FUSSY EATER MYTH #5: YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO EAT



mumsnet

It’s true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health.

But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need to eat.

If a child relishes food and it becomes habitual to consistently eat larger than necessary portions, it is only too evident how this may contribute to the likelihood of obesity.

On the other hand, if a child insists that they are not hungry and/or cannot eat the full plate of food offered, a great deal of unnecessary stress can ensue for both parent and child.  And this can exacerbate or even cause fussy eating habits.

Either way, the danger is that the child is not encouraged to trust their internal hunger and satiation cues and doesn’t learn to tune in to their body’s unique needs.

Which is why I advocate that, for most children, if they say they’re not hungry, they’re probably not.

If they don’t finish their plate, they’re likely telling you that they’re full rather than being ‘fussy’.

And if they ask for a snack or they say they’re hungry a little while later, this could well be the case. A toddler’s fist is tiny, and this is the approx size of his tummy too – and sometimes even smaller. It fills quicker than ours, and empties quicker than ours; eating little and often makes a lot of sense.

So rather than overly-stressing when they don’t clear their plate or empty their lunchbox, can I suggest that we focus on being grateful that they’re still maintaining their innate capacity to listen to their body, and haven’t yet overridden or learnt to ignore this inner guidance.

I’m not denying it can be hard, but as far as possible, let’s give them the benefit of doubt and trust that they know their own body better than we do.

Let’s offer plenty of healthy choices, but ultimately let THEM tell US how much they need to eat and not the other way around.

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

FUSSY EATER MYTH #5: YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO EAT

It's true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health. But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need...
Read More

WANT LESS STRESSFUL MEALTIMES? WANT TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR FUSSY EATER?

(This article was originally posted on the Mother Tribe blog on 22.04.17) A doctorate in child development and years of working with children and families did not prepare me for the sheer frustration and stress of feeding my own family. Three different children with...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES

Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to...
Read More

FLEXIBILITY IS ONE OF YOUR BEST MEALTIME FRIENDS

I remember reading something a while ago along the lines of, whenever you think you know or understand something always leave a space next to it in your brain for new information.  I’ve probably totally trashed a beautiful quote there and unfortunately, I have...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #3: YOU NEED TO MAKE FOOD MORE EXCITING & TRY SPECIAL RECIPES

You've seen these websites and resources, right? The ones that are aimed at helping you with your fussy eater that focus predominantly on recipes...recipes that even the fussiest of fussy eaters are allegedly 'guaranteed' to eat. Except even after you spend ages...
Read More

TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?

DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUSSY EATING? Please don't. I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else's children eat everything and yours just won’t. But it's really not true - limited food choice is extremely common...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #2: FUSSINESS STARTS AT AROUND 12-MONTHS-OLD AS BABY BECOMES MORE WILFUL

Well, it is certainly true that it is frequently around about this age that parents start to regret having told everyone that their child loves food and is such a ‘good’ eater. Very often it can seem like overnight they go from eating everything in sight to refusing...
Read More

WHAT’S MAKING YOUR CHILD ‘FUSSY’ WITH FOOD?

The trouble with many articles offering expert opinions about fussy eating and mealtime stress is that they tend to offer a couple of generic, one-sized fits all ‘solutions’ and fail to take into account that there are many different types of ‘fussy eater’ and quite a...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #1: YOUR CHILD MUST EAT A RAINBOW COLOURED PLATE AT EVERY MEAL

If you present your child with a beautifully colourful, perfectly balanced plate of food at every meal and they willingly gobble it all down - wow, consider yourself extremely blessed! But if not, try not to sweat it. This is very common for all children, not just the...
Read More

WEANING YOUR BABY: 4 ESSENTIAL TRUTHS FOR LONG TERM FUSS-FREE EATING

(This article was originally posted on at http://mammainpearls.com/weaning-your-baby/ on 03.04.17) Very often when it’s time to take the exciting leap to the weaning stage, our focus is so much on the present that we forget to think about the longer-term eating...
Read More

HERE’S HOW MANY EASTER EGGS I LET MY KIDS EAT..

