‘My child has no appetite!’- Every Mother’s woe!

In my previous write up I have mentioned how the size of the stomach is the size of the fist, and the importance of eating a fistful. Please go and read that if you haven't before you begin this one - 'Food: How much to eat & What to eat!'

Doctor, my son has absolutely no appetite.I spend hours trying to feed him.The only way he eats, is by engaging him with some toy or tv, or even taking him out for a drive!

Please read the about sentence again,does it resonate somewhere?

First of all you are forcing the child to eat, knowing well that the child is not interested to eat.

Second you are not willing to listen to the child's body when he says 'mom, I am full,I don't want more to eat.'

Third you are teaching him how to eat unconsciously, by making him watch tv or by engaging him .

Food is basically given for energy, although your child is absolutely energetic and running around, you still feel the need to over feed him because you have been told by the elders that you must feed him a certain portion each meal, irrespective of whether he wants it or not. You also feed him forcibly because, someone has told you that your child is very lean,or he is not looking good, or his legs and hands are thin, or the much heard, look at your neighbours child and look at your child!

Suppose, you are on the road, and see all the cars in the same size and shape, would you like it? Different people like different sizes and shapes. Similarly nature has made humans also like that, in different sizes, shapes, heights, colour etc. The problem is when you try to change what nature has given you and try to make your child look like your neighbours child. This is how you mess up their health. You must respect the size and shape nature has given to your child, and find the beauty in that itself!

Traditionally the young mothers are instructed by the elders in the house; the instructions are varied from family to family, but usually they are told to feed the child every 2,3,4, or 5 hours, irrespective of the baby's hunger. Most times it ends up in over feeding the baby, shaking, patting,and the works, to make the baby burp!

Right from the beginning, the new born should be fed only when the child cries, or since the mom is most times with the baby, the mother can look out for the infant becoming restless, which within a few days of observation she will know. Feed the child only when there are signs that he/she is hungry. The child will automatically move away once full, don't try to force the child to drink anymore.Let him cry or come back for a feed when needed. They say that if you let the child cry in hunger, there may be a delayed response, but think of what crying can do to a child. When the child cries, the lungs get exercise and they remain open and clear, the tear ducts which gets blocked in many kids, remain open because of crying, the vocal cords will get their amount of exercise, and tell me one thing, doesn't one feel good after a cry?

`If the child's system gets used to eating when hungry and stop once the stomach has had enough, it would become a part of the child's life;there would be no unnecessary eating or over eating. What can be better than just listening to your own body. What is most important is how active and energetic the child is. The height and weight chart is a big NO NO. Frankly tell me, what do you gain by checking the height except get stressed about it till you child becomes a teenager? There is nothing else you can do about it right?

In my previous article, I had written about unconscious eating which is the biggest danger in life today, and you are teaching him exactly that by engaging him and making him eat. I had also mentioned that food will not get digested unless one enjoys the food because no digestive juice is secreted until you enjoy the smell and taste of food.

Train your kid to eat the right amount of food that is necessary for energy, from when he is an infant; they will grow up to be healthy and active children.

-Dr Manoj Kuriakose