Hello… As per the majority request, I am posting my blog in two parts. The reason I have penned down everything is to give a candid picture of all my emotions in this journey. Whoever is working on distraction-free feeding might face such situations at some point. So hoping it would help. So in this part, I just wanted to give a background on how was Dhanya eating BEFORE we started with self- feeding and HOW you need to prepare yourself so that your child can embark on this journey. Trust me.. in this whole process there is so much for us to learn as parents than the child in the picture 🙂
So when we started solids, Dhanya was hardly fond of eating. She rejected everything except banana and apple puree. Not knowing what to do we resorted to distraction feeding (with a screen). I had seen many children being fed like this, so never even gave a thought as to whether it was good or bad. Until 14 months, she was a completely distraction fed child. I never bothered about it, actually thought it was good that she isn’t running here and there. I started traveling with her when she was 11 months and that’s when I realized the pain.
Before every travel, I was keen on ensuring that all her favorite songs were in place on my phone/iPad. It was by her 1 year that I somehow got frustrated with this and decided to omit the screen during her meals. I slowly brought down the screen usage meal by meal. In 10 days she was eating completely without any screen distraction. However, I was singing songs and telling stories while feeding. I NEVER knew that was distraction feeding too. Distraction free feeding means no screen/songs/books. It is just the child, you and food. Also you do not coax, force or plead the child to eat.
I actually came to know about Baby Led Weaning (BLW) first through a mommies group. I was surprised looking at 7 month babies feeding by themselves. I felt really bad to have missed out starting in that phase itself. However, later I got to know about the Traditional Weaning group on FB and joined the same. It was really a game changer. I understood so much about my baby’s appetite, how to respect her food choices and what role I should actually be playing – more importantly, that there was still hope left to make her self-feed 😀 After joining when she was 1 year, I came to know the do’s and don’ts of baby’s feeding. I was still skeptical about the process and that’s when I met my aunt who is a pediatrician. She encouraged me to go on self-feeding saying “it is all about personality development from now and don’t keep bothering about weight, everything will be fine in a week”. She even told that she did the same for her daughter more than two decades back too. That gave me lot of confidence.
So here are certain things that I would encourage you to understand in the first place. I will share OUR JOURNEY in the next part, but the points below would help in preparing first:
- READING: If you love reading/listening to books, then I recommend the book ‘My Child Won’t Eat’ by Carlos Gonzalez. Even if you can get your hands on the book summary, it would be good. If you are joining the FB group I said, then read posts by Neha Viswanathan to understand the changes in appetite as your child reaches different milestones.
- QUANTITY: Half the trouble of letting the child to self-feed and remaining stress-free would be solved if you understand that kids will not eat the same quantity and all the meals/snacks you give. Reason? They eat to their hunger. Now do this for a week- you eat ONLY to your hunger/when you are hungry. Make a note if you eat all meals/snacks and the same quantity. It would be a big NO. I have done it myself. We often eat because it’s time to do so/we have to/that quantity is bound to make us FEEL full. A child doesn’t know all this. So if she feels full after 4 spoons, she would start throwing food or turn her head away. It is NOT WRONG.
- MEASUREMENT: A child’s food intake should be measured on a weekly basis and not daily. There are times when they go on a food strike the entire day and it is fine. If your child doesn’t eat ANYTHING- I MEAN ANYTHING at all for more than a week, then reach out to a medical practitioner to get tested for deficiencies and seek advice accordingly.
- TRUST TRUST TRUST: You need to start trusting your child with his/her food choices. You will be able to build this in a few days. Your child will learn to identify what is hunger, how to ask for food, how to eat. Give them time and ample opportunities to learn it. Take it a week at a time and you will see the difference. I have seen Dhanya handling the spoon much better in her 10th bite than the first one. That’s how quickly they learn.
- SICK CHILD: A sick child will be on food strike rejecting even the most favorite food. Even the best of the best self-fed child doesn’t stand as an outlier to this. However, once the sickness is over, they bounce back to their own eating patterns. I have dealt with 3-4 sick situations so far for Dhanya and this has happened every single time.
- WEIGHT CONCERNS: Please understand on a topmost priority that your child is more than the number on the scale. Will you be okay if someone rated your potential constantly based on that number? No. Then why to do that to a child? Instead, watch out for their developments and milestones and you will be super happy. Weight is based not just on what the child eats. It depends on genetics to a great extent. There are distraction fed babies who weigh less than Dhanya and self-fed babies who weigh more than her for that age group. It is no one size fits all. Refer to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s growth chart to see if your child falls under a very low percentile and if you should be concerned.
- EMOTIONS: Learn to not place your emotions based on how much your child eats. There is no necessity to feel elated if the entire portion has been wiped off or to feel low if it has been a complete rejection. Eating is the child’s job and he/she would do it if hungry.
So…. overall the only thing you need to keep telling yourself is…
” My job is to provide healthy food choices, the child decides whether to eat it or not and how much to eat. It is not my worry”
To be continued……..