When you SPECIFICALLY request a trusted relative NOT to buy chocolate for your kids for Easter (but a small inedible present instead)...and they do it anyway. And not even a small one; a very large, indulgent-looking one each. THIS I find mega frustrating. And...
Read More

INSISTING ON ‘TASTING’ IS NOT THE ANSWER TO PICKY EATING

Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you. And then instead of saying, "Here, help yourself!" I said, "Look at this yummy food I've got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I'll give you a...
Read More

WHEN THEY DON’T EAT WHAT YOU KNOW THEY LIKE…

"But you LOVE chicken and rice! Here, have some chicken and rice!" "Don't like chicken and rice." "Yes you DO, you ate a whole bowlful the other day!" Do you ever find yourself having this sort of crazy-making conversation with your toddler or child? You kind of know...
Read More

MY JOURNEY TO FUSS-FREE EATING

I think even as a very young child I knew deep down that being ‘forced’ to eat and rigid mealtime rules just weren't right. I remember sitting at the dining table feeling so confused; I wasn't particular hungry, I'd eaten all the ‘nice’ bits on my plate, and just the...
Read More

HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”

Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.” I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said,

Read More

DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

WANT LESS STRESSFUL MEALTIMES? WANT TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR FUSSY EATER?



mumsnet

(This article was originally posted on the Mother Tribe blog on 22.04.17)

A doctorate in child development and years of working with children and families did not prepare me for the sheer frustration and stress of feeding my own family.

Three different children with three different preferences and three different eating patterns and bodily rhythms = headache on a grand scale.

And as much as I sometimes longed to be one of those like-it-or-lump-it Mamas who rigidly adhere to their own timetable, only cook one thing and forbid the eating of anything else, I couldn’t do it.

Memories of my own miserable mealtime experiences and later battle with an eating disorder also made me reluctant to force feed, or to battle with my own kids over food.

Embracing a peaceful, respectful, conscious approach to parenting changed all aspects of my parenting experience so much for the better.

But applying this to eating?  This I found so much harder.  I spent a long time trying to make sense of the huge amount of information out there, much of it contradictory.

I will spare you the examples for now, but suffice it to say that initially I found it all mega confusing.

So what changed?  How did I finally get to a place of clarity and peace?

I’ll tell you; it was a simple process of working backwards. 

And by this I mean, thinking about what I wanted for my children in the long term.  Working out what I didn’t want my children to associate with food in the future. 

For example, I imagine that like me you don’t want your children to associate eating with feeling loved and ‘good’ and comforted, right?  And you don’t want them to eat by the clock even if they’re not at all hungry?  And you don’t want them to associate eating cake or ice cream with being a naughty treat that they only deserve if they are ‘good’ and already full from main course, right?

And yet, with a traditional approach to eating and mealtimes these are all messages our children are hearing.  Particularly when…

  • We have rigid rules about when they can and can’t eat
  • We insist they eat everything on their plate
  • We forbid pudding until they eat their ‘healthy’ main course
  • We use all manner of techniques to coerce and distract them to ‘get’ them to eat
  • We talk in their earshot about our own diets or being ‘naughty’ having that cake

None of these things normalise the process of eating or teach children to eat purely for nourishment and enjoyment.

None of these approaches convey trust in our child to utilise their incredible innate capacity to know what their own body needs and to choose accordingly.

And surely we owe it to our children to get out of their way and give them the freedom to do this.   We owe it to them to find a way to stop the growing problem in the western world with compulsive eating, with obesity, with eating disorders.   And we owe it to ourselves to find a way to make things less stressful, and find a simpler way that we can feel calm and confident about.

So I urge you to consider whether the path you are on at present is the one you truly want to continue with, and whether you are giving your children the messages that you really want them to hear.  I urge you to consider whether winning the short-term eat your greens battle is truly worth it at the expense of a healthy life-long relationship with food.

Let me clarify again; the easiest way you can make mealtimes less stressful and make the biggest impact on your ‘fussy’ eaters is to re-visit your whole approach to mealtimes and think of it only in terms of what habits you want to develop and teach for the long term.

