Late in January I posted a Blog No. 10 regarding fussy eaters and how to set in place the rules, right from day one of the introduction of solid food at around five or six months – or whenever your baby shows signs that he needs some additional food in his diet.
These signs usually relate to his sleeping habits – ie he will start waking during the night, when before he slept right through.
Just some thoughts about babies ability to sleep through the night
Sleeping through should be in place by around 3 months at the very latest and I have many ecstatic mums – and dads - whose babies have done just that and more!
Just last week I had an email from one such mum – baby 8 weeks – sleeping through the night – another mum emailed me and she had had an 'out of control baby' – not sleeping, feeding continuously through the day – and night. The poor mum was beside herself.
I spent three hours with her – put some rules in place which she was more than happy to follow – he self settled within 2 days and the first night he slept through the night – 10 hours! He was 8 weeks – and that mum and her baby have never looked back.
These babies were all encouraged to have a proper feed – not just a snack – at every feed. When I look at the sleeping habits of babies, I advise mums that the amount of food that a baby takes over a 24 hour period is paramount in the sleeping habits of that baby. A baby will sleep longer between feeds and will sleep through the nigh more quickly if that baby has good feeds during the day – and is not a snacker – that is a baby who is allowed to nod off to sleep at the breast, is then put to sleep and will invariably wake in a short while, looking for more food because he did not have a belly-full at the previous feed.
I have just helped a mum of a six month old baby – being fed every two hours morning and night on the advice of a midwife!
That baby is in charge – not the mother and what sort of relationship do the parents have when the mum will be exhausted.
I digress – but I think you should know that rules and routines are the most important part of a baby's life going forward from birth, for both the baby and the parents.
So..... back to the fussy eater. My first blog dealt with the first stages of offering solids and how quickly and easily it can be to go on that slippery slope of allowing the baby to become a fussy eater.
This blog deals with toddlers and beyond - 5-6-7-8-9-10 years and more where mum has given up and the children eat the same old thing day after day and never get to experience the wonderful world of food!
There are some wonderful recipe books available which cater to babies and their first introduction to food – lots of variety which will be the cornerstone to raising children who love a variety of tastes. You are setting them up for life!
You, the mother, sets the rules – and by that I mean you are going to be in charge, from now on, of the variety of food which is presented to your family. I was caring for a family not long ago – fussy eaters – and I said to these gorgeous kids 'I'm never going to serve up revolting food. Everything I cook is wonderful, tasty and nutricious and this will apply to you, as the mother and presenter of delicious food.
Here's another fact – fussy eaters will usually end up at meal times eating food that has become their staple diet – chips – fish fingers – chicken bites – and not much else.
Mums come home from work – maybe picked up a preschooler from day care and is hassled. By the time she arrives home with hungry children, grizzly toddlers who are hungry and tired, it's nearly dinner time – and she quickly prepares a 'fast food' type meal.
A good piece of advice here – and yes – I have a bottomless pit of good advice! Don't introduce chips into your children's diet – or as stated above – fish fingers, chicken bites – or anything out of a square box from the freezer. Why? Because once your small child has tasted these foods – especially chips, covered in salt – and fish fingers/chicken bites etc. which are covered in a batter, they will not eat a healthy version again! Potatoes are nutricious – mashed, boiled with a pinch of salt added to the water - sprayed with olive oil along with kumera and pumpkin and oven baked – baked in their skins in the oven (my favourite) and are a very important part of a good diet, but served in a variety of ways so that your child gets used to this variety.
So ….............. no chips until they are old enough to be told, and understand completely, that the chips are a treat and they will not be part of a daily diet.
I watched, (in horror) in a local Mall, a Grandad feeding a 9 month old (guess work!) grandchild (more guesswork) chips from a carton, along with a milk-shake lathered in whipped cream and chocolate. That baby's diet – wrecked forever because he would have quickly decided that chips and chocolate milkshake with whipped cream were far preferable to a healthy diet of freshly cooked vegetables with some meat (but not necessary every day) fresh fish, which nine month old babies can eat with their fingers providing the bones have been carefully removed. Finger food is great – small pieces of a variety of vegetables – placed on the clean tray of a high chair – and let the babies do it themselves.
Children who are very small quickly recognize brands! Need I say more? Today I watched a small child – maybe three years of age, going towards McDonalds with his Mum and Dad and the little boy pointing at the McDonalds sign! Guess where they were going!
I cared for a family of four children and the eldest had no idea what the 'Golden Arches' meant because he had never been taken there as a small child. He was around four before attending a birthday party there!
That little nine month old with his Grand-dad would quickly remember what he ate the last time he was in that place and be squealing and crying for exactly what he wanted!
