Qn of the Month: A Twin Food Dilemma

Q: “My 10-month-old twin boys respond differently to solids. One has a hypersensitive gag and the other one is more adventurous with new food. This foodie loves lumpy texture especially finger food so he can feel the texture with his tiny fingers. It’s challenging to prepare home-made, balanced meals that satisfy both of them with the limited time I have on my hands. Any advice?”

A: Sounds like you have 3 main concerns: safety, time, and the desire to continue offering foods your children can enjoy. Yes, I agree, you shouldn’t have to be a short-order cook making up two different entrees every single mealtime! There is a concept coined by Ellyn Satter called ‘Division of Responsibility’. Parents decide what foods are offered or available and when these are served to the child. The child’s responsibility is to determine whether he will eat and how much. This gives a better balance of control and divides responsibility between the two sides. I think this means parents can also decide how a meal is to be served. Here are some suggested ways to address your situation that I hope will help (let’s differentiate between the twins as ‘foodie’ and ‘twin B’):

Decide how you want to prepare most of the entrees—finger food based or spoonable?
You basically have a choice to make: A) either make the meals easy to pick up for the foodie, but also easy to blend/mash up to the right consistency for the other, or B) make the entrees all more mashed, minced and spoonable for both to eat easily and safely, but have lots of finger snacks on the side that the foodie can manage and enjoy (e.g., small pieces of fruits or soft cooked vegetables, Cheerios®, rice puffs or Rice Krispies®, cheese slices). Given you have a foodie who loves to pick things up, I think it is actually easier to just make food that the foodie can feed himself, but easy for you to mash or mince up for the other on the spot. Then you can focus more on the one that needs more attention during feeding or needs to be more spoon-fed.

Prepare ahead.
If you don’t want to have to separately blend or mash up food at each meal time for twin B, then try to prepare the entrees ahead of time as much as possible. Make up 2-3 easy bulk recipes like stews or casseroles. You can then blend, mash or mince some or all of this down to the right consistency for twin B before freezing in meal sized portions (invest in a hand blender if you don’t have one–it’s very handy for times like this!).  During the week, you can vary what you mix and serve these recipes with (e.g., pasta, rice, bread, lentils, pitta bread). The pasta, pitta and bread pieces allow the foodie to pick things up, while you can still mince up the pasta or soften the rice down before mixing in the sauce/stew for the other.

Make the most of finger foods!
If you go with mostly mashed or minced main entrees, then use finger foods as the main vehicle for fun sensory play and exploration.  Offer plenty of finger foods served on the side of the main meals. Focus more for now on soft finger foods like pieces of butternut squash, sweet potato, ripe kiwi, banana slices. You can also give harder finger foods that you know both twins can handle well at the moment without choking. That way both boys can have similar things which I am sure they appreciate. Continue to encourage both of them to develop their feeding skills with hard finger foods (like biscuits, crackers, bread sticks etc.), but break these up into smaller pieces or soak them first in soup, expressed breast milk, water or formula before offering to twin B who needs them softer.

Keep up your efforts! As more teeth come through, baby’s gums get harder, and baby grows in his eating experience to become a more seasoned eater, things will get easier for you and your twins!