Here’s a few things it might help to think about more specifically:

  • Get realistic about how much your child actually needs to eat.  We tend to vastly overestimate our children’s appetites.  Very roughly, their tummies are the size of their fists, but sometimes even smaller.  Vegetables, in particular, are very bulky.  If they say they’ve had enough and are full, they probably are.
  • Children eat more when they are growing and not in order to grow.  So their eating patterns and requirements will vary greatly according to the particular stage of development they are in.  Babies up until the age of one, for example, eat a ton more in proportion to their size than they will again until they are teenagers.  So when at this age they appear to become ‘fussy’, very often it’s merely because they no longer need to eat so much.
  • Examine who your current food schedule suits and what the rationale is behind three square meals a day.  As stated above, children have varied but generally significantly smaller tummies than we always remember.  Eating little and often may well be what suits their appetite and metabolism the best.
  • If you are happy for your children to eat sweet things and puddings, consider what the logic is behind having it after the main course, and the message you are sending if you are requiring a clear main course plate first.  What do you fear would happen if they have their fruit or yoghurt or fruit lolly presented at the same time as the main course?
  • What are you (and any other adults in the household) modelling to your children about eating and mealtimes?  Do they see you enjoying a varied diet, respecting your body, and enjoying both sweet and savoury food equally?  If not, what messages are your eating habits (and your partner’s) sending to your children?
HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

FUSSY EATER MYTH #5: YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO EAT

It's true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health. But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need...
Read More

WANT LESS STRESSFUL MEALTIMES? WANT TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR FUSSY EATER?

(This article was originally posted on the Mother Tribe blog on 22.04.17) A doctorate in child development and years of working with children and families did not prepare me for the sheer frustration and stress of feeding my own family. Three different children with...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES

Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to...
Read More

FLEXIBILITY IS ONE OF YOUR BEST MEALTIME FRIENDS

I remember reading something a while ago along the lines of, whenever you think you know or understand something always leave a space next to it in your brain for new information.  I’ve probably totally trashed a beautiful quote there and unfortunately, I have...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #3: YOU NEED TO MAKE FOOD MORE EXCITING & TRY SPECIAL RECIPES

You've seen these websites and resources, right? The ones that are aimed at helping you with your fussy eater that focus predominantly on recipes...recipes that even the fussiest of fussy eaters are allegedly 'guaranteed' to eat. Except even after you spend ages...
Read More

TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?

DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUSSY EATING? Please don't. I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else's children eat everything and yours just won’t. But it's really not true - limited food choice is extremely common...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #2: FUSSINESS STARTS AT AROUND 12-MONTHS-OLD AS BABY BECOMES MORE WILFUL

Well, it is certainly true that it is frequently around about this age that parents start to regret having told everyone that their child loves food and is such a ‘good’ eater. Very often it can seem like overnight they go from eating everything in sight to refusing...
Read More

WHAT’S MAKING YOUR CHILD ‘FUSSY’ WITH FOOD?

The trouble with many articles offering expert opinions about fussy eating and mealtime stress is that they tend to offer a couple of generic, one-sized fits all ‘solutions’ and fail to take into account that there are many different types of ‘fussy eater’ and quite a...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #1: YOUR CHILD MUST EAT A RAINBOW COLOURED PLATE AT EVERY MEAL

If you present your child with a beautifully colourful, perfectly balanced plate of food at every meal and they willingly gobble it all down - wow, consider yourself extremely blessed! But if not, try not to sweat it. This is very common for all children, not just the...
Read More

WEANING YOUR BABY: 4 ESSENTIAL TRUTHS FOR LONG TERM FUSS-FREE EATING

(This article was originally posted on at http://mammainpearls.com/weaning-your-baby/ on 03.04.17) Very often when it’s time to take the exciting leap to the weaning stage, our focus is so much on the present that we forget to think about the longer-term eating...
Read More

HERE’S HOW MANY EASTER EGGS I LET MY KIDS EAT..