The eating habits of your babies are set by you from a very early age. I'll say this again – you are the teacher – and it is your responsibility to teach your children good eating habits, and as much variety as possible so that when they grow into toddlers and beyond, they will eat anything put in front of them – providing it is tasty and nutricious.
Let me return to the busy working mum who is on her way home with hungry, tired children who need to be fed before they start to load up on 'stuff' before dinner is ready.
It's a great idea to have a slow cooker – and three nights a week, before you go to bed, put on a casserole in the slow cooker. Quick and easy – lots of good recipes out there – pop in the vegetables too – carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, kumera – whatever you have.
Turn it onto 'slow' and in the morning turn it off. Dinner will be ready for your brood almost immediately you arrive home. Tasty and nutricious and it doesn't matter if the clock only says 4.30 pm. Feed them – they'll be hungry and can have a snack of fruit or maybe some apple crumble with custard left over from last night!
A drink of milk or water after a meal – not during, as this fills them up and it is better to start as you mean to carry on.
If your child/children get fussy – don't enter into a long discussion about 'eating-up', or playing games with the smaller ones – 'open your mouth – here comes the train/aeroplane/truck' Very time consuming and setting in place another habit.
I encourage some conversation – they should be sitting at the table /high-chair, with no hand held electronics in sight – and that goes for the mum as well. Give the children your attention, talk about what has happened during the day – encourage good manners, no getting up and down from the table, listening to what brothers and sisters have to say – each one taking turns and no talking about the food – how much has been eaten/not eaten but you can say 'yummy' while licking your lips!
Small amounts should be offered on the plate – not huge amounts as these heaped up plates like a mountain to little ones and older ones alike! Soon, they'll be coming back for more!
After twenty minutes or so, ask those who haven't finished - “have you finished?'
If the answer is 'yes' then your reply is 'are your sure – because if you have, you can get down from the table, after asking 'please may I leave the table' – yes, manners can be instilled at this age. You are the teacher. But – tell that little person – or older child 'There is nothing more to eat, so please don't come to me in a little while and say you're hungry. No more means no more' Don't worry about little Johnny who might be hungry. Tomorrow he will know when you say –' don't come back saying you're hungry' that you mean what you say.
If you put in place these rules about eating, table manners and finishing what is on their plates, you will be the proud mum of children who will enjoy their food, love the variety you dish up, maybe come back for that second helping and understand table manners.
You must do it every day – not just a few days and then say 'oh – it's all too hard'
If you put in place good eating habits right from the start, introduce lots of new tastes, small helpings – and have them coming back for more, you will be so proud to take them out where they will not say -'Yuk – I don't eat that – I don't like that'
My children loved filling their own hamburgers. I cooked the meat patties and on the bench were a variety of fillings – lettuce, tomato, beet-root, grated cheese, cucumber, and of course tomato sauce! They filled their own hamburgers with the provisor that they must have at least three fillings!
Another great favourite was pizza. I had a large pizza pan – the one with holes in the bottom! I made my own dough – the children loved seeing how much it had 'grown' after an hour in the hot water cupboard – then on with the pizza sauce – then the toppings – covered with that lovely stringy mozarella cheese – and whatever else took their fancy. Vary the toppings – let them have turns in choosing the toppings – let them make their own pizza's – food is fun!
I also encourage families to eat at least some meals during the week, as a family. Enjoy each other's company and conversations and you will eventually have some very interesting young people who will be interesting table companions. You are their teachers. Another plus when eating as a family – the children see mum and dad eating the same dinner as they are!
By following these 'rules' even if your toddler/preschooler/primary/secondary school aged sons and daughters are fussy eater, it can be turned around. Sit the older ones down and have a good chat about what is going to happen in YOUR house and tell them why!
Throw in a carrot or two! Not the edible sort but some encouragement to change the way your children eat. Maybe it will go like this 'In a week when you are eating well and trying new and exciting food – mum and dad will take you out for dinner and you can order from the menu. Your choice'
Another way to encourage more exciting meals is to sit around the table and design a menu for a week. Lead them by giving some choices for the main meal and then letting them decide. A great way of pulling together as a family.
I hope that some of these ideas you will find helpful and will turn your fussy eaters into childre who enjoy the food that you prepare – but go out and find a good recipe book or look in the weekly magazines for ideas. These ideas can be brought to the table when you are planning some menus.
Desserts are part of the menus of active children who are enjoying their new way of eating – but don't forget a plate of fresh fruit, already cut up and put on the table after the main course! It's amazing what children will fruit the children will eat when it's already cut up!
Happy eating – and happy parenting!