3 09, 2015

Feeding Young Children; 5 Tips that Make Meals Pleasant

September 3rd, 2015|Categories: Feeding Tips, Guest Post|

Feeding Young Children

Thank you to Alisha Grogan, MOT OTR/L and creator of Your Kid’s Table for writing this guest post today. Alisha provides us with some extremely effective tips for feeding young children that will help to eliminate the stress around mealtimes, while encouraging good eating habits. Be sure to explore the rest of her website for valuable tips, meal suggestions, help with picky eating and more!

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Kid’s don’t come with a manual”, which implies parents have to determine the best way to proceed in teaching and disciplining children. While I fully support a parent’s intuition and instincts, there are a few areas parent’s often would like some guidance on, one of which is feeding young children. For some families, feeding their children can be very difficult and stressful if a picky eater or problem feeder is involved. While those situations can be quite difficult, they can be helped a lot by implementing some mealtime guidelines, or even avoided all together if they are put in place with babies and toddlers. No matter what the situation is in your home, these tips will help you and your child enjoy meals and experiment with new or non-preferred foods.


Set up a Schedule

Spacing meals apart is critical to your child being a good eater, I really can’t stress how important it is. In a way that makes sense for your family, you will want to create a schedule that starts with your child eating approximately 30 minutes after waking. Then, 2.5-3 hours later, have your next meal. Depending on your individual circumstances and preferences, this may be snack or lunch. By counting from the start of one meal to the start of the next, continue this same time interval throughout the day until bed. This usually results in three main meals and 1-2 snacks. Allow nothing but water in between these times, serving milk or juice as part of the meal. This will optimize your child’s appetite and create a desire to eat when it is meal time.


Keep the High Chair


I know the big high chairs can be cumbersome in kitchens and the trays are annoying to keep cleaning, but these seats and their ability to confine, ahem, I mean keep your child safe, are the best bet for a while. Babies have learned to associate eating with this chair and toddlers are notoriously distracted. If you try to have them eat at their own little table or at a big table before the age of 2.5, you are most likely going to be in a constant struggle just to keep them sitting at the table and their eating habits will surely suffer. There is nothing wrong with feeding young children in a high chair or booster seat with a strap until they are 3 or beyond. If you never stray from this, they won’t ever know the difference, sitting in a high chair or booster is all they have ever know. Once you let them kneel on a big chair or don’t strap them into the booster, it could be very difficult to return to the original set up.


Once you do move to strap-free eating situation, lay the ground rules quickly about staying seated. If you child insists on getting down, meal time is over for them. Make sure they understand this and follow through.


Avoid Constant Snacking


It has become quite commonplace to feed kids snacks throughout the day. We hand them crackers or cookies in grocery stores, doctors offices, cars, parties, and even church to keep them quiet. It doesn’t always stop there. In the beginning it can be hard to find a schedule for eating that works and leaving food out all the time can seem logical, or meal times become stressful and schedules are abandoned because it seems easier. It may be easier in the short term, but in the long run it will become more difficult to get good eating habits established. When kids are given snacks endlessly, the message sent is that we don’t need to sit and eat together (yes, even if it is just a snack) and that we can eat whenever we want. I think it is important to teach kids to respect meal time so they can develop healthy eating habits for life. Constant snacking totally defeats this, and snacking will likely sabotage the next meal because they don’t have an appetite.


In my day job as an occupational therapist, I see huge changes in a child’s eating when the family moves to structured, spaced out meals. At home, I also see a dramatic difference in my kid’s eating when they have snacked too frequently.


Forget the Toys

No toys, phones, tablets, or computers at the table might seem obvious to some of you, especially parents with babies that aren’t really trying to pull this stunt yet. I assure you there will be a day when your toddler is insistent and will ultimately throw a tantrum just to have the truck or doll at the table with them. In the moment, it is very easy to give in because you are exhausted and don’t have the battle in you. However, this is a battle worth fighting, even though that toy or tablet may be keeping them in their chair it will mostly distract them from actually eating. Sometimes it helps to place the toy in a spot where a child can see it (sometimes that makes it worse!). Either way, once your kiddo knows that you mean business about no toys coming to the table, they will stop trying.


*If your child is receiving feeding therapy, some therapeutic strategies employ the use of toys at meals.


Eat Together


Eat with your kids, often when babies start out on baby food they are on their own schedule and we focus just on feeding them at their own meal time. This should be short lived, if ever a scenario at all. If possible, it is a great habit and benefit to the baby to eat meals together. As they start to eat multiple times a day and begin table foods, try to find a way to have your eating schedules coincide. Serving your kids solo means them missing out on a variety of social interactions, as well as the powerful tool of modeling. Our children want to emulate us, for better or worse, and while we all know that they observe everything that we are doing, we often forget to apply that to eating. They notice that the broccoli is on our plate and what we like to eat. Not to oversimplify, but If your kid never sees you eating the broccoli, they might not eat it either.


Alisha Grogan, MOT OTR/L is the creator of Your Kid’s Table and a mom to three young boys. She is a pediatric occupational therapist that specializes in feeding difficulties such as picky eating/problem feeding and difficulty transitioning to table foods. She works in her Pittsburgh community and offers private consultations via skype, phone, and email to parents both nationally and internationally. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.