When you SPECIFICALLY request a trusted relative NOT to buy chocolate for your kids for Easter (but a small inedible present instead)...and they do it anyway. And not even a small one; a very large, indulgent-looking one each. THIS I find mega frustrating. And...
Read More

INSISTING ON ‘TASTING’ IS NOT THE ANSWER TO PICKY EATING

Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you. And then instead of saying, "Here, help yourself!" I said, "Look at this yummy food I've got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I'll give you a...
Read More

WHEN THEY DON’T EAT WHAT YOU KNOW THEY LIKE…

"But you LOVE chicken and rice! Here, have some chicken and rice!" "Don't like chicken and rice." "Yes you DO, you ate a whole bowlful the other day!" Do you ever find yourself having this sort of crazy-making conversation with your toddler or child? You kind of know...
Read More

MY JOURNEY TO FUSS-FREE EATING

I think even as a very young child I knew deep down that being ‘forced’ to eat and rigid mealtime rules just weren't right. I remember sitting at the dining table feeling so confused; I wasn't particular hungry, I'd eaten all the ‘nice’ bits on my plate, and just the...
Read More

HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”

Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.” I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said,

Read More

DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

FUSSY EATER MYTH #2: FUSSINESS STARTS AT AROUND 12-MONTHS-OLD AS BABY BECOMES MORE WILFUL



mumsnet

Well, it is certainly true that it is frequently around about this age that parents start to regret having told everyone that their child loves food and is such a ‘good’ eater.

Very often it can seem like overnight they go from eating everything in sight to refusing everything on offer and apparently existing on air.

But the reason they start to become more selective is very rarely just because they have become more stubborn or wilful.

Because what is not common knowledge is that up to around the age of 12 months the rate of a baby’s growth is extraordinary.  In fact, they tend to triple their weight, which (apart from in the womb), happens at no other stage of development.

Children eat because they are growing and not in order to grow – only in very severe cases of malnutrition does eating affect growth – and body size and shape is principally determined by genes.  And so up until around one year, for their size, babies eat A LOT –  proportionally speaking, an awful lot more than you or I do.

And so when this extraordinarily rapid growth slows down – which is entirely developmentally normal – they no longer NEED to eat nearly as much.   They are just NOT as hungry and so they naturally will start being more selective about what they choose to eat.

But if we don’t know this and are not prepared, it can come as a shock and look like they are just being ‘fussy’.  It seems counter-intuitive that an older, bigger child actually needs to eat less, particularly when they even seem to moving around more and burning more energy.  So we quite naturally panic and stress, and our child’s food refusal can trigger all sorts of things in us about our own childhood as well as about our ‘job’ as a parent.

And so this is very often the age that the coercion, pleading, bribing that we thought we’d never become involved in starts to creep into out mealtime repertoire.  We are very sure that we know much more than our one-year old about what she NEEDS to eat, and feel increasingly frustrated that she is defying us and being ‘difficult.  But unfortunately, instead of improving things it actually makes longer term ‘fussy’ eating a lot more likely and entrenched, as well as obviously making mealtimes much more stressful than they need be.

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

FUSSY EATER MYTH #5: YOU KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO EAT

It's true that we have an incredible understanding now of what is required nutritionally-speaking for optimum health. But there is concern amongst many health professionals that parents are frequently vastly over-estimating the amount of food children can and/or need...
Read More

WANT LESS STRESSFUL MEALTIMES? WANT TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR FUSSY EATER?

(This article was originally posted on the Mother Tribe blog on 22.04.17) A doctorate in child development and years of working with children and families did not prepare me for the sheer frustration and stress of feeding my own family. Three different children with...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES

Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food.  Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to...
Read More

FLEXIBILITY IS ONE OF YOUR BEST MEALTIME FRIENDS

I remember reading something a while ago along the lines of, whenever you think you know or understand something always leave a space next to it in your brain for new information.  I’ve probably totally trashed a beautiful quote there and unfortunately, I have...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #3: YOU NEED TO MAKE FOOD MORE EXCITING & TRY SPECIAL RECIPES

You've seen these websites and resources, right? The ones that are aimed at helping you with your fussy eater that focus predominantly on recipes...recipes that even the fussiest of fussy eaters are allegedly 'guaranteed' to eat. Except even after you spend ages...
Read More

TEMPERAMENT & FUSSY EATING: IS YOUR CHILD A ‘SUPERTASTER’?

