Let’s face it, parenting can be difficult, for various reasons. Your little one not eating well or at all most definitely makes the Top Ten of stressful parenting moments. Are they sick? Are they getting enough calories? Do they have all the necessary nutrients? Is my child a picky eater? Will they sleep tonight?
Making mealtime successful, fun and manageable can seem a daunting task, but it can be done! Rule of Thumb: Follow the Child’s Lead.
To start, here are a few facts on food for infants and toddlers:
- If your child is 12 months and under, a majority of their nutrients and calories are coming from breast milk or formula. If baby refuses a meal or two, although disheartening, they won’t be malnourished.
- Focus on output during food strikes: Look for at least one wet diaper in an 8 hour period. Over 8 hours, call your Dr and ask for advice on the situation.
- It’s important for babies and toddlers to learn to listen to their fullness cues. If they aren’t hungry, or don’t want to finish a meal, try not to ask them to take “one more bite”.
- Some babies really don’t like purees, as in they refuse to eat them soon after solids are introduced. The thought of giving your little one a piece of food may seem terrifying, but in reality it may just be the answer. Cut food into bite sized pieces and let them explore. Keep a close eye out while baby eats, and remember that babies have a strong gag reflex. Don’t be alarmed at a gag or two.
With these in mind, here are 7 Ways to Make Mealtimes Better for Baby and You:
- Give In to the Battle for the Spoon: Many babies start wanting to self feed soon after starting solids, and well before they can actually feed themselves. Offer some finger foods they can feed themselves, like cut up steamed veggies or fruits, low sugar O cereal or Puffs. Let them feed themselves while you feed them, and let them play with the spoon at the end.
- Texture: There are some foods we grown ups just can’t do. For me that’s cottage cheese. For babies, that can be any lumpy food. If you’ve recently introduced meat or grains like quinoa or rice, try watering down the meal with breast milk, formula or low sodium chicken/vegetable stock. If it’s still not palatable try to introduce the texture later.
- Make Mealtime Fun: If mealtimes have been especially stressful as of late, or just not all that fun for all involved, bring some toys and songs along for the ride. A few finger plays like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and some washable toys can turn mealtime into fun time again!
- Know The Fussy Phases: Babies and toddlers go through huge developmental leaps when they learn new concepts and skills, and they all do it at around the same time. During these phases they will often eat and drink less. Head over to The Wonder Weeks to see if your little one is about to enter, or is in, a Developmental Leap. If they are, that could very well be why they aren’t enjoying their meals like they used to. Be patient, keep offering meals, and wait it out.
- Monkey See, Monkey Do: Babies and toddlers love to mimic others. Try to time your meals to sync with baby’s, or just eat a snack while they eat. Have something on your plate they can have as well to share!
- Spice it Up: Try adding cinnamon, ginger, thyme, or even curry in small amounts to baby’s food to make it more enticing.
- Respect the Play and Be Flexible: If baby is engaged in play, watch for a break and then introduce meal time. Little ones can get quite frustrated when interrupted, making for an unhappy start to meal time.
One of my favorite sites for baby food recipes and feeding questions is www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com. Check them out for some new recipes for meal time!