Author Topic: Spoon feeding 3 year old  (Read 757 times)

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Offline sunflower321

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Spoon feeding 3 year old
« on: July 19, 2016, 02:45:56 am »
I'm afraid of the reaction I'm going to get when I say this but here goes.. I've been spoon feeding my dd1 until recently. She's 3 and a half. For breakfast i puree fruit and veg and mix this through millet and brown rice porridge. Lunch is something like fish, veg followed by yogurt. Dinner is a meat or fish, potato, veg stew or thick soup. And supper is oat porridge. She eats her lunch on her own with her spoon and fork and I have always spoon fed her the other meals. She has always eaten all of those meals, fairly decent portions and meal time was pleasant but busy for me. I have an 18 month old as well who I spoon feed and sitting down to spoon feed both is time consuming as you can imagine and leaves me little time to eat! So last month I decided that she should be feeding herself and I know people are probably going to tell me this was the wrong approach but I told her that if she ate all of her meal on her own that she would get a prize. It started ok and she was excited and did eat a few meals on her own. My idea was that if it became the norm for one week I could ditch the rewards and she would just do it. But it hasn't gone that way. She has eaten about 6meals by herself in 3 weeks. I was saying initially that I'd feed her if she wanted but if she chose that she wouldn't get her prize obviously. She said I'll try again tomorrow. But now that that hasn't worked, this week I've tried being cross to see if that works. I kept saying eat your breakfast/dinner but then I wondered if the negative attention was having the opposite effect so I told her that when her sister and I were finished we would be leaving the kitchen and she could join us when she was finished. But she gets so upset being left in the kitchen even though it's next to the room we're in and she cries so much and it's genuine and she keeps asking me to feed her. So that clearly isn't working. Meal times have now became so stressful for the two of us with me angry with her and her upset.
I know the obvious answer is just stop feeding her but I hate to think of her hungry or not getting enough nutrition. I could reduce the portion sizes to make it more attainable for her but it annoys me that she'd be eating less. But maybe I can try that and build it up.
She has always eaten well and quite good amounts (when I feed her) but is very thin. Around 25th percentile.
Meal times have become so awful now that I dread them and it was easier when I fed her that I'm tempted to just go back to doing it. I assume it will have to stop eventually and that I won't be spoon feeding my 20 year old.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2016, 02:54:26 am by sunflower321 »

Offline Katet

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Re: Spoon feeding 3 year old
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2016, 06:36:52 am »
I don't think the obvious answer is to stop feeding her, I mean being fed by you is all she has known & they you want to change the rules & you expect her to just do it.

I personally think that you should say that you can keep feeding her, but you believe she is old enough & capable enough (& most importantly she needs the co-ordination) to do it, so you both need to work as a team to help her do it. I'd explain to her that you as a parent realise that you have made a mistake not letting her as you've learnt (if you didn't know before I can tell you it's true) that her not learning to co-ordinate her feeding well will slow her down at school & slow down her fine motor skills etc. So I'd be explaining to her that Mummy loves to feed her, BUT Mummy doesn't like the fact that it is actually stopping her body & brain from developing the right skills etc. 

Maybe make a deal with her that you can feed her 6 mouthfuls & she can do the rest etc.

Honestly I wouldn't be focusing on making her each meal, but working on a small change & probably increase the foods that don't need a spoon such as sandwiches, meat than can be eaten off a bone eg chicken drumsticks & cutlets.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2016, 07:24:15 am by Katet »
dc1 July 03, dc2 May 05

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Re: Spoon feeding 3 year old
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2016, 11:19:37 am »
Gosh you must be run ragged with all that spoon feeding and no time for anything else!

Feeding a little baby is obviously an absolute necessity, without a carer feeding a baby they fail to thrive and starve, so feeding is an act of care and love and there are strong bonds of love which form at baby feeding times. It is not surprising that some parents enjoy this time together so much that they continue beyond the time it is necessary or practical.
The way I see it, you initially chose to continue that special bonding time with your LO1 long beyond the time it was needed, it was your choice, and then LO2 came along and they both had that special bonding time of you feeding them, again for the baby it was necessity but for the older LO it was an act of love; Mummy feeds baby, Mummy feeds me, Mummy loves us both.  And now you've decided to stop feeding LO1.  You and I and everyone here know this doesn't mean you love her any less but look at this from HER perspective.  You continue feeding LO2 but not LO1.  You go into the other room with LO2 to play games but leave LO1 at the table alone.  I suspect from LO1s point of view there appears to be a withdrawal of love and care by this act of service being removed.  We know you love her but perhaps she feels the loss of you.  IMO this is not about *food* this is about Mummy's love.

With the rewards offered for self feeding you are putting the responsibility of changing habits onto HER when this tricky situation was caused by YOU.  This is not a dig at you for continuing to hand feed LO1, nor is it a dig for giving it a go with rewards, I'm just saying as my opinion you caused it now you need to fix it rather than put the responsibility onto her.  Like I said, I don't consider this to be about food, she *can* self feed with a spoon and fork because you say she does so for lunch, so here's what I think is happening...
When you offer the reward in her mind she can choose between Mummy's love or a reward.  Whilst chocolate or a toy or watching TV or whatever the reward is might be very appealing a few times across the month ultimately she is never going to choose sweets over Mummy's love - who would?
She said I'll try again tomorrow.
To me this kind of sounds like "I'll try to live without your love tomorrow" - it's impossible for her.  she has the ability and skill to use a fork and spoon to self feed, we know that, but she does not have the ability to give up Mummy.  She loves you and she loves that time you give her.

