks. **I warn you they may want to hoard the entire bag like Amelie!
4. Make it fun. I'm not the mom that sets aside my evenings to cut every piece of food out of cute little cutters to place into their bento box lunch. However, I do have an affinity for our bento boxes - I believe adding a bit of fun to eating helps eliminate the pressure and stress we as parents may have with food. Circular nut butter sandwiches instead of square (see how I got you there - SUPER creative) with a little raisin on top. Berries with toddler safe giraffe toothpick. Star shaped cucumbers with dressing dipping sauce. All doable - a little goes a long way with toddlers. If you are the pinterest type A mama, then I warn you if you look up (@lunarbell_lunch; @365daysofminimelunchbox ; @leesamantha) you may have mama guilt on your lunchbox skills!
5. The parent provides and the child decides. I take this from Megan's bag of tricks but it's the backbone of how we parent the twins when it comes to food. We make the meals for the day (most are what we will eat for the day as well) and we offer 3-4 items - fruit (something they always love), a vegetable (could be mixed into eggs, freeze dried, etc) a protein or carb (this varies with how the meals have gone throughout the day). The twins then decide what and how much they want to eat. No negotiating if you eat one more piece of chicken you get x, y, z or desert. If we were to offer a desert it would already be on their plate and if they ate this first and wanted more we would give that to them. This all comes down to trust. We have trusted the twins from the beginning that they need to listen to their bodies and when they are full of something they will listen to that cue and move on. It seriously works EVERY time. Now we opt not to include deserts in any meals as we don't have them in the house or eat them ourselves on a daily basis.
6. When in doubt - throw it in a smoothie. We drink a green juice everyday as adults so we started making them for the kids. Do you have any idea HOW much you can pack into these suckers with the kids not having a clue. A typical green juice for us is layered, maple water, cucumber, celery, ginger, lemon juice, kale, frozen mango. Ta da, the easiest snack ever. We freeze the extra in the munchkin popsicles for warm or teething days. A great recipe list for green smoothies on instagram.
I hope this helps you approach feeding your multiples with confidence and don’t fret about going outside the norm and trying what works for you. I should note this is not the be all end all way of feeding your little, so do your research and do what works best for your family.
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