Tune in to yourself … like a baby

We can learn a lot from watching babies.

Babies, who can’t express themselves in any ways except crying and smiling (at least in the beginning, before they can communicate via expressions and words) are incredibly attuned to their needs … and once those needs are met, they move on. They eat til they’re full, sleep til they’re not tired, stop playing when they’re bored … They don’t dwell, there’s no guilt, there’s no nothing except the here and now.

[Until three hours later when another need arises, that is!]

They are so absolutely in tune with their own bodies that it’s almost mind-blowing that we adults (who live in a world of excess food and minimal sleep, who play Words with Friends instead of hitting the hay even though we are bone-tired … ) need to retrain ourselves to get back to that place of primitiveness and simplicity.

So today I thought I’d explore some ideas for how we can apply babies’ behavior to our own lives with respect to food.

It never ceases to amaze me how Maya can go from starving to satisfied in minutes. And when she is full, she is full. She will purse her lips and won’t allow breast or bottle or spoon near her. “DONE,” she’s saying to us.

No matter that there’s still two ounces left in her bottle and a 3/4 full container of pears. If she’s done, she’s done.

Her levels of satiety vary by the day — and that’s been the hardest part about knowing if she is getting enough. Since she is growing and gaining just fine according to her pediatrician (still on the small side of average as of her 6-mth appt. but steadily inching up within her own range), she’s obviously doing OK. But it’s still hard to fathom just knowing when I’d be full since I so often ignore my own body’s satiety queues.

How often do I eat just because I know it’s what I’m “allotted” (even if I’m not genuinely hungry) or because it’s there, or because someone else ordered it and a taste sounds good, or because I’m happy/sad/tired/bored/angry/upset/anxious … you name it, I do it/have done it. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true!

Adults tend to listen to our heads, not our stomachs, with respect to food. We might KNOW we don’t need XYZ, but we want it and have it and then, often, feel a sense of remorse after because — well, frankly, we didn’t need it. What we needed was a hug/a bath/a walk. For all my progress on the disordered front in my past, I am still 100% guilty of mindless and emotional eating … and this is something babies just don’t do.

Aside from the initial start of a feeding which (for my kid at least) tends to be a bit on the voracious “starvin’ marvin” side before tapering off … they eat slowly and deliberately. They swallow their food, consider another bite, and, if still hungry, open their mouths for more. They don’t just shovel it in and wait to feel full.

Definitely lessons we could all benefit from knowing, no?

I hope to adapt this more mindful-for-me but innate-for-Maya approach to eating. For her, food is simply nourishment and pleasure; nothing complex or worthy of [over]analysis.

And I hope to G-d my daughter never deals with the food issues I have dealt with. If she can continue her intuitive ways well into adulthood … she’ll be ten steps ahead of her mama!

So again, thank you, my sweetpea … for all the things you’ve already taught me in your 34 weeks outside the womb. They’ve been priceless.

How about you? What else have you learned from watching babies or small children with respect to food?


6 thoughts on “Tune in to yourself … like a baby

  1. Yes, yes, yes. When Nate is done, he’s DONE. His plate and cup get tossed aside and any unfinished food gets pushed out of his sight and then he demands, “Up!” (out of the high chair) He was the same way as Maya with the bottled – pursed lips and turned head when done. I often think, “Wow, we really do innately have these tools. What do we do to them??” So I try very hard to honor his “done” signals. I serve his vegetables first because I want to make sure he eats them and I’m not trying to make him eat them after he’s full (which would be a lost cause – he doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to, lol). But basically when he says, “All done” I say, “Okay” and that’s that. I want him to trust that I believe when he’s done and I’ll never force food on him. That satiety instinct is something to value.

    1. Isn’t it wild?! We do need to trust them … which can be hard when it seems they aren’t eating! Last night I got frustrated –we were out to dinner with a good friend and Maya took like five spoonfuls of sweet potatoes (i.e., 1/5 the container) and a few sips of ba-ba and was DONE. 😦 She wouldn’t eat any more … and she hadn’t eaten her full meals at daycare, either … well this AM she had two serious “tummy issues” so I’m thinking maybe it was an indication she wasn’t feeling well. I asked them to keep an eye on her today … hoping she just had a little bug? But yes, their satiety instinct is something to value–and worth emulating!

  2. “We might KNOW we don’t need XYZ, but we want it and have it and then, often, feel a sense of remorse after because — well, frankly, we didn’t need it. What we needed was a hug/a bath/a walk.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement. I know I’m guilty of emotional eating (and drinking) from time to time; it’s a great cop-out for not fulfilling the real need.

  3. I love to watch a sleeping baby just BREATHE. So natural and relaxed. Belly puffs out, belly drops. As adults, we stop taking the breath into our belly! We breathe so shallow into the chest that our diaphragm doesn’t extend down and let our belly puff out. We don’t want to let our belly puff! Or we are just so unconscious of our shallow breath.

    Breathe like a baby! 🙂

    1. Soooo true, Clare! they have no shame. I remember a yoga teacher I had once encouraged us to “let it all hang out” — we definitely are so concerned with our bellies and we shouldn’t be. Beautifully said!

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