DO YOU HAVE A PICKY EATER?  DO YOU SOMETIMES BLAME  YOURSELF FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUSSY EATING? Please don't. I know it can sometimes seem like everyone else's children eat everything and yours just won’t. But it's really not true - limited food choice is extremely common...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #2: FUSSINESS STARTS AT AROUND 12-MONTHS-OLD AS BABY BECOMES MORE WILFUL

Well, it is certainly true that it is frequently around about this age that parents start to regret having told everyone that their child loves food and is such a ‘good’ eater. Very often it can seem like overnight they go from eating everything in sight to refusing...
Read More

WHAT’S MAKING YOUR CHILD ‘FUSSY’ WITH FOOD?

The trouble with many articles offering expert opinions about fussy eating and mealtime stress is that they tend to offer a couple of generic, one-sized fits all ‘solutions’ and fail to take into account that there are many different types of ‘fussy eater’ and quite a...
Read More

FUSSY EATER MYTH #1: YOUR CHILD MUST EAT A RAINBOW COLOURED PLATE AT EVERY MEAL

If you present your child with a beautifully colourful, perfectly balanced plate of food at every meal and they willingly gobble it all down - wow, consider yourself extremely blessed! But if not, try not to sweat it. This is very common for all children, not just the...
Read More

WEANING YOUR BABY: 4 ESSENTIAL TRUTHS FOR LONG TERM FUSS-FREE EATING

(This article was originally posted on at http://mammainpearls.com/weaning-your-baby/ on 03.04.17) Very often when it’s time to take the exciting leap to the weaning stage, our focus is so much on the present that we forget to think about the longer-term eating...
Read More

HERE’S HOW MANY EASTER EGGS I LET MY KIDS EAT..

When you SPECIFICALLY request a trusted relative NOT to buy chocolate for your kids for Easter (but a small inedible present instead)...and they do it anyway. And not even a small one; a very large, indulgent-looking one each. THIS I find mega frustrating. And...
Read More

INSISTING ON ‘TASTING’ IS NOT THE ANSWER TO PICKY EATING

Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you. And then instead of saying, "Here, help yourself!" I said, "Look at this yummy food I've got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I'll give you a...
Read More

WHEN THEY DON’T EAT WHAT YOU KNOW THEY LIKE…

"But you LOVE chicken and rice! Here, have some chicken and rice!" "Don't like chicken and rice." "Yes you DO, you ate a whole bowlful the other day!" Do you ever find yourself having this sort of crazy-making conversation with your toddler or child? You kind of know...
Read More

MY JOURNEY TO FUSS-FREE EATING

I think even as a very young child I knew deep down that being ‘forced’ to eat and rigid mealtime rules just weren't right. I remember sitting at the dining table feeling so confused; I wasn't particular hungry, I'd eaten all the ‘nice’ bits on my plate, and just the...
Read More

HOW TO HANDLE “I HATE YOU MUMMY!”

Hearing these words for the first time from your sweet, innocent ‘baby’ is pretty gutting really.
I had asked my 7-year-old to start tidying away the Lego as it was bedtime soon, and he replied, “No Mummy, I’m still building this.” I could hear he was fairly cross and passionate, and so thinking I was being quite reasonable, I said,

Read More

DO YOU HAVE A FUSSY EATER? ARE YOU FED UP WITH MEALTIMES?

 

 

Click here to apply

 to join my
6 week, one-to-one, Fuss-Free Eating for Life coaching programme

 

 

APPLY NOW

WEANING YOUR BABY: 4 ESSENTIAL TRUTHS FOR LONG TERM FUSS-FREE EATING



mumsnet

(This article was originally posted on at http://mammainpearls.com/weaning-your-baby/ on 03.04.17)

Very often when it’s time to take the exciting leap to the weaning stage, our focus is so much on the present that we forget to think about the longer-term eating outcomes we’d like our children to develop.

But with the number of people diagnosed with both eating disorders and obesity still steadily on the rise, these considerations are more important than ever.

I strongly believe that we need to be thinking about these aspects right from the start; teaching our children how to listen to their internal hunger and satiation cues and fully respecting their autonomy over their bodies.

