Is Your Toddler Eating Enough?
Raising a child is perhaps the hardest, most rewarding job a person can undertake. The experience typically covers the gamut of emotions, from frustrating to funny to heartwarming to heartbreaking to downright terrifying to gratifying, but it's all worthwhile.
Virtually every new parent worries almost nonstop about doing the "right" thing and whether their child is developing normally or becoming ill. One common concern parents often share is worrying if their toddler is eating enough. Here are three tips to help you assess how you are feeding your child.
Serve Small Portions
Toddlers typically have small appetites because they aren't growing quite as fast as they were during infancy. They also have small stomachs. Parents often have their own food struggles. For example, many people struggle with not knowing what a proper serving size is and eating too much. The correct serving size for a toddler is only approximately 1-2 tablespoons of each item being served.
Don't Create a Power Struggle
Many adults have unfortunate childhood memories of being forced to sit at the dinner table until they finished their plate. Experiences like these can give birth to food issues. While you don't want your child to engage in wanton wastefulness, he or she should also have both the opportunity and autonomy to learn and decide when they are full.
Toddlers are at an age where they are recognizing they are their own little person, not an extension of their parents. As such, they can sometimes be quite obnoxious about asserting their independence. Food is not a battleground you want to engage in, however. This will only set the stage for unnecessary struggles and potentially, future food hang-ups. Don't force your child to eat when they don't want to. Instead, take away the plate and save it for another time.
Offer an Assortment of Food
Toddlers can be picky but that doesn't mean they necessarily are. New parents often make the mistake of thinking their toddler should only be offered certain foods or assuming their child won't like something. This is how most children become picky. After all, toddlers in other countries aren't being fed chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.
Your child needs to be exposed to a wide variety of foods at an early age. Yes, some children can have sensory issues, but these are the minority, not the majority. If the rest of the family is having pork chops, sauerkraut, and applesauce, the toddler should be offered the same thing. Parents do their children a disservice by not exposing them to all kinds of foods and cuisines. Don't be afraid to let them try whatever you're eating. This can help avoid an extremely picky child in the future, which can be incredibly stressful.
If you are still concerned your toddler isn't eating enough or choosing enough variety, call a family medicine practice and schedule an appointment with your physician. The doctor can measure your child and see where they fall on the percentile scale. Most likely, your child is just in a growth slump and before you know it, they will move into their next growth spurt.