baby throwing eating tantrums? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

“NO,” “Eww,” “I don’t want it!” With the new vocabulary come these frustrating words, especially during mealtime. And with their new statements comes our confusion and frustration: “My baby is not eating healthy vegetables. I have tried everything! What more can I do?”, “my baby is even refusing the things he first liked. How is that even possible?! What to do?!” 

It becomes extremely frustrating for parents to handle these eating tantrums and food strikes. Dr Clara Guru says that it is a normal part of development, and it is definitely normal for toddlers to throw tantrums while eating, and definitely normal for you to become a “momzilla”. But more than being angry, us parents are actually worried about our children’s nutrition and well being. When a child who previously ate healthily starts to eat less and starts to disregard structure and regularity, it is normal to become anxious.

Let’s explore effective techniques for handling these mealtime tantrums with insights from the child development expert, Dr. Clara Guru. Discover tips and strategies to experience a calm eating journey in this comprehensive guide.

Possible causes for these tantrums

At around 18 months, children start exercising power over their parents and their food. They are experimenting with their independence and feel like they should be the one to decide what and how much they want to eat. If parents try to force them to eat something, they start throwing tantrums and make a mess with the food. Behind every behaviour, there is a potential reason. It is important to understand the underlying causes in order to employ effective strategies.

Part of development

For our children, it is a part of their “growing up” phase. 0 to 12 months is the typical growth stage where children need a lot of constant feedings and nutrition to develop in a healthy manner. But after that, their growth surge slows down and children don’t feel as hungry as they used to feel. Their body doesn’t signal hunger as often as it used to. Even their taste buds mature, because of which they tend to become picky eaters.

They want control over their own lives

At this age, toddlers are gaining a lot of independence as they learn to walk, run, and put their thoughts into words. In reality, they don’t have a lot of freedom. They follow instructions and go where they are required to. The only areas where children have complete control are eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom. So they try to exert control over what and when they want to eat.

Sensory processing of food

To put it simply, children won’t eat anything that feels weird or gross in their mouths or on their hands.

They are overly tired

Children who are tired, sleep deprived or “hangry” are more likely to experience intense emotions and to lose control over their actions.

They can’t sit still

Some children do have a difficult time sitting at a place just to eat. They feel like running, walking, jumping. A reason behind that can be their new found motor skills.

How to deal with it 

Keep calm

As frustrating as it might be, you need to maintain your composure throughout the process. If you lose your cool and shout, it might make things worse. If your child says they don’t want to eat, tell them that’s okay, but they should not yell.

Try limiting snacks in between meals

This prevents them from being full during the main mealtime

Try not to pressure the child

Let’s not force the child to eat something they are uncomfortable with. You can say, “I know tonight we aren’t having your favourite food, maybe we can have that tomorrow!” Gives them an idea that they are part of the process but not pressured to eat.

Put one of their favourite healthy thing on the table

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) suggests to serve something the child likes on the table, even if it’s just fruit or rice. Remind your toddler that there is rice or fruit available if they don’t like the other foods and insist on something different. If your child happens to like a certain food and eats few portions of it, that’s acceptable. 

Include nutritional bedtime snacks

Children usually dislike diner, and are more fond of snacks. For this you can include healthy options as bedtime snacks, such as Plain yogurt with berries and toast, sliced apples with any nut butter, sweet potato, cheese paranthas, or cottage cheese, sliced peaches, or healthy muffins

Involve your child

Include your child in choosing the rest of the week’s menu by asking him to choose his favorite fruits or veggies. Ask your toddler for assistance when preparing meals, like washing fruits or veggies, removing grapes from their stems, or to assist you with basic cooking tasks like stirring ingredients or measuring out supplies. your will be more engaged during mealtimes if they participates more in the organising and preparation. 

Eat the same food you are giving to your toddler

It is important to offer the same food at the mealtimes and eat together to encourage the feeling of inclusivity and not make your child feel different.

Mealtime games

Whether it’s making your child eat with airplane games or balls, music or different toys. Let your child engage in them while eating their meals. Let them play with their food. That is right! You can help prepare your child for the new food by talking about it, showing it to your child, or having your child play with the food before it is served.

the brain’s role

When a baby throws an eating tantrum, several brain regions are likely involved. The prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and emotional regulation, may struggle to cope with frustration or discomfort related to the meal. The insula, involved in sensory processing and interoception, might signal discomfort or displeasure in response to certain tastes or textures. Additionally, the amygdala, a key player in processing emotions, could contribute to the intensity of the tantrum if the baby associates negative emotions with mealtime experiences. These brain regions collectively influence the baby’s behavior during eating tantrums, reflecting a complex interplay between sensory, emotional, and cognitive factors.

FINAL THOUGHTS BY DR CLARA GURU

Dealing with eating tantrums can be difficult, but Dr. Clara Guru suggests that with patience, understanding, and effective solutions, parents can foster a happy mealtime atmosphere that encourages healthy eating habits and strengthens the parent-child bond. Parents can help their children create a lifelong healthy connection with food by addressing main challenges, creating a supportive environment, and encouraging positive behaviour. In the end it’s not how and how much they eat, but what they eat. 

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FAQ

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