I’ve come to realise that I’m a systems kinda girl. Oh gosh maybe that should be woman now I’m 29! My OH will laugh out loud when he’s reads this as he knows that to get to this stage of having systems Ive procrastinated….A LOT!
Most parents can’t afford to procrastinate at meal times when time is so precious, and whilst i realise the importance of family eating i try to limit the time spent on the whole process.
We’ve, (Little C’s dad & i as he is fantastically hands on) have spent many an hour getting frustrated about the various aspects of meal times. It has been extremely enjoyable to watch Little C develop a love for some foods but its taken time. Central to our frustrations was WHAT was being eaten (or rather what Little C WOULD eat) to be precise. Other stresses included the mess created. It’s taken a while i’d say 8 months or so but we’ve finally got ourselves a system that works and minimises stress for all involved. It seems to us that if the stress of one aspect is minimised or eliminated the other aspect will work just as well. Some of the points are common sense and others could be classed as gentle coercion of your baby/toddler. Anyway as with most baby/toddler related stuff we do what works for us and ultimately suit ourselves and our family.
If you have serious concerns with regards to your baby/toddler’s diet discuss them with you G.P or Health Visitor.
1) Sit your baby/toddler to eat in the high chair ONLY when they are hungry. If they aren’t hungry at the time and you put them in there and they are less likely to eat a broad range of foods. Plus there’s an increased likelihood that the floor will be covered in the lovely food you’ve made which is a little bit frustrating. Snack times are a separate deal altogether, try to limit snacks or at least give them plan set times for snacks which will allow for your child to get hungry again before their next meal in the highchair.
2) Turn off devices or at least turn volumes down low. The reason I say not to turn them off completely is that our little ones can feel attacked if we are solely focused on them. This is especially important when weaning and trying new foods…….. Your approach to this is all important.
In Little C’s case we often give her the food and move away slightly so she’s in eyesight for safety, but we can still give her some independence and control. This may not be inappropriate for younger babies.
3) Prepare the environment using a floor covering under the highchair or if you have an old tablecloth, this can work too. Just be sure to cover the floor. If you don’t you will wish you had!
You can source the floor coverings in a variety of shops that have a baby or child section.
Have required cutlery and equipment to hand including a bib/apron if you chose to use one; you wont want to be scrambling for a baby fork when your baby is screaming with hunger.
4) Consider carefully when is a good time to introduce cutlery. In our experience challenging meal times or fussy eating comes in waves so if you introduce and encourage the use of cutlery at one of these stressful times then it can create negative associations for the baby/toddler. You know your child best so you judge this one for yourself.
5) Don’t feel pressured to stop your child eating finger foods as many parents often do. Us adults eat enough finger foods right through adulthood. Were a nation of sandwich lovers amongst other such cutlery-less foods. Remember that ultimately we’re aiming for a competency in using cutlery not attempting to stop them eating finger foods altogether.
6) Allocate a set amount of time for meal times and stick to this. Meal times can be fun but they aren’t a time for playing.
7) I don’t want to get into food groups etc but if your child has a dislike of a certain food to say potatoes for example consider how important it is in the overall context of their diet and nutritional needs. If you deem it important or even fundementalthen be creative about HOW to get that particular food into them and don’t give up.
8) Try to make meal times “all inclusive” by this i mean try my “one meal for the whole family” recipes instead of separate meals for adults and baby/child or worse still a separate meal for one child. These can be seen on my blog page. Separate meals will be unavoidable when you commence the weaning process and until this is well established.
9) Start meal times with a “starter”, a snack food that baby/child can munch on whist you prepare the meal…. that’s if you haven’t prepared the meal in advance. You want them to be in the best mood possible so they eat well.
10) Successful meal times can be as a result of positive attitudes so we should try to approach meal times with a positive attitude in this way.
11) Learn the ways in which that your child communicates with you that they have been adequately fed. This can be difficult at times and can take time but can also eliminate a lot of stress when established.
12) This is based on number 7, if your baby/child attends a nursery or spends a significant amount of time with another caregiver discuss their approach and try to find some common ground. Babies and toddler’s like routine so it might be that the differences in approach are what have caused difficulties previously. Or alternatively that person may have some good suggestions that you could consider or vice versa .
Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment and share your opinions or experiences.