Oh Baby, You’re Gonna Love This

Parenthood.

As unique and amazing as it is, it’d be a whole lot easier to slide into if it came with a decent guidebook or a money back guarantee.

It’s been a while since my lot were tiny, but I was reminded of how much the ‘smalls’ like to try and rule the roost during a recent visit to a friend and her strong-minded 11-month old tyrant, who seems to take great delight in stressing his parents out whenever it comes to mealtimes.

Unfortunately, they are pandering to his demands and in doing so, creating piles of food rubbish in the desperate search for something ‘the poor dear’ will eat and it’s also costing them a fortune too.

My poor chum flapped about the kitchen looking cream-crackered.  She was clearly at the end of her tether and sick to death of essential lunchtime re-runs of the tellytubbies; it was time for a frank heart-to-heart. 

The baby eventually went down for a nap, on went the kettle, in went the chocolate and out came the hankie; here’s a round up of my ten pence worth of advice.

In a world where we are bombarded by constant noise and stimulation, I think one of the hardest challenges we have is getting the kids to concentrate on simply eating their meal; a solution is easier than you think.

I owe part of my success to ‘cracking this,’ to two small toys that miraculously survived three consecutive children. One was a clear plastic dome on a stick with an interesting light-catcher object inside it, the other was a stick with a screw head and 3 arms with things to turn, beep and click.  Both had a big sucker attachment for the highchair table.

Babies have an amazing capacity to understand routine.  Even with their limited communication skills, they often respond to it with contentment.  By getting them used to a set of circumstances that ends up with a contented tummy, you should be able make food and drink time a more enjoyable experience for all concerned.

There really should be just one place to eat and drink – their highchair.  Consider the money you will save on cleaning products alone not scrubbing butter and juice from your sofas and carpets, not to mention the embarrassment at a friend’s house, when they smear the contents of their plate on someone else’s sofa and carpet…

To crack this, all you need is determination, conviction in what you are doing, a few easy recipes and one or two small sucker toys…

Here we go. 

  • Keep mealtimes regular and make sure they have a clean bottom before they sit down, making them less likely to wiggle around. 
  • Feed them, feed you – always eat or drink with baby.  They are incredible copycats.  This is also great advice for any new mum who needs to keep her energy levels up too.  Healthy snacks are great, but the odd cup of tea and a biscuit won’t kill you either. 
  • Turn the TV off before they come in the room – a quietish radio is fine.  Put them in the chair, secure them in, pop their bib on and stick on an interesting sucker toy while you get the food ready.  TV is an utter distraction and you want them to focus on their forthcoming food.  Plus, all things being well with your timing, hunger should soon take over anyway. 
  • Show them the last part of preparing the meal or drink and talk to them about what they have got coming up with excitement!  Smiles breed more smiles.  If you are turning your nose up and making a face, saying, “I’m not sure you are going to like this, I don’t blame you, it’s not very exciting”, it’s a good guess they’ll probably do the same.
  • Serve up and immediately remove and hide the toy.  Sit down in front of each other at the table and eat together.

This is ‘the’ place for food and drink.  If you cut out all the other distractions, they soon realise nourishment is what happens when they sit there.  Once you start to placate them with toys, crayons or telly, you soon create a situation where they will only eat when they have those other elements. 

If you’ve been trying baby-food jars and ready meals without success, this is a perfect time to weave in some simple home-cooked food.  If time is tight for you, make batches of food and freeze it, or even simpler still, set aside some of the meal for the rest of the family and mash it or blend it, but do make it yourself using simple ingredients and you’ll get yourself on a winning track.

All new situations take a while to kick in.  There may well be tears and tantrums.  You might need to persevere with this for a week if you have been doing things differently, but with determination, self-belief and respect for your own self-preservation, you will get through it! 

If it all goes horribly wrong….well, look at the worse possible scenario; the food goes flying, all hell breaks loose, there’s screams and tears…..but think about it for a minute – can you really afford this each mealtime? 

Stay with it!

Be strong and confident.  They will be a little hungrier the next time you start the routine.  You have to keep charge of the situation or the little ferrets soon work out they can rule the roost.  They’ll soon come around to a new way of approaching a mealtime that has a full tummy and empty bin and a happy ending for all.

Rubbishly yours,

TSx