There has been a year long power struggle in our home. My loyal readers know of our battle with getting our daughter to eat. For the first year of her life, Mai was such a good eater. She nursed every two hours until she started solids.. We started her on solids early because she was always so hungry. Mai was a cute roly poly infant. She would eat just about anything mama & dada put in front of her.
Then one day, a switch flipped. My child lost her desire for food.
All of a sudden, we had to get sneaky with our food preparation & find ways to entertain her to keep her in her seat long enough to take a couple of bites. It seemed as if anything we would try to feed her would go untouched. There were days at a time that she hardly ate a thing at all. This is a major cause of anxiety for my husband & I. Duke, our dog is grateful for all the extra food though.. He is currently about 20 pounds overweight.
At her last doctor’s visit, the doctor informed us that Mai had dropped into the 30th percentile for her weight when she had once been in the 90th. He understood our dilemma, but told us that if she did not put on at least a pound by her next visit, she would have to have testing. I do not want this.
Mommy was desperate. After speaking with the doctor, he got me to realize something. I needed to loosen up. I was so concerned with feeding her the right foods at the right times, that I was missing opportunities to get my child to eat. It was time to change our more structured ways & kick up the creativity a notch & get this baby to eat. While she is still not on board 100%, we have made some progress. Here is what works best for us because airplane just won’t do.
1. Reading to her during meals. This is our most common and successful method. We refer to this as “Mai’s dinner theater”. She has special book reserved just for dinner. It keeps her from squirming and asking to get down.
2. Add a dipping sauce. Our daughter is a dipper. Whether it is ketchup, syrup or salad dressing, she loves to dip her food.
3. Bribing her with rewards. This is probably a bad idea, after all my daughter is not a dog, but it does work on the same principle. Mai loves her fruit snacks. When I am having an evening that she is just playing with her food & asks for a snack instead, I break out a packet of her favorite snack. We trade a half of a fruit snack for a big bite of food.
4. Get over the mess. Toddlers are messy. They will learn to eat in a neater manner as they get older. Struggling with them over clean eating causes more frustration than eating.
5. Let her eat someplace different. Our daughter is not a fan of her booster seat but she loves her safety stool. Sometimes giving her the option to stand in her stool at the counter helps encourages her to eat. Since it is important to us that we eat together as a family, mommy & daddy will bring our plates up to the kitchen island too.
6. Let her be the mommy. The other evening, she wanted her Teddy in the high chair to eat instead of herself. She wanted to feed him. She grabbed the fork intended for her & brought it up to her bear’s mouth.
I told her that she needed to take a bite too to show Teddy how to eat. This worked.
7. Serve fun to eat food. I have tried dressing up her food by making cute little characters out of her meals. Mai is actually not too impressed with decorated food. What she does like though are easy to eat finger foods. Whenever possible, I make things in balls or muffin form. Check out my French Toast Balls: http://thepinterestedparent.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/french-toast-balls/
8. Let her eat when she is hungry. I was so concerned with meal schedules that I was ignoring my daughter’s hunger cues. When we are hungry we eat, why should it be any different for my daughter. While routines are great, our tummies don’t always look at the clock.
9. Don’t force your child to eat or get frustrated. This will discourage them from eating. I am sometimes guilty of this & I have to remind myself not to get upset. Here is Mai doing an impression of an exasperated mommy after she refuses to eat. “Mai Mai copy Mama.” She nailed it!