Many parents can dread mealtimes. Plates thrown on the floor, mouths jammed firmly shut, fussing and carrying on – most homes would have had their fair share of this sort of behaviour so don't stress, it is all just part of the colourful world of raising children!
One way you can help make meal times a bit more manageable is to establish a good routine. This helps your little one learn about healthy boundaries at mealtimes. All kids will test the boundaries at some stage, and just like we adults there are foods they will like and those they won't. Although you might have to dig very deep at times (especially after having laboured over a lovingly cooked meal) try to remain calm at meal times, it will pay off – eventually!
Eating together: Little ones love being part of the action, try to eat together when you can as they love watching you enjoying the same food as them. It's not always possible so don't beat yourself up if you can't, perhaps just set aside some meals on the weekend for family eating time.
Routine: Just by introducing a few key signals helps your baby adjust their thinking to 'hey, it must be dinner time'! Kids love routines so where possible, try to sit in the same place, use familiar bowls, placemats etc. and try to eat at the same time. Also, try to make sure your baby isn't too tired otherwise eating will be the last thing on their mind.
From little things... Offer small servings of familiar food and introduce new foods gradually. Even let your little one watch you prepare it, it is sure to peak their interest.
Patience pays: If, when offering a seemingly harmless piece of broccoli, your baby reacts as if you tried to poison them, keep persisting! Just offer them a small piece at another meal time; it can sometimes take up to 10 or more times for your baby to accept new foods.
Offering other food: This is a tough one – if they don't like what is on the menu do you offer them something else? It is best to not offer alternatives as your little one will clue on to the fact that a better option awaits them. Keep offering them a variety of different nutritious foods at meal times and they will develop their palate at their own pace.
Good habits: Praising your little ones good eating habits - and ignoring the not-so-good ones - will lead your baby to understand reward awaits them for positive behaviour. Whilst sorely tempting for all parents, try not to offer food as a reward as it promotes the idea of some food being better than others.
Enough is enough: Kids are really good at regulating their own appetite if you let them, so no need to coerce them into eating everything they are given. Sometimes they may peck like a bird, other times they may gorge like an army. All you need to worry about is feeding them in the first place and let them be the judge of how much they need.
Snack attack: To help make sure your baby has enough of an appetite at meal times, try to keep snacks small and offer them at set times. It is also a good idea to offer baby’s usual milk after a meal, again so you don't take the edge of their appetite.
Experimentation: Whilst it can be exhausting cleaning up all the mess or watching mashed pumpkin smeared through hair, it is really important for babies to play with their food when they are little. They are just getting a sense for what it is all about. It is a good idea to let them try feeding themselves too, again you will need some wipes on hand but it is a really important milestone for your little bub.