Why do so many parents face problems in feeding their infants? Most probably, it’s because they are too much worried about the eating habits of their babies. Some babies are born with a wolf’s appetite, while others eat moderately. Some children’s eating habits always remain the same irrespective of their health and mood. But some children just stop taking foods when they are sick, or they are not in the right mood. The fact is that all babies are born with enough appetite to keep them healthy and to keep them gaining weight at the proper rate. Then what makes parents struggle with feeding problems in their babies?
The answer is interesting. Children are born with an instinct to get uncooperative if they are forced. They also have an instinct to get disgusted by the foods with which they have had an unpleasant experience. Another important factor is the change in their liking. For a while, a child may feel like eating a lot of fruits or healthy breakfast cereals, but after a few days, he will be disgusted with these foods. Parents have to realize this. If your child has no illness and he is growing and developing normally, then there is nothing to worry about.
WHAT CAUSES COMMON FEEDING PROBLEMS IN BABIES ?
- Feeding problems may start at different stages in a child’s development. Some babies become reluctant in their early months if parents try to make them finish more of their bottles than they need.
- Some infants face problems when they are first introduced to solid food. Most likely, they have difficulties to get it swallowed. Instead of giving them enough time to be habituated with it, parents force them to eat. Even when the baby is not in the mood, parents insist.
- Many children become choosy after the age of eighteen months when their growth rate slows down.
- Sometimes teething, common cough and cold also make babies picky. Forcing them to eat reduces the appetite.
- Another very common reason is an illness. If parents push to eat before the appetite returns at the end of the illness, it can cause disgust in children. Gradually, it becomes a fixed characteristic.
- A child may feel jealous and stop eating after the birth of a sibling.
However, parents are not always responsible for it. But parent’s anxiety usually makes the problem worse. It’s important to realize that babies have an inborn capacity that helps them to know how much food and what type of food they need.
HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD WITH FEEDING PROBLEM ?
- LET THE NATURAL APPETITE COMES OUT: The aim is not to make the child eat anyhow, but let her appetite comes out so that he wants to eat. Don’t talk anything about his eating. Don’t frighten him if he takes a small amount, or praise if he takes a large amount. When the child feels no pressure, he will concentrate on his appetite.
2. LET HIM BE HUNGRY:
It is true that when children become hungry, they eat without fuss. But you have to do it right. Don’t take it to the level of torture. “Finish it, or you would have nothing to eat until dinner “ – this type of frightening will make the situation even worse.
3. OFFER SOMETHING HE LIKES MOST:
Offer your dear one the foods he likes most. This will create the urge to eat. For two or three months, serve the wholesome foods he likes most and avoid those he dislikes. If your child dislikes only one group of foods, substitute it with other foods- such as fruits for vegetables or curd for milk. Eventually, he will feel less pressured at mealtimes. Later, you can start those foods.
4. KEEP AWAY JUNK FOODS:
Having junk foods or soft drinks ruin the appetite for good things. Avoid them completely.
5. DO NOT INSIST:
Sometimes parents insist on the child just to have “ a taste” of something they don’t like at all. If he eats something disgusting to him, it reduces the enjoyment of mealtime and the appetite for all foods.
6. SERVE LESS:
For any child who is eating poorly, serve a less amount of food. If he sees a heaped plate, his appetite gets depressed. If you serve less than he can consume, he will think, “I can have more”. This will encourage him to eat.
7. MAKING MEALTIME ENJOYABLE:
Ensure that the family enjoys mealtime together. This will help the child gets his mind off the food, and he will eat relaxedly.
8. DON’T THREATEN OR BRIBE:
Don’t give any kind of threat to your child. “ If you don’t finish this, you won’t be allowed to watch your favourite show on tv !“ – this can hurt his feelings. Similarly, don’t ask him to eat to earn his favourite dessert or something he likes.
9. SET THE RULES:
Put a limit on sugar, candy, soda, cake, and the other less wholesome foods. Plan the meals keeping his preferences in mind. As a treat, sometimes ask him what he would like. But don’t let him think that he is not the only one to be considered. There are other family members also.
Once there is a problem in eating, it takes time and understanding and patience to cope with it. Parents’ anxiety and concern keep the children’s appetite down. Infants need time to forget all the unpleasant associations with mealtime. So just get relaxed and make your child feel that you are not so bothered with his eating disorder. As soon as he feels stress-free, everything will be alright. Consult your paediatrician to be sure that he has no serious health issues that can cause poor feeding habits.
[Reference: Dr. Benjamin Spock’s “Baby and Childcare”]