The connection I am talking about is of course human! Have you seen the video? When I watch it I get agitated! OK, it’s cute, I love the music and dad seems like a cool dude. However, everything else I see concerns the Fussy Eater Specialist, that I am.
So here’s 10 month old Benjamin, who fusses and cries as dad presents him with a spoon of food. All seems lost until Dad plays the YouTube video “gangnam style”. It is a fast paced hit song and Benjamin is so transfixed by the video, he stops crying. Dad is now on a feeding mission: with every beat comes a spoon of food Benjamin swallows.
What’s wrong with a bit of fun, you might ask?
This video is very much liked, but what I see is a Baby who is struggling to eat. Ben’s dad has developed a feeding technique to make sure something is eaten. I understand the frustration and worry that comes with a child who refuses to eat most foods. I meet desperate parent all the time. Invariably they will try anything and everything and come up with creative ways to get those extra bites in. Distractions may work to start with, but let me explain why this short term gain is likely to result in a long term loss:
- Baby is tricked in swallowing each bite. Benjamin’s father does not seem to trust his child’s ability to learn to eat and eat enough. It is likely Benjamin will loose trust, once he realises that he is being tricked. Without trust, neither dad nor baby can feed successfully. Trust is necessary to establish confident eating over years to come.
- Baby is not tuned in with eating. And dad is not tuned in feeding, he brings the spoon so fast Benjamin has hardly any time to swallow. Dad can easily bypass his child’s ability to tune-in with his appetite. This ability to self-regulate our food intake is a gift-for-life worth keeping intact. When we distract our child, we help override this capacity. Later in life, people who have lost the ability to self-regulate their food intake can struggle with weight issues.
- Baby is not processing his food, he is swallowing whole. He seems completely oblivious to how he needs to tackle the food. In order to protect themselves from choking, children need to learn to process foods.
- Baby is not learning to chew. Knowing how to eat is not innate. Skills are acquired with each meal. Practice and guidance make perfect. Screens do not teach how to eat, parents and carers do. Dad could model chewing to Benjamin, who at 10 months could start self-feeding and eat pieces like most of his peers.
- Baby is not socialising: eating is about connecting. We face each other, we share food, we talk about our day, we raise resilient kids at the dinner table. Benjamin and his dad are disconnected, from each other, from feeding and from eating. When eating is difficult for whatever reason, having a reassuring adult at the table is beneficial.
Connection with other humans enables our kids to learn to eat, to enjoy their time at the dinner table, to overcome fussy eating. If you are dealing with a fussy eater, you can remove any distractions such as videos, TVs and get to the dinner table. You can make your presence fun and effective. You can be social with your child. If your fussy eater does not respond to your feeding techniques, then it is time to contact the fussy eater specialist.
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