Feeding a baby can be a challenge, to say the least. The fact that they're unable to use words to tell you what they need can make matters even more difficult, sometimes causing parents to wonder if they're making mistakes when it comes to feeding their little one. Although feeding a baby is fairly intuitive and routine for most parents, there are a few things you should never do to get a baby to eat, no matter how long it's been since their last meal.
Aside from the fact that "forcing" your baby to eat will be much more difficult than simply waiting to respond to their hunger cues, there can be other dangers involved in force-feeding your baby, like overfeeding, underfeeding, and establishing poor associations with food.
Believe it or not, good eating habits can and should be established during the first year of life. Unfortunately, many parents fail to realize the importance of building a strong food foundation from the get-go. Whether your baby has been a good eater from the start and only recently dealing with difficulties or you've always struggled to establish a consistent routine, knowing what not to do is as helpful as knowing what to do when it comes to feeding your baby.
1. Misinterpret Their Hunger Cues
Learning your baby's hunger cues can be tricky, especially during the newborn phase. Whether you breastfeed your baby or use formula, one article from La Leche League International (LLLI) noted that misreading your baby's hunger cues can lead to overfeeding, not giving them enough milk, or even an over- or undersupply in your own milk.
Although learning to read the cues can be tricky, it's essential for establishing a healthy food-relationship early on with your baby. Belly Belly noted that common hunger cues from newborns include rooting around for the breast, sucking on their fist, fidgeting, and crying.
2. Add Something To Their Formula Or Milk To Make It Taste Better
Worrying that your baby doesn't like the taste of your milk or formula is common. But, according to What to Expect, moms shouldn't resort to adding ingredients to milk like sweeteners, cow's milk, or even water, to change the taste.
Instead, you should determine the root cause of their "feeding strike" and try to resolve it. The Mayo Clinic noted that, many times, babies will refuse to eat because of teething pain, a sickness, thrush, or odd tastes in the milk. If you're nursing, try adjusting your diet to change the taste of your milk. If you're formula feeding and you're sure your baby doesn't like the taste, simply try a new formula brand.
3. Introduce Solids Too Soon
Most babies start to show interest in solid food by 4 to 6 months old. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, starting your baby on solids too soon can upset their stomach, increase the danger of choking, and increase risk for over eating. Even if you know your baby will love it, it's always best to hold off on introducing solids until they're about six months old and are showing signs of readiness.
4. Introducing Common Allergens Too Early
Once your baby is eating solids, it can be tempting to add a wide variety to their meals. But the list of common allergens for babies that is best to avoid, even if you're sure they'll love it. According to Baby Center, avoiding foods with peanuts, honey, diary, shellfish and even strawberries for the first year is usually the best way to prevent a potential allergic reaction.
5. Be Rigid With A Feeding Schedule
It's easy to assume that babies need to eat every two hours on the dot. According to the aforementioned LLLI piece, however, rigid feeding schedules usually do more harm than good when you're trying to get your baby to eat. Just as adults don't have rigid schedules for eating, babies get hungry at varying times, sometimes sooner than expected and sometimes later than expected.
The best method for ensuring your baby gets enough food is to pay attention to their hunger cues and learn to read their fullness cues. It's not always easy, but these skills are essential for parents when it comes to feeding their babies.