Children are more likely to consume foods that are familiar to them. Keep in mind that a child’s native culture includes not only their birth country, but also the surroundings in which they lived. Orphanages have their own distinct culture. Foster parents have food practices and preferences that are unique to each individual. Read on for some tips on incorporating a child’s cultural diet into their new one.
“We have a video of how our son was fed at the orphanage that gave our occupational and speech therapists a lot of insight on the feeding conditions.” -Angela, mom to IIzaak, adopted from Kazakhstan
Taking Notes: When possible, it’s a good idea for adopting parents to observe their child eating in a familiar setting. Paying attention to the little details is key:
How does the child handle utensils?
Does she drink from a cup or a bottle?
What is the consistency of the foods being served?
Can she feed herself?
When are meals served?
How are the foods prepared?
What does the child like and dislike?
Answers to these questions will help the child adapt easier to his new home. For example, a child might not like fried potatoes because he’s never had them, but might like them mashed because that’s how they were served in the care center.
Rice, chicken, eggs, bananas, beans, and lentils are among some of the world’s most universal foods, and may be familiar in some form to your child, so make the effort to identify such foods. Gradually adding variety can ease the transition to a new diet.
It’s worthwhile to learn how foods are prepared in a child’s native homeland. In some countries, stews and porridges are very popular, and orphanages tend to serve such dishes. Their smooth texture can be translated into other nutritious options like fruit smoothies, vegetable soups, and lentil spread. Click here for more food tips and tricks.
It’s important to know what infant formula the baby is consuming so that a supply of it can be brought home. Ideally, a nutritionist or pediatrician should review the nutritional quality of the formula to determine whether or not it should be continued, but transitioning your baby to a new formula should be done after your baby comes home. See the First Year Home section for more on transitioning from formula.
For Infants: Ideally, a child under the age of one should be consuming properly prepared infant formula, water, and maybe small amounts of 100% juice. If a baby is on animal milk, soy, rice, or coconut milk, then a transition to a suitable formula is necessary, with the help of a nutritionist or pediatrician.
For Toddlers and Up: Children above the age of one may be consuming toddler formula, a variety of animal milks, juice, water, soda, other local beverages, or may still be on infant formula. If the latter is the case, the goal is to transition older toddlers to nutrient-dense beverages like dairy milk, calcium-fortified soy milk, 100% juice, and water. Rice and almond milk, which tend to not be fortified, are not as ideal a substititute for dairy or soy milk.
Water Woes: Some lesser developed countries have impure water supplies; it could be that your child is consuming such water which adversely affects her health. Make sure water used to prepare formula or other beverages is properly sterilized while in your child’s native country.