Encouraging baby to eat
“I thought I was helping…no?”
No! Your job is to provide the opportunity to eat. Avoid pressure in every way. If your baby is giving you signs that they don’t want to be fed then don’t pressure them in any way to eat, or to eat more.
Why we might want to pressure
The urge to pressure children to eat is understandable. There is often stress regarding how a much a child is eating as our health and survival depend on it. We can worry they may not eat a food we think is healthy (such as vegetables) so we might apply more pressure for them to eat that food. We can become worried when we think their eating has been poor and we think we need to take control.
Don’t pressure, eating is a baby’s job
For some parent’s uneaten food and food waste can be a source of frustration. The belief that children should clean their plate is commonly passed down from parents and grandparents who grew up in a time when food might have been more limited. Children are extremely good at knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re full.
There are cases when something else is going on making baby not eat, particularly if the child is not gaining weight well, or is losing weight. If you’re concerned with your child’s feeding, go to the feeding problems page or seek help from a health professional.
What happens when we pressure children to eat?
Less liking for particular foods
Pressure that is applied to eat a certain food can lead children to having negative thoughts about that food and a long term dislike. Play the long game. Children need to grow to like foods themselves without pressure.
Less willingness to eat the food
If we pressure babies to eat, the meal time can become a battleground. Baby gets stressed and then any appetite that was there disappears.
Overeating and overweight
Bubs know how much food to eat. When we apply pressure to eat, they lose the natural instinct of when they’ve had enough. This leads to overeating. This failure to know when we’re full starts at this age and can continue throughout life, leading to weight and health problems.
Eating will be up and down, look at our expectations
Eating solids for a new baby… there’s a lot to it! They’re learning to eat:
- Different often quite powerful tastes
- Different textures and how to chew and how to feed themselves.
We need to look at what we expect from baby’s eating at this early time. The What to feed your baby page provides a guide for the amount of food an average child eats on an average day.
As we know, there aren’t many average moments at this age. The difference between 6 and 12 months is great.
Our job as parents, is to provide opportunities to eat, we then leave it up to our bubs.
Examples of pressure to eat
Dumping the food onto baby’s tongue.
Scraping the food off on baby’s gums, teeth or palate.
Following baby with spoon as she tries to duck and weave.
Playing games to get baby interested.
Guiding baby to eat one food over another you’ve provided.
Physically forcing food in.
Some points to consider
Be guided by your baby. They will direct you, read the signs.
Don’t flog a dead horse! End a meal when signs that baby isn’t hungry, try again next meal and keep mealtimes positive.
Ask why. There may be other reason that you think the meal has not gone well.
- Have they eaten a decent meal before?
- Have they had a recent breast/formula feed?
- Are they feeling ok?
- Are they tired?
- Have you served a big meal, so it appears they haven’t eaten much?