I’ve never heard a mother says that her child eats well. Maybe it’s because a mother can never be satisfied with how much her child eats, or it’s because she is afraid to say aloud that her child eats well, for fear of a jinx or ‘pantang’. Whatever.
A friend of mine consulted me on her son’s eating problem lately. Honestly, I fretted a lot about Little Edison’s picky eating behavior two years ago. I always felt that he never ate enough. There were days that he didn’t eat anything at all. We were so worried that we started supplementing him with more milk.
But soon, I realized that this wasn’t a wise move. When we fed him with more milk, he became full and he will continue to reject solid foods. Then, I would try to distract him, or make the food more interesting and appealing by adding something that he likes to it. I would try everything possible for a chance to feed more spoons of food into his mouth.
In the end, I realized that it’s a complete waste of time, energy as well as efforts. It’s just too mentally-draining for both of us. We’re happier if I just let go whenever he announced that he has had enough. Interestingly enough, without the stress factor, he seemed to eat more too.
I’ve also observed that if he eats nothing at breakfast, he tends to eat a hearty lunch. Or if he nibbles at his lunch, he will have a huge dinner. In another words, if he starves today, he gorges tomorrow. So ultimately, he does make up for it. With great difficulty, I have learnt not to worry about his feeding problem and to trust his instincts.
Every child is different, and all we need to do is identify and recognize their own special characteristics. Little Edison, for example, cannot eat too much at one go. I have to give him smaller portion of food with regular intervals. He takes a long time to chew on vegetables, so I let him eats his fish, meat and rice first, followed by vegetables. I will give him fruits after that.
Most parenting books warn us no TV during meals but somehow, TV works wonders for me. When the TV is on, he will sit still to watch while I feed him. This way, he will be able to finish his meal although he may take a longer time. I have my patience tested every day now, as he takes at least 45 minutes to finish his meal.
Some rules of thumb to share:
No junk food, snacks, milk and juices at least one hour before mealtime.
Don’t serve a meal with drink but serve it after the meal.
Feed with patience, no force-feed or threaten to take away food. Otherwise, the kids will start to associate mealtimes with negative behaviours.
Lastly, the child should decide when he / she is full, not us.
Here’s an interesting fact to share. Experts say that fussy eaters usually develop after the weaning stage, until the age of four. The problem usually resolves itself by the preschool years. I find that it is quite true. Now, our Little Edison really does eat better than two years ago.