Can a baby have small bites

Feeding has to be learned

Dipl. Oec. troph. Stephanie Fromme

Pediatricians and psychologists are already reporting Infants and young children increasingly a disturbed eating behavior. But most guides and brochures only provide information about what to eat. But not about the right how.

Leon is twelve months old. A few weeks ago he was still fidgeting while eating and grabbed the spoon from his mother's hand. He persistently refused to open his mouth. Desperately his mother tried to stuff at least half a glass spoon by spoon into his mouth. Every meal turned into an ordeal for Leon and his mother. Finally, he completely refused to eat.

These and similar disorders in eating behavior are found in around 15-25 percent of all healthy infants and toddlers. They drink or eat very slowly, are extremely picky, or throw their plates off the table. Many romp around or negotiate with their parents about the portion to be eaten, others simply fall asleep while eating. If the parents find the situation difficult and stressful for at least a month, experts speak of a feeding disorder. In contrast to an eating disorder in older children and adults, the term feeding disorder makes it clear that this is an interplay between child and parents. Because the relationship and communication with mother and father often play a decisive role.

The cause is often the fear of the parents

The causes and symptoms of feeding disorders are complex. Possible organic causes include acute illnesses, intolerance to certain foods or impaired oral motor skills. Inorganic reasons are much more difficult to pin down and range from the child's temperament to attachment disorders with the parents to parenting conflicts. The problems build up gradually or appear suddenly, for example after illness, operations or stressful experiences such as separations. The children suddenly eat significantly less, strictly refuse to eat or vomit the meal.

Such disorders are more common in premature babies and children who are underweight at birth. If the infant drinks less, the parents quickly fear that their baby may not develop properly. The child's saturation signals are not perceived or ignored. Distractions and tricks are supposed to help increase the amount of food and drink. Ultimately, this means that the infant is being forced to drink. The child reacts by refusing to eat. A vicious circle begins.
"As a rule, the child refuses the food offered in order to achieve something pleasant or to avoid something unpleasant," explains Beatrice Cosmovici, psychological assistant at the Munich Children's Center. For example, the child is trying to get more attention or their favorite food. Or it reacts to being forced to feed the food or an emotionally tense feeding situation with rejection. "The mother does everything to overcome the refusal by distracting, playing the clown, feeding with pressure or compulsion or at least pulling out the favorite food," says Cosmovici, who advises parents on feeding disorders. A feeding disorder requires treatment at the latest when weight loss and failure to thrive aggravate the situation. In extreme cases, this can lead to tube feeding.

Forced feeding exacerbates the problems

Well over a third of all parents perceive their children's eating habits to be problematic, at least in the short term. Mostly these are temporary problems such as appetite fluctuations or aversions that are completely normal. The decisive factor is how parents interpret and react to the child's behavior in this situation. The phrase, "My child does not want to eat" almost always means: "My child does not eat what I want or not as much as I expect." Most parents are highly motivated to feed their baby healthily. You inform yourself and look for support in the countless guides on baby and toddler nutrition. They are primarily dedicated to what, how much and at what point in time. Individual differences in needs and in the development of eating skills are rarely discussed.

For example, breastfed children often do not accept solid foods and spoon feeding until they are eight months old or later. Many mothers are insecure: the baby is not behaving according to plan, the friend's child drinks a lot more and the doctor determines that the weight is in the lower range. This puts the parents under pressure, which they pass on to the child when feeding. Well-intentioned intent makes it easy to forget that with every sip and bite that goes into the mouth against a "no", something is being forced upon the child. Any play and distraction while eating also ultimately leads to manipulation of the child and to overcome the rejection. Every kind of coercion and pressure gradually takes away the desire to even deal with the food. The trust that a healthy child is able to regulate hunger and satiety right from the start, that they know how much they need and when, seems to be getting lost more and more.

Every child eats differently

A study by the Research Institute for Child Nutrition in Dortmund shows how different the amount a baby needs to grow and thrive can be. According to this, some infants manage with 600 milliliters of milk a day, while others of the same age even need more than 900 milliliters. Any comparison with other children about appetite and amount of food does not say anything about the prosperity of your own child. Rather, parents should look at how satisfied and active the offspring is. The pediatrician can assess whether weight and height are developing within the normal range as part of the usual preventive examinations. Weighing in everyday life is unnecessary and just unsettling.
The attitudes towards food that parents have internalized are inevitably reflected in their behavior towards the child. If you have strong control over your own eating habits, you will pass this on to your child. If they are mostly on the go themselves and eat irregularly, the child cannot get used to regular meal times either. It is not uncommon for the toddler to have the plate set out while the mother is tidying up the kitchen or the father is turning on the television.

Discover the food in a relaxed way

  • If a child fidgets while eating, there may be too much restlessness in the room. Create a relaxed atmosphere while eating without time pressure.
  • Do not feed on the side. Your child learns to eat best by eating together at the family table.
  • Some children only like chunky food. They can perceive food better if it is not crushed.
  • Leave the spoon to your child when they want to eat themselves, even if more goes wrong at first than ends up in their mouths. This promotes pleasure and independence when eating.
  • Never put a spoon in your child's mouth unless they willingly open it. Your child decides whether and how much to eat of what is offered.
  • If your child rejects a certain food, just accept it. Offer the food again a few days or weeks later, possibly prepared differently.
  • Never persuade or force your child to eat. That only adds to the aversion.

It is difficult to stand up to a whining child, let alone get through a fit of rage calmly and firmly without giving in. This requires your own conviction, security and a good dose of calm. If such situations accumulate, many a mother will soon be at the end of her strength. This increases the tendency to give the little ones what they feel like doing. Respecting the child with his wishes and needs does not mean giving in to his will and his lust in every moment. Children need rules and structures prescribed by their parents in order to find their way around. It is important to be clear about who is responsible for what when eating.

Children decide how much to eat

The parents determine what, when and how is on the table. The child is free to choose from the offer. It decides whether and how much to eat. This means that the parents choose the food, determine the quality of the food and when it is served. Even small children can be expected to wait a while for food. However, being responsible for the selection also means making the compromises that the parents allow themselves and other family members to also allow the youngest family member. If the parents do not want their child to eat hazelnut cream and sausages, they should not buy such products in the first place.

The eating habits and eating habits of the parents or the family provide the playing field within the boundaries of which the offspring can discover their own taste preferences. When parents eat breakfast, lunch and dinner themselves, they automatically introduce their child to regular meals. Whole foods such as potatoes, vegetables, whole grain products & Co. should ideally be served for the whole family. This will make it much easier for worried parents to accept their child's choice. Parents can be confident that their child will take what it needs.
Today Leon sits expectantly in the high chair at the table for lunch. The rest of the family has also gathered to eat. Instead of food in jars, Leon prefers to eat what the grown-ups get. With a lot of calm and patience, his mother managed to take the pressure off him while eating and to create a relaxed atmosphere at the dining table.

Online version of:
Fromme, S., UGB-Forum Spezial: From small to full, pp. 15-18, 2010

More information can be found here:
Cooking for children & # 8211 theory and practice

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