The biggest complaint many parents have when their children are young is undeniably the common feeding problems. There is often a dread associated with this necessary growing-up activity. Tantrums, messy bip, unfinished plates, exhausted parents, and lots of regrets are often the end result of such sessions. Discussed here are top 20 common feeding mistakes and how you can successfully avoid them for a more pleasant experience with your baby.
Feeding Mistakes to Avoid
The transition from milk and cereals to solid foods is difficult and many parents, especially new ones, are often overwhelmed by the experience. So we have compiled some of the common feeding mistakes that parents make and how to go about avoiding them.
1. Rushing To Solid Foods
Many parents falsely believe in the notion that solid food stays in the stomach for a longer time, which in turn lets their babies sleep better. This is probably the top among the feeding mistakes. However, pediatricians strongly advise against solid food until babies cross the 6-month mark.
Breastmilk or formula is sufficient to cover your child’s nutritional needs until then. Later on, you can add solid foods including organic formula as necessary.
2. Introducing Cereals Before 6 Months
Cereals tend to be packed with nutrients but it’s a semi-solid food. Hence, pediatricians point out that the baby’s gut isn’t mature enough to digest cereal properly before 6 months. Instead, it increases the risk of constipation.
3. Encouraging Your Child To Eat More
All parents are guilty of this to one extent or another. You want your fussy toddler to have one more spoon before they run off to play. Even though the thought behind is well-intentioned, forcing your child to eat past their appetite can lead to weight gain.
You need to understand your baby’s feeding cues and respond as such. Remember to let your child off the table when they have eaten their fill.
4. Ignorant of Choking Hazards
As your baby grows older, they are more likely to grab items to taste them. This is their way of experimenting and identifying objects and food. This presents a choking hazard as the baby’s teeth are still not well-formed.
Avoid feeding your baby large morsels of food at a time and ensure they aren’t lying down when they are eating to reduce the risk of choking.
5. Setting a Poor Example
Children learn from their parents. Thus, if you wish to instill good habits in your children, you will have to follow them yourself.
Adopt a nutritious balanced diet and enjoy a variety of healthy food at mealtimes. Watching you eat will also encourage your little one to follow suit.
6. Distractions At Mealtimes
The occasional Disney movie and dinner nights are acceptable but don’t turn this into a habit. Mealtimes should be strictly about eating. Many parents turn on videos on the phone or the TV in hopes to quiet the kids into eating. However, this is harmful in the long term.
Not only do they end up eating more or less than they usually would, but they are also unlikely to chew their food properly in their eagerness to finish the video.
With more than 90% of children interacting with smartphones before the age of 2, you also risk turning them into smartphone addicts.
7. Bribing Them With Rewards
The oldest trick in the book used by parents to get their children to eat something healthy is to bribe them with something unhealthy.
Research suggests that rewarding sweets to encourage children to eat increases their preference for sweets. This can lead to them adopting unbalanced, unhealthy eating habits later in life.
Instead, incorporate sweets as part of a balanced diet and not as a reward.
8. Lay Off The Pressure
Toddlers are known to be picky eaters. While some parents oblige to their ever-changing demands, others are adamant about feeding what is given to them.
Pediatricians and experts warn that both are wrong practices as coercion intensifies the child’s dislike for the food. They may eat it now but will avoid the food when given the chance. Additionally, the pressure takes away their sense of autonomy.
The solution is to be patient. You may prepare the plate but let the child decide how much they want to eat.
9. Unsupervised Sugar Intake
This includes juices and snacks which are okay in moderation but children can quickly develop an appetite for the unhealthy. It is best to set aside specific times throughout the day for snacks.
Encourage snacking on healthy items like fruits and nuts and limit sugary drinks like carbonated beverages and packaged juices. Even something like reduced-sugar chocolate chip cookies could be a great alternative.
10. Serving Big Portion Sizes
Parents often mistake a full plate for a healthy one. Children are small and therefore require smaller portions compared to their adult counterparts. This is why you should always start small and let your child eat freely. Then you can offer more if they want.
11. Giving Up Too Soon
Dealing with children requires an incredible amount of patience. Most parents find two or three items that the toddler likes and stick to them, bringing no variety to their palate.
However, the truth is, that most children need at least 15 attempts to get accustomed to a specific food. So, pediatricians implore that you keep trying before you give up.
Let them watch you eat it and then taste it themselves (let them spit it!). You will eventually have a new food item added to their menu.
12. Be Careful Of Allergens
Parents should pay special attention to this, especially if there is a family history of allergy. It is best to consult with your pediatrician before you start giving your young one common allergic foods like peanuts or egg white.
13. Spoon Feeding For Too Long
When you spoon-feed a baby for too long, you are delaying the cognitive development responsible for alerting them that they are full.
This in turn leads to obesity in later life because their system is not sure when to send the signal to stop eating.
Therefore, pediatricians recommend self-feeding at 8-9 months of age. If your toddler is able to grasp food with their palms/fingers or hold their hand steady, then they are ready to eat by themselves.
14. “Too Healthy” Foods May not Be Good
The trend these days is to promote healthy eating. While this is a great step in the right direction, there’s often confusion around which foods are healthy.
It is mistakenly believed that healthy food consists of only whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Meat, healthy fats, and dairy should also be part of their balanced diet.
Additionally, some added fat to the food makes them tastier and more palatable for children.
15. Making An Alternate Snack
This is an absolute no-no as this encourages picky-eaters. Instead, make one meal for the whole family and gradually accustom the little one to the family diet.
16. Obsessively Cleaning Up After Eating
These days, with so many cleaning appliances turning us into neat freaks, we forget that children learn by exploring. And the taste isn’t the only way to discover food, so let them crumble crackers and smear bananas as long as they are eating. So leave the cleaning until they are done with their food wars.
17. Pre-Plating Your Child’s Meal
Pre-plating means you can control what goes into your child’s diet but they may not necessarily like what you serve. That’s why let them serve themselves and have a say in their meals. You are more likely to get an agreeable eater.
18. Allowing Your Child To Eat Anything
Some parents let their children eat anything and although it is a good idea, in theory, there can be long-term consequences.
Flavor preferences and eating habits that are once instilled are harder to shake off as adults. And that can lead to weight gain if they aren’t active when they are older.
So it is important to ensure they adopt a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise from an early age.
19. Turn Meals To a Bonding Time
These days, parents are busier than ever. And things like high chairs, sippy cups, and bottle holders have reduced the contact between parents and children.
Meal times should be a time to wind down and bond with your family over good food. This not only instills good food habits but healthy communication which is vital for their mental development.
Ensure that you have put away all devices and pay full attention to the food and your child during your next meal.
20. Allowing Adult Food
We are all occasionally guilty of slipping a piece of brownie or sip of coffee to a curious toddler. What is the harm, right? Wrong!
The food that is offered during the developmental years of a child greatly affects their palates, so it is essential to not encourage unhealthy tastebuds.
Hold off the unhealthy at least until the age of two and then offer only on special occasions.
Finally, the biggest mistake in this list of feeding mistakes is worrying too much.
If your child is growing at an appropriate rate, then you can rest assured that they are meeting all their nutritional needs adequately.
Children meet their nutritional needs over a long period of time, not just one meal. So keep calm and keep feeding your child healthy and delicious meals! But remember to keep this list of common feeding mistakes and how to avoid them foremost in your mind!