Families often have difficulty sitting down to eat together. When infants first begin eating solid meals, they may resist trying new foods, be picky eaters, or even have temper tantrums.
Temper tantrums at meals are expected, and many parents experience them. Keeping your baby fed can be challenging while managing tantrums. Thankfully, baby mealtime tantrums can be prevented and managed through several effective strategies.
Understanding the Causes of Mealtime Tantrums in Babies
Mealtime tantrums can be triggered by physical discomfort, hunger, frustration, and emotional distress.
Physical discomfort is a common cause of mealtime tantrums in babies. Eating can be uncomfortable or painful when your baby is teething or experiencing digestive discomfort. To help your baby feel more comfortable during mealtimes, it’s essential to address the underlying issue.
Hunger: A well-fed baby will be less likely to have tantrums before mealtime. You can also help keep your baby’s hunger in check by providing healthy snacks throughout the day.
Frustration: Babies may become frustrated if they cannot feed themselves, if the food is not appealing, or if they cannot explore their food safely and supervised. Provide a safe, supportive environment for your baby to explore their food and a variety of healthy and appealing foods to prevent frustration.
Emotional Distress: Baby tantrums at mealtimes can also be caused by emotional distress. A baby may feel anxious or overwhelmed, making feeding more difficult. Practicing responsive feeding can reduce emotional distress and prevent mealtime tantrums.
Tips to Prevent Mealtime Tantrums in Babies
Create a Routine and Schedule for Meals
Babies thrive on predictability and regularity; creating a mealtime schedule can help them feel safer and in charge.
Begin by establishing regular schedules for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This will help your baby learn when to expect food, making them less likely to be hungry and cranky outside of mealtimes. To maintain consistency, stick to the same meal times daily, even on weekends and holidays.
Offer a Variety of Healthy and Appealing Foods
Babies, like adults, can become bored with the same food after a while. Providing various options will help keep them interested and involved in their meals.
When selecting foods for your infant, try various dietary groups, such as fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains. Smooth purees, soft finger meals, and crunchy nibbles provide a diversity of textures and flavors.
Avoid Distractions During Meals
Babies are often distracted, making them lose interest in feeding and frustrating parents. Turn off the TV and put away phones and iPads to eliminate distractions during mealtime. Screen distractions might make babies lose interest in eating.
Meals should be quiet and peaceful. Avoid abrupt noises or motions that may surprise your infant and distract them from eating. Try eating at the kitchen table or high chair to help your infant associate mealtime with a place.
Encourage Self-Feeding and Independence
As they grow, newborns become more curious and independent. They may wish to feed themselves at meals.
Start with finger meals to encourage self-feeding and independence. Start with soft foods like cooked veggies or fruit. Your baby can practice using little spoons and forks.
Prepare for some messes while encouraging self-feeding. Your infant may smear food on their face or clothes or spill food on the floor. This is a normal part of the learning process; using a bib or covering the floor with a mat can help clean up.
Provide a Calm and Positive Mealtime Environment
Babies are sensitive to their surroundings, and a tense or anxious environment during mealtimes can cause anxiety and frustration.
Begin by establishing and adhering to a schedule to make mealtimes peaceful and pleasant. This will help your infant anticipate mealtime and feel more at ease. Additionally, you can play soft music or recite a lullaby to create a soothing environment.
Practice Responsive Feeding
Pay attention to your baby’s cues and respond appropriately to their needs during mealtimes. It can reduce mealtime tantrums by helping your baby feel more in control and comfortable during feeding.
Observe your baby’s cues to practice responsive feeding. The cues include hunger and fullness, as well as food interest. For example, your baby may not be interested in some foods if they turn away from them.
Strategies to Handle Mealtime Tantrums in Babies
Managing mealtime tantrums in babies can be challenging, but patience is key. When dealing with mealtime tantrums, here are some strategies to keep calm:
- Take Deep Breaths: Mealtime tantrums can make you feel frustrated and overwhelmed. Keep calm and centered by taking deep breaths.
- Stay Positive: Maintain a positive attitude instead of getting upset. Give your kid compliments as often as you can.
- Don’t Take It Personally: Tantrums don’t reflect your parenting. It is a normal part of development to have tantrums.
- Be Patient: Managing mealtime tantrums requires patience. You may need to give your baby extra time and guidance while learning to eat.
- Offer Comfort: Giving your baby comfort and support during mealtime is essential. Create a calm environment with an affectionate touch.
- Take a Break: If you feel overwhelmed, you may need a break. You can return to the feeding when you feel calmer after putting your baby in a safe place.
- Seek Support: Taking care of mealtime tantrums can be challenging. Consult a professional if you need assistance. Contact your pediatrician, lactation consultant, or dietitian for additional information.
Keep in mind that temper outbursts at mealtime are quite normal and manageable. Staying relaxed, upbeat, and patient during mealtimes with your infant will help you both establish healthy eating routines.
Infant tantrums or meltdowns around mealtime can be difficult and unpleasant, but there are steps you can take to lessen their frequency and severity.
Keep in mind that success with these tips requires patience and persistence. It may take some time for your infant to become accustomed to new patterns and habits. However, with patience and perseverance, you may teach them to look forward to mealtimes.
Consult your physician or a feeding professional if you’re having trouble handling mealtime tantrums. With patience and understanding, your infant can learn to eat well, and you can all enjoy family mealtimes.