FEEDING FRENZY: MODELING
As pediatricians, we can almost guarantee every baby will stress their parents out at some point when it comes to eating. The stressors vary from not eating enough, eating at the wrong time, eating the wrong type of food or eating requires an immense amount of your time and energy. Try to remember to stay calm, take deep breaths and realize that your baby has very few things they can control in this world, and they learn pretty quickly that what goes in their mouth is one of them.
A baby as young as 6 months old can read your emotional responses, including your reaction to their refusal to eat or accept food easily. Whether your reaction is positive or negative, it is reinforcing for your little one. They love to get a reaction from you either way! Additionally, babies have the ability to take the right amount of food to grow as long as given the opportunity. Your job is to allow this natural process to happen.
Parents spend a lot of time thinking about what their baby eats and they often neglect what they themselves eat. When you start solid foods for your little one make it a time for a family food reset if needed. We know you care about your baby’s nutrition. Making sure your own nutrition is optimized will help your baby develop healthy eating habits.
Modeling is one of the first steps towards raising healthy eaters. Just as we talked about in the Parenting Pause blog, taking care of yourself helps your baby learn healthy habits for life. Preparing healthy foods, eating at the table together, avoiding negative comments about food and talking about the foods you enjoy and how they care for our bodies are all great ways to model healthy habits around food. We know you can’t do this with every meal, but try incorporating it as much as possible into your daily life and over time it will have a positive impact on your new eaters!
Feeding your baby can follow a similar path as sleep — you may be doing all the right things but your baby just won’t eat what, when or where you want. It can be helpful for parents to think of their child’s intake over a two week period rather than focusing on the meal to meal consumption. Over time parents can see more clearly that things even out in terms of quantity and variety of food intake. Remember, like sleep habit formation, healthy eating habits take consistency and modeling. Keep these key concepts in mind: food variety, pressure free feeding, and modeling healthy eating habits when feeding your baby.
So much to think about! But don’t be stressed! You got this. As we’ve mentioned before there are a lot of opinions out there about feeding your baby. In our earlier Feeding Frenzy blog we talked about some basic development and safety of feeding. Those tenets still hold true and will continue as your baby grows and their palette expands. Most importantly think about what your baby eats and their nutrition over weeks and not each meal. Developing healthy eaters is a marathon, not a sprint. Try to offer a variety of healthy foods that you could see yourself eating as a family for years to come. Try and maintain positive emotions during feedings and do your best not to succumb to tricks to get food in your baby’s mouth. Believe us, it’s worth it!