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3 expert tips on feeding your little one

Eating Can Be Complicated

Supporting parents helping their littles learn to eat has been one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of my job as an early intervention provider. Eating can be emotionally loaded for caregivers-we can all feel a special kind of frustration (and failure) when our littles don’t eat the way or the amount we think they should. Each family that I have worked alongside has had a unique journey feeding their little one; I am so grateful for all that my families have taught me. Here are some of the things I have learned:

-Eating is complicated

Eating is the one thing little humans do that involves every biological system they have, so looking holistically at what is going on can be helpful to address challenges. All areas of development can impact feeding. For example, children need fine motor skills to be able to pick up food and bring it to their mouths and to coordinate the tiny movements inside their mouths to move that food around. Gross motor skills are necessary to sit and hold their heads up to eat safely. Kiddos need to be able to communicate hunger, and fullness. Social emotional development (attachment and trust) helps little ones feel connected to others and to feel safe to eat. Sensory processing (how a kiddo’s body processes information from the world around them like touch, taste, movement, sound, and sight) can have a big impact on the eating experience as well. Caregivers’ instincts and feelings about this journey are valid and key to finding strategies to move successfully through challenges.

 -Challenges can come from lots of places

Looking at both what is going on around a child as well as within their body can provide clues to what is impacting eating. Feeding can be impacted by all kinds of environmental things (changes in schedules, different caregivers feeding, etc.) and by all kinds of individual body specific things (an illness, the way that little tummies can or cannot digest certain foods, how well a little mouth can coordinate to latch, etc.). These factors can all impact what and how a kiddo will or will not eat. Some of these things can be changed, others only worked around. Often there are multiple factors at play. This can make navigating challenges hard.

-Fed is Best

This slogan became popular a few years ago paired with a beautiful image of three mom’s feeding their babies in three different ways (nursing, bottling and with a g tube). It means that there is more than one ‘right way’ to nourish your child. I have come to believe it with all my heart. It remains true as a child grows into toddlerhood. There is no one solution or technique that is right for every child or every family.

Lastly, it is easy to find incomplete information on eating and feeding or approaches and plans based on only one person’s thoughts and specific experiences. This can be confusing and counterproductive. Some reliable online resources are below. Remember every child is unique! 

By Beth Watkins,  Speech/Language Pathologist, Sedgwick Infant/Toddler Services

Photograph courtesy of Felicia Saunders Photography