I’d love to report that feeding my kids is always a pleasant experience but I’d be lying. For example, just last week Big A declared she no longer likes the chicken tenders I make every other week and even my pizzas aren’t up to snuff. She’s whining more for dessert and sweets and seems to get more upset when the meal isn’t something she likes.
When feeding all of a sudden takes a turn for the worse, I call it a feeding regression. I’ve seen it before and will no doubt see it again (and again and again). Every time it happens I have a specific method that helps me get to the root of what’s going on.
In Fearless Feeding we feature case studies of feeding challenges for each stage of development using the Fearless Feeding Strategy (the What, How and Why of Feeding). Let’s use my current challenge as an example of how I find solutions.
I take the time to evaluate what I have been offering lately. Is there enough variety? Is the food tasty? Is there a good mix between foods my kids like and foods they don’t accept yet? Is there the right balance of nutritious items and sweets?
I do get into ruts serving meals we like (and I like to make) more often. Children will tire of even their most favorite foods or they go through periods where all of the sudden the texture of a certain item bothers them. The good thing is Big A’s (old) love of chicken tenders has led to her accepting chicken almost any way it’s prepared. So I will make a point to drop the tenders for a while and focus on making chicken other ways. If enough time passes she’ll likely go crazy for them again.
I think about the structure of meals. Am I getting lax? Is there extra snacking? Then there’s the feeding styles and practices. Am I pressuring or restricting? Are meals pleasant or becoming tense?
I’ve been consistent with the structure and timing of meals. We have been having dessert after dinner more often and when it’s a meal Big A isn’t excited about, she hones in on that. That can make meals a bit tenser when she keeps asking about dessert. So I’m going to offer sweets more often in the afternoon, instead of after dinner, and make sure there are more items she likes at the table.
I always consider growth first. Is she growing through a growth spurt or a period of slowed growth? Sometimes kids are coming off a growth spurt and the parents are disappointed that their child no longer wants to eat as much as before when the reality is they just aren’t as hungry. Also, there’s the other part of development. She is school age now and will be influenced by her peers and has a lot more going on than she did over the summer.
Big A doesn’t seem as hungry lately so her growth has likely slowed. She also just started school and I notice that she comes home demanding more things, non-food stuff too because I think she is on her extra good behavior at school and wants to relax at home. After we had a talk, she told me that she is a bit stressed with all the work they expect at school (including Friday test day) and not enough play time.
When I asked her what I could do to help, she told me she would like something cold after school because it has been so hot, like ice cream or a frozen yogurt tube. I also told her I would work to get more playdates if she could get her homework done early in the week. And Friday, when she’s tired from taking her tests, I told her we can plan something special she can look forward to, like a movie.
Food’s not always the solution
But what if I went straight to food as the solution and insisted Big A eat the very meals she’s tired of? That would likely lead to food aversions. And what if I threatened to take away sweets until she stops whining about them? That would likely cause her to want them even more.
But most of all, a food-focused approach would keep me from getting to the root of why she has been acting the way she has been recently. When a child is acting out with food, there is always a reason. Digging into the What, How and Why always helps me understand what’s really going on. It makes me a better, more confident feeder and my children happier eaters.
Are you experiencing any feeding regressions lately?