I’m generally a very good eater. I like to try new things and I enjoy experimenting with food. As good as I am, even I have my bad days. Sometimes I would rather be doing something else, or I’m bothered by something on my mind, and some days I’m just not in the mood.
When I don’t want to eat I make my feelings clear at mealtime. I fidget in my seat, I look around a lot, I refuse to open my mouth, and I fuss. If those things don’t help, I start repeatedly tearing my bib off, swatting the spoon away, and as a last resort, I cry.
Over the past few months, mommy and I have been working on strategies to make those fussy mealtimes more bearable. When mommy comes up with a new idea she tries it out, and I let her know if her idea is good or bad. Here are a 3 which made it to the good idea pile.
1. Don’t get angry.
It can be frustrating to get food into a person that is refusing to be fed. I can tell when mommy begins to come unglued. That only makes things worse and I get even more set against eating. Losing your cool accomplishes nothing and only makes mealtime a bad experience for everyone.
Don’t take it personally. Your baby has a reason for not wanting to eat, they just can’t explain their thought process to you. The reasons may even seem silly to a big person like you, but they are serious reasons to us babies. Our thoughts and feelings matter even when they make no sense to anyone else.
When you feel like you’re reaching your breaking point, imagine how horrible it would feel to have someone force food into your mouth against your will. What if you had no way to communicate your feelings? There you are, strapped to a chair, feeling horrible and with no way of reaching out, while some rough giant forces a spoon into your delicate mouth. Now take a deep breath and look at your baby with that image in your mind.
2. Time for a diversion.
Sing songs, make up rhymes, dance, and put on a great show. It’s exhausting, but do you want your little one to eat or not? The important thing to remember is that you want to distract your baby without getting the baby worked up. Too much excitement can work against you. A rambunctious baby is difficult to feed.
We have all seen parents employ the diversion technique in the form of the choo choo train and the tunnel. The spoon plays the role of the train and the mouth doubles as the tunnel. Sound effects are very important because they are funny.
When you’ve run out of material and your voice is ready to call it quits, give yourself a break and let technology take over. I like to watch my favourite video on the tablet. Somehow, watching that video tends to put my mouth on auto pilot and I eat even when I don’t really want to.
3. This mouth is out of service. Please try again later.
If every weapon in your entertainment arsenal is failing and your patience is wearing thing, perhaps it’s time to give it a rest. Sometimes even a brief break will reset the situation and make the next attempt go more smoothly. You may be feeling like you just want to be done with mealtime as quickly as possible and move on, but how much time will you waste struggling with an unhappy baby?
Pick up your baby and have a snuggle. Walk away from the feeding area for a bit. Check that diaper and make sure there is no other reason for discomfort. Maybe even have a bit of playtime. When you’re both feeling more relaxed, try it again.
Worried about wasting food? Use two bowls and two spoons at every mealtime. One bowl for feeding and one bowl for serving. Use one spoon to scoop just a few mouthfuls of food from the serving bowl into the feeding bowl, and use the second spoon to scoop food from the feeding bowl into the mouth. The uncontaminated food in the serving bowl can easily be put in the fridge for at least a day.
Remember that it is highly unlikely that your little one will starve. Try to relax and don’t get too hung up on the small stuff. The priority should be on making mealtime a pleasant experience for both of you. While repetition and routine are good, repeating the wrong things will have negative consequences. If whatever strategy you’re using doesn’t work, stop doing it and try something else.