There’s a very simple technique to help babies learn to eat. It’s something that I always look for when working with individual families. I can’t tell you how often it’s missed by parents. Let’s just say a lot. So, what’s this super simple tip? Make sure your child has their feet resting on something solid.
Kids eat best when they have something solid to rest their feet on. Take a peek at your child’s feet when they’re sitting in their highchair. Are their feet dangling? You want to fix that. Why? It feels unsettling to have your feet dangling. Have you ever sat at a bar stool that didn’t have a footrest? Did it feel unsettling to have your feet dangling? I bet you’re saying “yes”.
This is something that I’ve looked for since I started my practice in 2008. But I never knew why kids ate best when their feet are supported. Then this summer I attended a workshop and learned why. The reason is that while eating is a priority for our bodies, there are two priorities that supersede eating: 1) breathing; and, 2) staying upright (i.e. not falling on our heads). When your child’s feet aren’t resting on something solid, their bodies are required to focus on not falling over. This takes away from the focus on the task of eating. Babies are learning the complicated skill of eating solid foods. There’s a lot of oral motor co-ordination that’s required, and a completely new skill for babies. As such, they need to pay full attention to the task of eating. By providing a solid footrest, you’re removing a big source of distraction.
Some highchairs are adjustable. These are my favourites. If you haven’t bought a highchair yet, I recommend buying one with an adjustable footrest. Don’t have an adjustable chair? Not to worry, you can create a footrest for your child. Inexpensive footstools (usually used at the bathroom sink) work well. As do a stack of phone books or boxes. If your highchair has a footrest but your child’s legs aren’t long enough yet to reach them, attach something to the footrest so your child can reach. An example is taping paperback books to the footrest. I know that it’s not exactly photo-worthy for a design magazine, but it’ll help your child eat better.
The perfect footrest height is the height where your child’s feet are 90 degrees from their legs. In other words, your child is resting flat-footed.
Remember, check your footrest every couple of months. Kids grow!
Child-Feeding Expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps moms and dads support your picky kids to get good nutrition today…and instill a life-long love of healthy eating.
Find out more at www.KristenYarker.com