I’m not perfect. I don’t always serve perfectly balanced meals or say the right thing to my kids about food. As I researched and wrote Fearless Feeding, a book that helps prevent feeding mistakes, I can’t help but think of the ones I made.
I get emails from readers who feel it’s too late or that they are the only ones who made a particular error in feeding. So this post is for those of you who find yourselves, from time to time, feeling discouraged. You’re certainly not alone.
1. Not having meals established, pre-kids
When Big A was born I had a handful of meals I’d make for my husband and myself — and they weren’t very exciting. I really started learning to cook when she started eating and realized my mistake one day while picking at her tasty mushroom, spinach, and feta omelet.
I was putting this beautiful girl’s nutrition and well being before my own. Why didn’t I take more time to plan and cook before she arrived? Yes, I still ate healthfully, but it would’ve helped to have family meals established so she could partake when she started finger foods. I didn’t get that ritual down until she was almost two.
2. Needlessly serving sweetened yogurt
Big A ate a lot of plain yogurt when she was a baby. I remember seeing Yo Baby everywhere and finally decided to try it. She loved it so much that she refused the plain yogurt the next time I served it. Oops!
Note to self: if kids like the plain version, there is no need to buy flavored anything. Little D never got those flavored yogurts and he still loves his plain old yogurt.
3. Not increasing variety during the second year
When Big A was little, I knew picky eating was typical at toddler age, but I didn’t understand that I needed to take advantage of her openness. While she got a decent variety, I could have stepped it up, rotating different sandwiches and meals (as I said, family meals didn’t start until she was two).
I don’t think this would have prevented her selectiveness, which is a part of normal development, but she may have had a few more items she would eat when things got rough (around 3).
4. Trying to control a child’s eating
While 99% of the time I follow the Division of Responsibility in Feeding, I have strayed a few times. I see this as a good thing because of the negative reaction I’ve received reminds me how important it is to give children free choice, in terms of what and how much they eat.
I don’t think we should be afraid to try different things though. One mom left a comment, saying how well small tastings worked with her sensory-challenged son, while another mom had a child with “meal-time dread” due to frequent gagging for having to try everything. What matters most when it comes to pressure is it’s not just what you do, but how your child perceives it.
5. Recipe mistakes
I laughed (out loud) when a reader wrote the following comment about recipe mistakes: “I know I should really read the whole recipe first, but I have a bad habit of reading the ingredients and first few steps… then discovering too late that there are more steps than I expected. (Wait… REFRIGERATE OVER NIGHT? Guess we’ll have dessert tomorrow.)”
I could fill a book with stories like this one. I’ve gotten better, but recipe mistakes still happen, especially going to the store for that missing ingredient only to come home without it!
I think we could all stand to be kinder to ourselves when it comes to parenting mishaps, including feeding. When we assume everyone else is perfect or has it easy, it keeps us down. But when we realize everyone has challenges, it gives us the strength to tackle whatever problems we face (which for me is getting decent meals on the table while finishing the book!).
So what mistakes have you made, and how have you dealt with them?