Seriously! You need to monitor your child’s output nearly as carefully as you do his or her intake. You can learn a lot from it, and use what you learn to prevent or repair feeding issues.
No, you don’t need a pair of gloves and a microscope. You don’t have to get up close and personal with your child’s feces. You just need to make sure that it has the proper consistency and doesn’t show signs of constipation, which can, in turn, signal a feeding issue.
A child’s poop should have a soft, but not runny, consistency, not unlike that of a pudding. Sorry if that ruins pudding for you, but we need some basis for comparison. If you detect a hard or dry stool, you’ll need to take action before it gets worse, causes pain and worsens the child’s feeding (and toileting) difficulties.
How many times have you heard that “offense is the best defense?” Well, let’s switch it up. “Good intake creates the best output”. Another old saying applies here: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The sooner your child has a diet with sufficient fiber and nutrients, the earlier you will head off elimination issues. A lot of foods that children enjoy will have good fiber content, so let’s consider them.
Okay, so how early can you introduce fiber? As soon as your pediatrician says that you can begin to offer solid food. One likely winner: avocado. It has a mild flavor and easily-accepted consistency. Yes, avocados have fat, but it’s a good fat. It will help keep your child feeling satisfied, and his or her system operating smoothly. And avocados blend well with other soft foods, such as apple sauce and bananas.
If you don’t eat avocados yourself, here’s a quick guide. They’re at their peak of ripeness when they yield to GENTLE pressure, but don’t squish. At first, you may want them to be very ripe and easily mashed. Then you can just mash them up and spoon them in. Most babies and toddlers take well to avocados, almost immediately. Don’t forget to let your little one handle the food, and smear it around…avocados benefit your skin, too. Feeding goes best when it involves ALL the senses. My grandmother told this story about my father: He had a box of animal crackers, and played with them for several days, always putting them back into the box. One day she found the box in the trash, and she asked my dad what happened to the animal crackers. He said, “Oh, they got too dirty to play with, so I ate them.” He’s still with us, so handling his food didn’t seem to hurt him.
But let’s get back to foods with fiber content.
Most fruits and vegetables contain fiber, so the sooner your child learns to enjoy them, the better. We all know that certain fruits, such as prunes, will encourage bowel movements. Prune juice will, too, but start small, unless you REALLY like surprises. Other fiber-rich foods include: bananas, oranges, apples, mangoes, strawberries, raspberries. The seeded ones, such as the berries, may need to wait until your child has more experience with seedy textures. Oranges, too, may take a while, but the others will get your child off to a good start.
If your child prefers milder flavors, potatoes make a great go-to. Mashed potatoes provide the fiber content, fill up the tummy and taste great. And you can hide other veggies in them, if need be. Just mash them up. A cool lump of mashed potatoes will give a curious child the opportunity to feel, manipulate and eventually taste.
The darker the vegetable, the higher the fiber content. Spinach, collard greens, and chard will supply a good amount of fiber. And many children do enjoy them. If not, you have plenty of other options.
You can increase the fiber in your child’s diet by adding flax seeds. It comes in a flour-like form that you can incorporate into smoothies, scrambled eggs, mac and cheese, or anything that your child enjoys. It won’t affect the taste, either.
Let’s not forget hydration. Make water your child’s go-to drink. If you can’t get your child to drink water, try flavoring it with just a little juice.
So, a healthy system will promote healthier eating. If your child can eliminate the waste, he or she can make room for “bites without fights.”
For more information on what to look for, please refer to the Bristol Stool Chart.