As a breastfeeding mum out there, you have already worked out that your baby feeds according to what and when they need it! Pause for a second. Your baby has an incredible skill, they eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Period. The little genius has the innate capacity to self-regulate food intake! Did you know self-regulation capacity can be lost in childhood? Did you know that when lost it is associated with higher weight status?
Nurturing this ability in your kids means that they will be able to eat to their appetite, be in tune with their body needs, their weight, and their health. What an amazing skill to keep in adulthood! I know you have quite a few years to get there, trust me it goes in a flash!
As babies and children grow, their environment changes and a number of stimuli interfere with it. Here are a few of the rookie mistakes we can make:
- Putting ourselves under pressure because of growth charts or comments can lead us to put pressure on our child to eat more or less than their appetite.
- Anticipating feeding times by offering foods when our child has not displayed any hunger.
- Getting carried away and insisting they eat more or finish their plate, which in other words results in overfeeding.
- Pushing our child to eat to please us.
- Allowing eating in front of a screen such as the TV which reduces their capacity to connect brain with stomach.
- Allowing unlimited access to various soft drinks (research has shown kids cannot regulate the energy intake from soft drinks).
- Exposing kids to an environment of music, lighting, and advertising that increase food intake, etc…
What can you do?
- Continue to be aware of your baby’s cues signalling hunger (are they hungry or do they need to be held? Is something else wrong?). So far they have learned that when they signal they are hungry you calmly and timely respond. Children will eventually learn to express hunger through words. Response to hunger is the key here.
- As babies grow, grab their spoon, touch food with their hand and bring it to their mouth, accept it will be messy, let them have a go and gently use another spoon to feed them whilst engaging with them. Give them the possibility to self-feed.
- Eventually they will be quite able to eat by themselves, have your meal whilst they have theirs and congratulate them on their ability to self-feed.
- Provide an environment that’s relaxed, be particularly flexible with your expectations of how much your child should eat.
- Teach your child to eat to satisfy their hunger. There is no need to eat further. Trust your child, when they show you they have had enough.
Join Supported Mums, the FB, group I run with Sleep Specialist Leanne Trevor, where we help mums nurture confident eaters and great sleepers.