So here's what I'd suggest:
- stop feeding your 18 month old, this would instantly remove the possible jealousy of one child being fed and the other not.  LO2 does not need to be spoon fed.  6 month olds can self feed, even LOs who are initially spoon fed are generally encouraged or expected to self feed at 12 months.  You do not need to continue, an 18 month old is perfectly capable of using a spoon/fork (pre-load it if necessary) or using fingers to self feed.  Your 18 month old could well be more up for this than your 3.5yo and could well turn out to be your best role model.  When LO1 sees LO2 self feed and sees your amazement there is a chance she will want to get in on some of that praise - I wouldn't over egg the praise but it's nice to show you are impressed.  "You do it" is a helpful phrase with toddlers.
- build in pre-meal Mummy time.  Do a special activity, say reading a book together all cuddled up on the sofa together before you eat.  Fill the Mummy love cup before meal time.  Build in an after-meal activity (leave the dishes they can wait) which you do all together directly after eating.  It really doesn't matter what it is, a 10 min kids programme on TV cuddled up together again would do but it needs to be all three and with cuddles and snuggles and total attention on the kids, they need and want your attention.  Tell them what's going to happen after the meal so you all look forward to it.
- Expand on who can feed who.  So have a meal where you ask your 18 month old to feed you and your 3.5yo to feed your 18  month old and then you give one mouth full to each child then the 3.5yo feeds you...all giving each other the attention and love of acts of service. This gets them picking up food for one another, then pick up some food and say "who will I feed this time?  Oh, I'm feeding me!" and pop it in your mouth and then it is LO1 or LO2's turn, ask them who will they feed?  I'm not suggesting this for every meal, it would be possibly more time consuming but I think you get the idea and really at this point it is about making meal times enjoyable again as you are now dreading them.
- have some one-off alternate meals, picnic on the living room floor for instance to break away from the usual habit. My DS always loved pulling a blanket out to spread across the floor for indoor picnics. Another example is pudding before mains, it's unlikely they will refuse to self feed when there's a slab of cake in front of them and it just mixes things up a bit. Another is to have some blind taste testing (only use foods they like) take turns to use a blind fold and give them a small piece of something in their hand and they are to guess what it is. Have a dolly tea party and all feed the dolls and yourselves.
- Accept that they will not starve. They are big enough now and they have enough self preservation to eat eventually. If one or two meals are not very big don't stress over it.  25th centile is no problem at all, it is an absolutely normal size (same as my DS)
- Make sure you fully engage with meal times, they need your attention, conversation and perhaps some touching through the meal, perhaps some pre-loading of the fork without them asking or moaning for it but then leave the fork on their plate for self feeding.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful for you.
Don't beat yourself up about this, I am confident you can change it without tears and get back to that lovely enjoyment of meal times together.  I am a big fan of family meals together and clearly you and your LOs once enjoyed these times too, you can get back there! x


Offline sunflower321

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Re: Spoon feeding 3 year old
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2016, 14:51:13 pm »
Thank you so much for both of your replies. I was really expecting a lot of criticism because I know this situation is wrong. By way of some sort of explanation dd1 was born early and weighed 2lb so weight gain continued to be a huge issue for her first year. 18 months really. I don't know  if that's the reason I did it though because I'm doing the same with dd2 and she didn't have any health issues so maybe it's just me! And dd1's weight has been within normal range since about 18 months but I continued to spoon feed.
Katet some great advice there that I will try thanks.
Creations, as always, great advice. I read your reply to my mother and she has decided that you are a child psychologist... you are completely right about the spoon feeding equalling mummy's love. I've known that cos I've watched her watch me jealously as I spoon fed dd2 but I hadn't fully seen it until u pointed it out. I couldn't understand why she was able to do it those times to win her prize but not the majority of the time. But now I see it.
So I am going to try what u have both suggested. I tried nobody being spoon fed  today and it hasn't gone well at all. Both have hardly eaten breakfast or lunch. But both are happy and don't appear in the slightest bit hungry. I won't go on about my struggles with that. I'll just stick with it for both of them.
I love all of both of your ideas so we'll keep trying.
thanks again

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Re: Spoon feeding 3 year old
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2016, 19:26:29 pm »
Well, they have been a long time being fed, they are not likely to change in one day but do stick at the various ideas and things really will move on.
It is a big change for you too - allowing them to grow and accepting that they are getting older and can do things for themselves. Do try your best to feel secure that they are going to need you for the rest of your life, for so so many things, and that giving up spoon feeding is not the end of being needed. Sometimes it is our own feelings which are the hardest and once we get those a bit straighter our LOs are more confident to go ahead with the changes too :)  Every change I ever made with my DS was about getting my own head straight about the change first.

I hope you will update us with how things are going x


Offline Katet

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Re: Spoon feeding 3 year old
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2016, 07:03:18 am »
Sunflower321, we all get into habits for a combination of our own & our children's needs as Creations said it is about getting our head around change, when it is no longer working.

More so though it is working out what the real need is. I'm not a fan of doing things with reward & punishment as it doesn't look at the other factors & also it sends a strong message of "what's in if for me"  as you've found with your DD the "time" you give is more important to her than the reward. So that says a lot. I'd look at maybe saying you will feed a few meals a week to each child so that their needs are met & yet they learn it works in more than one way.

dc1 July 03, dc2 May 05

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Re: Spoon feeding 3 year old
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2016, 19:02:11 pm »
Just stopping by to see how things are - I hope all is well and meal times are calm and happy times :)