How to get your child to eat.

alisonhThe Fit OTLeave a Comment

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.  I have seen too many kids who have been force fed with a TON of negative consequences. I know your heart is in the right place, you want them to eat so they can gain weight and grow.  The doctors are telling you they have to gain weight and you feel like force feeding is your ONLY option to get your child to eat.

*all pictures are of my OWN children. Yes I had triplets and yes they were premature which gives me a whole new level of knowledge with feeding*

I wish I had the EASY solution to get your child to eat, but I don’t.

Feeding is a delicate and complicated issue.  And unfortunately we CAN’T make children eat. We can set up the environment in such a way to provide a positive experience BUT they have the ultimate control over if they actually eat. The sooner you realize this the better off you will be…trust me.

Let’s take this one stage at a time.

How to get your child to eat birth-1 year

The path to eating starts EARLY and the sensory system plays huge role in feeding! Allowing your child to have a variety of sensory experiences is IMPORTANT and needs to start early!  Those tag blankets with all the textures, those blocks, books and rattles all have a purpose!  They help your child begin to explore tactile play (which is touching different textures)  Take them swimming, throw them in the air, take them on a swing, play in the grass, toss them in the leaves it all helps develop their sensory system!

how to get your child to eat, babies playing, tactile play

Happy babies getting sensory experiences.

There will come a time, around 6 months when they will start do more than drink from a bottle.  Let them feed themselves. I know it will be messy! I know they won’t actually get much of it in their mouth but guess what…that messiness will HELP them eat be able to eat a variety of foods later in life and yes help further develop their sensory system. How can you expect them to EAT it if they don’t even tolerate it on their hands? Of course you will have a spoon as well so you can feed them while they feed themselves.

how to get your child to eat, messy kids, pediatric OT

Messy kids are a GOOD thing!!!

The time will come that they are ready (7-8 months) to start finger foods like puffs, cheerios, biter biscuits.  Don’t worry even if they don’t have teeth those gums are pretty hard!  These finger foods are crucial. It’s how they start to develop oral motor skills (learning how to chew, bite, use their tongue, swallow chunks of food) And this is also the time their baby food should start to have a few more chunks in it as well.

The food should continue to get thicker and thicker the closer they get to their first birthday and before you know it they will be eating solids.

Now lets talk cups. I know those no spill cups are great for the cleanliness of your house BUT please allow your child opportunities to use a sippy cup with NO valve or anything. WHY? Because those valve versions require the same sucking motion as a bottle.  We don’t want that.  We want them to start to have a more mature way of drinking.  Again this will help to get your child to eat because they will be developing their oral motor skills.

How to get your child to eat 1-2 years

The self feeding should continue and as they approach that one year mark more nutrition should come from solid food and less from milk.  I am not saying you have to cut it ALL out just make sure you give them MANY opportunities to have solid food.  And a variety of solid food.  Don’t choose fruits and veggies you like, let them taste it ALL. Don’t limit their tastes to what you like.

Also going back to the cup thing…straws are good as long as they don’t that valve!

toddler straw use, hot to get your child to eat, pediatric OT

Good straw use.

Messy play and play in the tub continue to be important!  Play in the sand, pudding, whipped cream, tub paints, finger paint.  DO IT!

how to get your child to eat, pediatric OT

Tub time!!

And then there are the teeth.  Your child may or may not have teeth BUT have them use a toothbrush.  See a theme here…it’s good for the sensory system 🙂

child brushing teeth, how to get your child to eat, pediatric OT

Toothbrushing is fun!

At this point if everything has gone as planned your child is eating solids and enjoying it.  BUT sometimes things don’t go as planned…..and then we have the need for some special techniques for feeding.  Check out this post for more info on that.

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