There Is No "Force" In Feeding
Updated: Aug 18, 2019
Respecting your baby's cues is one of the most important pieces of advice I give all parents who come in for therapy. If your 6-month-old infant closes her mouth when you present the spoon, she's telling you she's not ready, she's not hungry, or she can't manage the food you are presenting. Babies and toddlers are very smart and we need to listen to them. It is important to figure out why they are refusing as the first step in turning things around.
That being said, what happens when your pediatrician tells you that your child is falling off the growth curve and you should feed her as often as you can? The first thing that goes is respecting your baby's cues. Out of fear, frustration, and panic, any well-intentioned parent will turn to sneaking, coercing, and even sleep-feeding just to get extra calories in. If you find yourself in this place, please seek help from a feeding specialist.
Mealtimes are meant to be pleasurable for both the parent and the child. Around the age of 3 months, feeding becomes less reflexive and more voluntary, meaning the infant has more control and chooses when they will accept the bottle or breast. At the early age of 8 months, infants seek independence and want to feed themselves. With concerns about weight gain hovering, parents often also fight to maintain control of mealtimes. For example, they continue to spoon-feed their older infant or toddler purees when they should be eating table food; the reason: they can control how much goes into their child's mouth. They might use toys, t.v., iPad, and any other distraction they can think of to sneak in several more bites past the point that their child has indicated they are done.
There are many therapeutic approaches and strategies to address the underlying issues impacting feeding and THINGS CAN GET BETTER. Some of the common causes of feeding difficulties are gastrointestinal issues (constipation, reflux, slow stomach emptying), food allergies or sensitivities, oral motor incoordination, and oral hypersensitivity. Work with your pediatrician and professionals in your area to determine what might be causing your child to struggle and just remember, there is no "force" in feeding.