We have had our fair share of whining and crying at the dinner table over the last few years. While most kids, it seems, tend to cry because they don’t want to eat what’s in front of them, our daughters cry because they want more food or we aren’t feeding them fast enough. It’s a dilemma that had me head-scratching at first, but now I know how to handle it much better. If you have a child who cries because they are just “starving” at mealtimes maybe you can benefit from the tips I will give you below.
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When our first daughter, Sofía, was about 13 months old, it seemed as if every single morning was the same story. She would wake up – sometimes happy, sometimes not – and we would sit her down for breakfast and then “WHHHAAAAAAAA!!” We started getting used to it because it happened so much, but it wasn’t something we ever looked forward to. Now we have a 16 month old, Bella, and she has been doing almost the same thing. It doesn’t happen quite as frequently as it did with Sofía, but it’s frustrating all the same.
In order to quell the crying at breakfast or any other meal, I have to be diligent. I’ve learned through experience some ways that can stop it mid-meal or prevent it from happening altogether. If I forget to do one or a few of these things, well, I just have to suffer through the crying. If my husband is there on a morning when the crying is especially terrible, he can get into a pretty bad mood. Hearing our kids cry can be a really awful way to start out the day!
What to Do When Your Child Cries for Food
Feed Your Child with the Family
If everyone eats at the same time, the baby won’t have to beg for food before or after she eats. Sometimes my girls will wake up while my husband is eating breakfast. If they come out to the kitchen and see him eating, they will most likely both start crying because they want food.
When Bella was much younger, I made the mistake many times of feeding her about an hour before dinner. Then dinner would roll around and she had already eaten so she watched us eat. She would then start getting irate and then cry because I wasn’t feeding her anything.
Let Your Child Feed Himself
Babies and toddlers want to exert their independence, and if you let them do that with their food, they will be much happier. I will often get a spoonful of dinner and give the spoon to Bella so she can put it in her own mouth. It works wonders when she is crying.
If Bella is crying for food and I’m not giving it to her fast enough, I can often put the food in front of her and she’ll stop crying immediately because she starts concentrating on feeding herself.
Schedule Meal and Snack Times
This one may seem counterintuitive. The baby is crying for more food and, yet, you are making her wait until the next meal before she can eat again. I believe that a child can learn to be a little bit hungry in between meals. If she cries for more food only an hour after eating, for example, it’s because she hasn’t learned that hunger is quite alright. If you give in and she eats, she will cry for more food another hour later, and another hour later, etc…
Let Your Child Hold a Spoon
As soon as you give your child the last bite, give him a spoon or something to hold. More than likely, he will no longer cry for the food and will be more interested in the spoon. However, there have been various times when I’ve done this and my daughter would continue to cry. That indicates to me that she is still hungry and I will give her something else to eat.
Distract Her When All the Food Is Gone
If I feel like my child has eaten enough, I will sing or quickly clean her up right after feeding her so she forgets that she wants more. I know that children should decide how much they eat, but when they want to eat more than I have eaten and I’m completely full, I just don’t buy that they need more food!
Put Finger Foods in Front of Him
Finger foods can keep a baby occupied and switch his concentration from the food to actually picking up the food. This is a great technique to try when your baby is first starting to eat finger foods. It might take some time for your baby to pick up each piece of food. This used to calm my girls down right away.
Put Her Back to Sleep
If your child wakes up too early in the morning or from a nap, you may know right away that she needs more sleep. But I’ve noticed in my own daughters that they often wait to show how tired they are until we sit them down at the table to eat. As the meal progresses you might notice your child rubbing her eyes or yawning. In this case, you might want to put her back to sleep but only if it is before her wake up time.
Assume that It Could Be Teething
I’m terrible at guessing if it is teething or hunger. Bella sometimes will cry the entire meal and it won’t be until the end when I think, Oh, maybe she is teething. She gives me mixed signals and I think, okay, she wants more food, but then she cries as soon as I put the spoon in her mouth (probably because she bit it and her gums are super sensitive!). If your child is teething, just realize that he may refuse the food or he may act like he wants the food but then cries the whole time. Hey, Teething: you suck!
Feed Him Faster
I don’t recommend feeding your child faster unless you’ve basically tried most everything. You know your baby better than anyone else, though, so if you know nothing else will work this may have to be it.
My mother-in-law said that my husband’s brother was notorious for needing his food really fast at a young age. She and her husband would sit right by him, each armed with a spoon, and they would take turns giving him bites of food. If there was not a spoon in his mouth for even one second, he would burst out crying. This kind of behavior is something both of my girls went through as babies, but not quite to that extreme. It’s very stressful!
Quit Feeding Her Such Darn Good Food!
I bet you knew this one was coming. If you have a baby who wants more, more, and MORE, you may be dealing with a child who knows what good food is. You’re a great chef, so why wouldn’t your baby want more of that yumminess? 😉 Seriously, though, if you’re giving your baby healthy and delicious food, just deal with the crying. You’ll be grateful later when she becomes a world-renowned chef and owns a dozen restaurants. Ha!
Whatever the reason, hopefully you can help your baby overcome the need to cry at mealtimes. In the case of my daughters, it has gotten much better for Sofía, but we’re still working on Bella. Just be patient and eventually the crying will die down!
What do you do to keep your hungry baby from crying through dinner?