First, relax. Take a deep breath. Then read this post and see how I do it when Claire doesn’t want to eat. Chances are that you’re doing it wrong.
Not because you are a bad parent, but simply because this is new and there are a million places and people telling you what to do and they all tell you different things.
This is what works and I have found it to be useful and effective with all kids that don’t have a medical condition that affects their food intake.
First of all, your food is probably booooring. Most baby food is boring and for some reason we continue to make it boring as our kids grow older.
Make food more interesting. You don’t have to add bad stuff to the food to make it interesting, no need to salt it, oil it, butter it up or even add sugar. Your kid hasn’t been exposed (hopefully) to crappy fast food and additives and foods with a high sodium content (salt). Don’t start now because you’re desperate.
Make food more appealing! Here’s an example the mellon baller strikes again! The way I served her the cantaloupe that morning made all the difference.
They’re bored. It happens to most parents. It happens to me almost every week. Claire finds a food that she likes a lot, and it so happens that it’s easy for us to make it. Our current example is Chicken and rice. Claire loves rice and she likes chicken.
For something like a week, she’s been asking for more chicken and more chicken and every chance (for a few months now) she gets she asks for “wice.”
But then she got bored. We couldn’t figure it out. Rice was her favorite and she loves chicken but she wouldn’t eat it for lunch or dinner the other day. The leftovers became left over again the third time around. It was time to switch things up a bit. We did and things are back to normal. Claire eats her meals as intended.
Would you like to eat the same thing every day for a week straight? Very few of you would say yes to that. Your kid is the same way. Plan a varied menu and try not to repeat the same meal for more than two or three consecutive meals. If you like to make a lot for a few days then freeze some of it so you can switch out every couple days.
What about when those things aren’t the problem? Well she may just not like that. I never force her to eat anything, but I strongly persuade her and lead her to try it for the first few times. I can tell if she genuinely doesn’t like the food and I don’t push it at that point. But like I said before, kids are testing their power all the time; so they’re very eager to say no. I don’t yell, I don’t threaten, I just observe and adjust.
This leads me to one of the harder techniques I use to feed Claire. From time to time she’ll wake up from a nap and she’ll say no to everything we offer. Chicken, fruit, rice, veggies, soup. Every offer gets denied with a quick sharp nah! — she picked this tone and saying from grandma. It gets frustrating because we know she needs to eat but she doesn’t understand it.
This is a hard technique to master because you need to really look into your child’s behavior and understand the whole picture. Not just that minute or moment, but the past few hours and past few days. If all is well but she won’t eat then I try what I’ll tell you next.
She may be fuzzy, she may be cranky or teary or even defiant. When this happens, I give her one of her favorite limited treats. It could be an organic snack, it could be a small cup of warm chocolate milk. In some cases it could be a cookie or a chip. It’s a small bite, if it were you or me at a restaurant, this is the two or three bites you would get if you ordered an appetizer for your dinner party. Small, easy, but tasty and enticing.
At first glance it may seem that I’m “giving in” to her whims and tantrums but I’m not. I understand that if she’s being unreasonable about her food, there’s probably something else bothering her. More likely than not, after a long nap or long play date she is hungry beyond understanding hunger.
This small snack or treat will raise her blood sugar, curtail a bit of the hunger and put her at ease. 10 to 15 minutes after that, she will eat her lunch or dinner without fuss. The snack acts as a catalyst.
The best way to set up good eating habits is to make the eating habits an intricate part of your life with your kid. Sit down to eat at the same time with them. Try to feed them the same things you eat; they want to be part of it and they notice when you give them something different. Although they can’t express it, their little minds are wondering why you have one type of food when you’re giving them something different.
I also include Claire in grocery shopping trips and cooking the food (see this post). This gets her more involved and gets her to understand that she made what she’s about to eat. She helped pick it out of the shelves at the store, she helped mix it at home and now she’s going to enjoy it. In case you didn’t visit that link yet, the video below shows you how she I involve Claire even with grocery shopping.
Food isn’t just about nutrition, food is about family and bonding. Your kid doesn’t understand that an apple has more nutrition than a tortilla chip. All they understand is that they like it, it fills them up and it feels nice and they crave sharing that experience with you. They want to know how your react to it, how you act with it, why you eat it and they want to just learn. Involve your kids in their meals and make them fun. Try to make that a central focus of all your meals and you should have no problem feeding your child.