So, here are four very important things to know and consider before you take steps to wean your baby:

 

1. Your baby will tell you when he’s ready for solids (not the other way around)

This is particularly hard when it’s your first baby and you are excited to get started. You have well-meaning advice hitting you from every direction, and plus ‘all’ your baby’s peers are allegedly gobbling down pizza and tofu stir-fry by the plateful. But just as every baby hits every other developmental milestone at very varying ages, starting solids is no different. Whatever you may have read (particularly from baby food manufacturers and the media), there is no nutritional benefit to ‘real’ food over milk, and no generic ‘critical’ age when a baby must start eating.

So how do you know if they are ready for solids?

They will reach out and grab food off your plate, they will cry when you eat something and don’t share it with them, they will gum said food intently, they will cry when you take it away, they will open their mouth in anticipation if they see a spoon passing nearby. Trust me, you will know.

If he’s not showing these signs, attempting to wean too early for your baby will start you on the slippery slope of coercing him to eat when he doesn’t need to, and lead to power struggles and an early negative association with mealtimes.

 

2. There is no proven relationship between eating solids and sleeping longer

How many one year olds have you heard about who still wake several times in the night? And two-year olds? And three-year olds? And even 4-year-old too? Yes, I definitely know lots of all ages!

Is this because they’ve not been fed properly and are waking up hungry? Very, very rarely. Conversely, it is also the case that some exclusively breast-fed babies do sleep through the night from a very young age. Yup, sorry to break this to you, but children are all unique and lots of things impact sleeping.

It is entirely normal for many children under the age of 5 to wake up (briefly or otherwise) several times in the night- it’s thought possibly to be a survival instinct to check they are still being cared for. Although I get that solid food = more sleep makes intuitive sense on some level, there is absolutely no science behind it.

And unfortunately, all this sleep myth does is way too easily lead to justifying premature ‘force’ feeding of a baby who is not quite ready to eat or who is not hungry or needing to eat much (see number 3).

 

3. Coercing your baby to eat is not necessary or helpful

Of course I don’t/wouldn’t force my baby to eat I hear you say, that sounds cruel and mean and I love my baby!

I know you do, but it’s amazing how easy it is to do things in the ‘name’ of love. Very often we think we know best and forget that our baby arrives in the world with the instinct to know exactly what they need to eat to fulfil the precise requirements of their body. So, if they are refusing to eat something, this means they do not want or need it. End of story.

Except it’s not, because very often our own fears and (usually groundless) expectations get in the way and block us from trusting this. For example, our preconceived ideas about what baby ‘should’ be eating at this age, worries about where he is on the growth chart, worries that he will become malnourished if he doesn’t eat a particular nutrient or food group, to name a few.

And I’m not suggesting there are many parents who are so anxious that they literally hold their child down and push food down their throats (although it most definitely has been known). But anything that becomes a regular way of ‘getting’ our children to eat such that they are distracted from listening to their body counts as using coercion in my book.

Sadly, as a culture we have moved so far away from our ability to listen to our inner wisdom that we rarely consider that our ‘tricks’ to entice our offspring to eat are anything but ‘normal’. Watching the TV, here comes the aeroplane-type games, silly songs, ‘hiding’ food, shouting, bribing, bargaining and pleading are all frequently part of a standard dinner time parental repertoire.

That’s not to say that EVER doing any of these things is terrible and will ruin your child for life. But, if you find you are resorting to these things on a regular basis as the only way to get your child to eat, then I do urge you to consider what you are teaching your child in the long-term.

 

4. They do not need to eat from every food group at every mealtime

Or even every day. Seriously, let’s stop over-complicating things.

The dubious and continually-changing research results that claim to tell us exactly how much of each particular food group or nutrient we ‘should’ be feeding our kids each day make me mad. They result in a series of requirements that are confusing, overwhelming, guilt-inducing and frankly just plain unnecessary.

Yes, of course, fish fingers and chips every day is not balanced or healthy, we all know that. And it is definitely desirable to offer from different food groups and offer as much variety and whole foods as we can. But just offer and just as much as we can. Our children will do the rest.

Studies analysing baby led weaned children found that over the course of a few weeks, they independently chose the foods containing the perfect balance of nutrients they needed. Again, it very often comes down to us getting out of our baby’s way and learning to trust them, they are so much clever than we often give them credit for!

