“How do I get my child to eat more?”
I often hear this question in various forms from parents and it always intrigues me. It seems like such an easy question at first glance, but there are so many questions that it can bring up. I would love to ask the parent questions like:
What do you mean?
What is your expectation for intake?
Why do you want your child to be eating more?
Has your child’s appetite changed recently?
What is your worry/concern?
How do you know your child is not eating enough?
As parents, there are often sub-conscious expectations that are in our mind that we are not aware of. Sometimes these thoughts are conscious, like when parents compare their child to another. Either way, there is usually an expectation or a “should” hidden in our worry or lighting the fire that is bubbling a fear.
Every parent will go through a time that they are concerned with their child’s eating. All parents want the best for their child and have concerns. I deal with this all the time, and occasionally, I also panic with worry when my child refuses to eat anything for dinner for days at a time. The important part is how we handle it.
The fear and worry often cause a parent to want to fix the problem, as quickly as possible. This is what drives the supplement industry and often sends parents to doctors and other medical practitioners. It is also often the beginning of challenging mealtime habits, like short order cooking or limiting a child’s menu.
If this is a concern you have as a parent now, think of your answers to the above questions. If your child is healthy and growing normally, your child is likely eating enough. If this is a recent change with a weaning baby or toddler, it also likely is normal and due to one of a number of reasons including: teething, slower growth period, illness, or a developmental leap. For most babies and toddlers, until they learn otherwise, their bodies know what they need to grow properly. It’s okay to be aware of your child’s intake and care. You’re doing a great job as a parent. Enjoy watching your child grow and explore and breath. Be curious and see what your child does in a day or two. They often surprise us.