How to Make Mealtime Drama-Free
As parents, we are all experts at what works for our little ones, but there are some struggles along the way. We also learn and benefit from the learnings and expertise of other parents. Here we try and have parents share their observations, learnings, and expertise.
As parents, I’m sure we’ve all experienced struggles at mealtime.
I know that I have!
The latest one is that my daughter doesn’t want to be in her high chair, so instead, she’s squirming all over in a big chair.
That said, I’ve been trained as a holistic health coach and when my first daughter started eating solids, I read up a lot on feeding babies and toddlers.
One of my goals was for my kids to be great eaters with a nutrient-dense diet and lots of veggies and healthy fats (a mom can dream, right?!).
Another goal was to not “force feed” my kids, which was an element from my childhood that I was hoping to avoid.
And finally, to help my kids understand their hunger cues and be able to recognize where their tummy is full.
Here are a few principles that have kept our mealtimes relatively drama-free:
Food Before One is Just for Fun
Many pediatricians will tell you that food before one is just for fun.
I really let that time be about exploration, making a mess, trying new textures and flavors.
I tried not to have any agenda of my own by pushing food or even applauding my baby when she ate something.
This is a great time when the palette is very open to new tastes, so take advantage of it.
The Division of Responsibility in Feeding
There is a book called Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter that has been a game changer for us.
Satter has a principle called “the division of responsibility in feeding” that works like a charm.
This principle is basically that the parent is in charge of feeding, and the child is in charge of eating. She says this:
- The parent is responsible for what, when and where the child eats.
- The child is responsible for how much and whether he/she eats.
This allows your child to be independent and gives them the freedom to explore.
If you’ve been hovering over your child at mealtime, this will be a huge adjustment but you may be very pleasantly surprised.
Since I’m responsible for what the girls eat, it’s my job to put healthy food in front of them.
I can give them multiple exposures to a food such as broccoli and eventually they may choose to eat it, which is so much better than forcing them to eat it the first time and turning them off for life! I share this more here.
Teaching the Signs for “More” and “All Done”
When my girls were young, I thought I would do baby sign language, but I only ended up teaching them the signs for “more” and “all done.”
This was extremely helpful during mealtime! I also noticed that the moment my daughter started throwing her food on the floor, it was a cue that she was done.
Tummy is the Size of their Fist
As a new parent, we can’t help but worry that our child is eating enough.
One thing I constantly remind myself is that my daughter’s tummy is the size of her small fist.
They get full so easily!
This week my husband took our daughter out for a milkshake right before dinnertime. She didn’t eat a bite of her dinner!
It wasn’t a shining parenting moment, but I reminded myself that her tummy is small and unfortunately was filled up with the milkshake.
Even on days when she is eating healthy food, I remind myself that it doesn’t have to be a big portion.
Near the end of mealtime, I always ask her “Is your tummy nice and full?” and I love to hear back from her “Tummy nice and full.”
To me, it may not look like she has eaten much, but I’ve learned to trust her!
Happy Mealtimes with your baby!