HERE’S HOW MANY EASTER EGGS I LET MY KIDS EAT..



mumsnet

When you SPECIFICALLY request a trusted relative NOT to buy chocolate for your kids for Easter (but a small inedible present instead)…and they do it anyway.

And not even a small one; a very large, indulgent-looking one each.

THIS I find mega frustrating.

And although I know the intention was absolutely harmless and from a place of love, it’s STILL pretty irksome!

And it leaves me in a tricky situation.

Because if my children are gifted chocolate, if it is something that belongs to them, my view is that the only logical, respectful approach is for THEM to decide when they will eat it and how much they will eat.

Because look, if I gifted YOU a beautiful Easter egg or a box of your favourite chocolates and then followed it up with…”You can only have ONE now…I’m going to put the rest away in the cupboard for when I DECIDE you can another one”…let’s face it, it’d be a pretty disappointingly naff present.

The implication would be that it wasn’t REALLY a present for you, that I didn’t really honour the choices you make about what you put in your body, and I definitely didn’t TRUST you. In a nutshell, it’d be disrespectful and controlling.

Why then should it be any different for children?

But although I strongly oppose controlling what my kids choose to put in their own mouth, I DO believe that our job as parents is to control the environment our kids are exposed to.

So, in other words, it’s our choice whether we have masses of junk and chocolate in our cupboards for our kids to access OR a range of freely available relatively healthy snacks. It’s our choice whether the ‘Easter bunny’ brings a massive bucketful of eggs OR a few small ones and a present. And it’s our choice whether we go along with the current cultural norm of excessive chocolate egg swapping OR decide to opt out of this and do things differently.

Whilst they are young and still learning about their bodies and the effect different foods have on them, it’s our responsibility to minimise them from the overwhelm of too much. Because to be honest, it’s hard enough to cope with as adults sometimes.

Of course they will have to deal with the piles of junk and confectionery we are constantly bombarded with on their own eventually. But hopefully by then they will be less vulnerable and armed with greater knowledge and experience.

 

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR

I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.

I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.

See here for the services I offer or email me for more info.  You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram.

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INSISTING ON ‘TASTING’ IS NOT THE ANSWER TO PICKY EATING



mumsnet

Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you.

And then instead of saying, “Here, help yourself!” I said, “Look at this yummy food I’ve got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I’ll give you a sticker!”

Aside from thinking I was plain bonkers, what else would you think?

Probably something along the lines of…well, I thought it just looked like a plate of biscuits but I’m not so sure now. There must be something pretty gross about it that I hadn’t spotted. I wasn’t that hungry anyway but I’m definitely not now.

You’d be highly suspicious, right? And immediately tag that food as something that’s likely to be horrible, something to be wary of.

And yet, this is the advice most commonly given to parents of fussy eaters.

In fact, I came across an article the other day entitled ‘Psychologists may have found the key to making kids try new foods’. It cited a recent study that had successfully used this ‘exposure’ method coupled with positive attention with two autistic children with severe food aversions.

But here’s just three of the reasons why this kind of article soo frustrates me:

>>>>The implication is that this approach based on a sample of TWO very EXTREME children is therefore applicable to ALL children. It is NOT. Unless your child has a medical condition or is losing significant weight there is absolutely no NEED to enforce a strict ‘tasting’ rule, and in fact, I strongly question the effectiveness of doing so for long-term eating habits.

>>>>Rewarding, persuading, bribing, pleading, begging, demanding that your child tastes or tries something does not ‘teach’ them to like it in the long run. Quite the opposite, in fact.

>>>>Advocating this kind of approach to ‘get’ children to eat is based on out-dated parenting methods. In my book it is just as disrespectful to use such methods with our children as it is with our friends or other adults. Children are not a sub-standard species, they have merely spent a little less time on the planet than us.

Which is why I never advise my clients to INSIST that their children ‘try’ or ‘taste’ anything.

Yes, definitely keep offering; offer as much variety as you can and have the energy for. Yes, definitely keep modelling; enjoy eating as much variety in front of your kids as you can.

But please, please, let’s stop forcing them to ‘taste’ and just let them explore and enjoy food independently and in their own good time.

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