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5 Feeding facts: What should parents know?

little girl, baby and mom exploring vegetables in the kitchen

Key points:

  1. Encourage food play for better acceptance of new foods; let kids feel, see, hear, and smell foods before tasting.
  2. Kids can have shorter, 20-minute meals if they’re distracted, and it’s okay to have 4 or 5 shorter meals per day.
  3. Eating is a learned motor behavior after 6 months of age; establish mealtime routines for better eating habits.
  4. Food categories like breakfast, lunch, or dinner foods are cultural; focus on healthy preferred foods regardless of the time of day.
  5. Sippy cups with sucking motions can cause issues; opt for straw cups, open cups, or non-spill cups to promote better swallowing patterns.

I love sharing my favorite feeding facts! There are so many old wives’ tales about food that are outdated or untrue. The more you know as a parent, the better prepared you will be to help your little one succeed! Some of the facts that I am going to share are part of the SOS Approach to Feeding, developed by Dr. Kay Toomey, PhD. It is important to note that if you believe that your child is having difficulties during mealtime, you should reach out to your pediatrician for suggestions or referrals.

FACT: Kids need to play with their food!

Kids learn best through play! Play is a multisensory and enjoyable experience that will lead to greater acceptance of new foods. It is important for children to feel, see, hear, and smell foods before tasting them. When we introduce food through play, our tiny friends feel safe, confident, and excited! You should continue to expose your child to food during play, even if they are not ready to taste it yet. I love cooking together and pretend play.

FACT: Kids don’t necessarily need to have 3 meals a day!

Kids have smaller stomachs and limited attention spans. These two factors make it challenging to have heavy, long meals. I recommend short meals, ideally 20 minutes long. If your child is distracted and takes well over 20 minutes to complete their meal, then you may need to switch your schedule to 4 or 5 shorter meals per day.


FACT: Eating is complicated!

Eating is not an easy task! It involves coordination of all of the senses, muscles, and organ systems. We often hear that eating is instinctive, however this is only true during the first 6 months of life! After reaching that age, eating becomes a learned motor behavior. This is why it is wonderful to establish a mealtime routine. Children perform at their best when they know what to expect.

FACT: There is no such thing as breakfast, lunch or dinner foods!

This is purely cultural and something picky eaters say; but food is food. Prepare preferred foods that are the most functional for your little one. If your child likes foods that are typically dinner foods, it is okay to make them for breakfast and lunch as well. We want to focus on the healthiest foods that are preferred, instead of the most appropriate for the time of day.

FACT: Not all sippy cups are created equal!

Does your child’s sippy cup require sucking movements similar to the bottle? If this is the case, it is much better to use a straw cup or an open cup instead. Sippy cups cause an immature swallow pattern, dental issues, open mouth breathing, and a forward tongue position that can affect speech sounds. There are many options for straw cups and non-spill cups that mimic a regular open cup (i.e. the 360 cups). You can also introduce a tiny open cup as early as 6-months if your little one is ready. I like to use Dixie cups and plastic shot glasses for introducing open cups because they are the perfect size for little hands.


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