As a children’s dietitian, I am not only interested in the ‘what’ of feeding your child but also in ‘how’ of feeding. How to feed your child differs from one developmental stage to the next. Initially you feed from the breast or from a bottle in a held position. Their task is to suck, swallow and breathe whilst you are supporting their body in your arms. Once they start solids, they are either sitting on your lap or are ready to sit in a high chair. Once they are ready to share family meals, they will be sitting at the ‘big’ table either in a high chair or a booster seat.
Once they reach toddlerhood, things change. They no longer eat everything you offer them! Developmentally, they have gone from being totally dependent on you for all their needs to starting to become a separate human being and taking more control over their life. That is, when it suits them. They might still want to be fed when they are capable of feeding themselves or want to eat ‘baby’ food at the age of three. On the other hand, they may not want you to put the food on their plate, preferring to take control of what goes on their plate. So here’s your chance to reduce the stress at mealtimes, one of the main reasons that parents come to consult with a children’s dietitian.
Put the food in the middle of the table and let each person choose what to put on their own plate. Make sure there is one food on the table that you know your child will eat if they are hungry. This might be bread, pasta, rice or potato. If you know she doesn’t like rice and it’s on the menu, then put out some bread as well.
This way, you avoid the plate being immediately pushed away, food rejected and taken (or thrown) off the plate. You are honouring your child’s developmental stage of wanting to be more in control of her life. It will take another 15 to 20 years for complete control, but we need to start with small steps that are age-appropriate and make life easier.