However easy the child, parents always have concerns of some kind as their baby grows up. Eating’s one thing that’s always on people’s minds.
It starts with the whole breast vs bottle worries – what do you want to do, does breast feeding work, what support is there, what problems do you go through, does the baby get enough milk, do they have too much?
Then weaning hits and it’s the worry about whether to go with pureeing or baby led weaning. We did the latter as I was convinced it was going to be brilliant, I could understand the theory and N took really well to it (plus I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered with pureeing and stocking up the freezer!). It worked really well for us once the OH let us get on with it.
Then there’s the question of how much a child should or does eat. Obviously with obesity always in the news, parents are more aware and potentially more concerned, while there’s the flipside of children being fussy or just not eating much. It seems that if you worry, you always hear something against the way you’re doing it.
If you’ve a fussy eater or light eater you hear ‘they need to eat more’, if they eat lots, you can feel like you’re accused of having a potentially fat child who needs to watch what they eat. Obviously some children will fall into the extremes and need more support, but on the whole, with children able to self-regulate how much they need to fuel themselves, then there shouldn’t be a panic if they’re given well balanced food options and are growing at a steady rate for them.
I’m quite relaxed about N, although we’ve never really had an ongoing fussy stage, so he’s been easy to feed. Yes he has days where he only wants yoghurt and mashed potato (usually if he’s not well and wants comfort food), but the majority of the time he’ll eat pretty much anything put in front of him. He wears standard size clothes for his height, and he looks like a healthy little boy. Obviously he burns off the huge amount he eats each day.
But I know friends who’ve got children who’re perfectly healthy but have had pressure from other people, whether it be health visitors, doctors, family or friends. Receiving suggestions that their child is too skinny or has too high a BMI, and that something needs to be done. All the children are normal size and weight – they either come from families who genetically have passed on tall genes, or come from dainty parents.
Of course before children’s bodies and shapes grow into the right proportions, they might seem a bit off, but these children are toddlers of all sizes. All fit and healthy, and all eating sufficient for what they need to function, play and grow. And I think that’s key for parents to remember – that like adults, all children are different in size and shape, and as long as a healthy balanced diet is offered the child will take and eat what they need.
So I did some research amongst parents of 3 year olds and put together an infographic to show that what your child eats is probably quite normal. It’s likely somewhere along a range, as with most other children’s milestones and development stages.
Do you worry about your children’s appetites? Do they eat differently at home and nursery/school?