11 02, 2015

Constipation with Introducing Solid Foods to Babies

February 11th, 2015|Categories: Feeding Tips, Guest Post|

Constipation with Introducing Solid Foods to Babies

 (*This guest blog post is written by Kristen Yarker, Register Dietician and Child-Feeding Expert.)

Moms and Dads often have questions about bowel movements when they start introducing their baby to solid foods.

The first point to know is that yes, their diapers will get smellier. It’s not a myth. Sorry.

And, it’s not only the smell that will change. It’s normal for the frequency and consistency to change too. Here’s what to expect. What’s considered constipation. And, what you can do about it.

What to Expect

When introducing your baby to solid foods, what you’re putting in one end is changing. So do expect that what comes out the other end to change too.

When a baby is exclusively breastfed or formula fed it’s normal for them to have bowel movements once or several times a day.

Solid foods require more digestion. So it’s normal for babies to have less frequent bowel movements as you introduce solid foods. Once a day and skipping days are both normal.

What is Constipation?

Constipation is when your baby’s stools are crumbly and dry and your baby is experiencing difficulty having a bowel movement.

4 Food-Related Ways to Help Get Things Moving Again

Unfortunately there aren’t guaranteed, gold-standard, food-related ways to get things moving smoothly again.

Here are 4 tips that may work:

1. Look back 48-72 Hours. Did you introduce a new food within the last 48-72 hours? Your baby’s constipation may be a sign of sensitivity to that food. Stop giving that food and see if your baby’s constipation clears up.

2. Iron Supplements. Are you giving your baby iron drops? Or, has your baby increased the amount of iron-fortified baby cereal that they’re eating? If you’re providing drops, speak with your healthcare provider about possibly lowering the dosage. If it’s an increased amount of iron-fortified baby cereal, offer less cereal (or none) and offer other foods instead for a few days to see if things get moving again.

3. Try apples, pears and prunes. These all contain a type of fibre that helps draw water into the stool, bulking it up and moistening it to help with movement. Prunes are quite powerful so I don’t recommend continued use every day. Bulking (fibre) powders aren’t designed for babies and aren’t recommended.

4. Water. Your baby is likely meeting their fluid needs through breastfeeding or formula. But use this time to introduce how to drink water from a lidless cup. It’s a skill they’ll need anyways. And, a bit more water may help get things moving again.

If these don’t work to get things moving again, connect with your healthcare provider. They may recommend some other interventions.

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)



Twitter: @kristenyarker

Pinterest: kristenyarker

16 12, 2014

How to Handle Child Nutrition Critics

December 16th, 2014|Categories: Feeding Tips, Guest Post|

How to Handle Child Nutrition Critics

This article comes to us from guest blogger and child-feeding expert; Kristen Yarker .

In my world of being a child-feeding and nutrition expert, I’m asked questions by parents all day, every day. Trust me, I’ve heard it all! But there’s one question that causes me to have a sad heart. It’s when parents ask me how to handle the parenting and food critics. In other words, how to get others on-board with supporting your picky eater to try new food.


For example, here’s what this Mom in the Baby Sleep 101 community asked:


My in-laws just left and I got “the look” when we didn’t try to force [son’s name] to eat or to sneak food in. My Mother-in-Law just kept saying “there are ways to get food in, sneak it in. You have to sneak it in, or just give him whatever he wants”.


Why does this question cause me so much distress?


One reason is that I know how worrying, frustrating, and guilt-inducing it is when kids are being picky eaters. Having a child refuse to eat the food you make for them strikes a deep nerve. Parents, especially Moms, confess to me that it makes them feel like a failure as a mother. When they reach out to me they’re being incredibly brave. They’re admitting that things aren’t going well. And, they’re seeking help. While they know that I’m an expert, it takes trust to make the changes that I recommend – to change routines and create new family rules. What these parents need is support; not for those who matter most to them to question their decisions. To hear that they aren’t being supported during this difficult time breaks my heart.


The other reason that I’m stressed when people ask me this question is that I don’t have a clear path to improvement. I’m an expert in child-feeding – not extended family relations. What I can do is share with you three strategies that clients have found to be successful:


  1. Family heart-to-heart. Do you have a family where you can openly discuss your feelings? If so, create a time to sit down (without the kids in earshot) to discuss the situation. Acknowledge that the other person’s parenting choices worked for them. But, that you’re choosing this method. And, it would mean a lot to you to receive their support.
  2. Use the Expert. Feel free to blame it on me – I can take it! A number of clients have shared my website, book, and/or weekly emails with their critics to convince them that these methods have value. Sometimes it opens up critics’ minds to know that these techniques come from an expert.
  3. Water off a duck’s back. To paraphrase Danielle LaPort (whose wisdom I enjoy): “Wide open heart. Big f@#king fence.” In other words, not everyone is able to be supportive of you. Whole heartedly love those whom you choose. And keep the others on the far side of the fence. Unfortunately we can’t control others’ behaviour. We need to accept them for who they are. Thank them for their concern for your child (because they’re likely acting out of the best of intentions and love for your child). And then let it go. Yes, this may mean that there is one set of rules when the kids are at grandma’s house and a different set of rules at home. Don’t worry. Kids are smart – they’ll figure it out.



Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)




Twitter: @kristenyarker

Pinterest: kristenyarker


28 07, 2014

Can Certain Foods Keep My Child Awake at Night?

July 28th, 2014|Categories: Feeding Tips, Guest Post|Tags: , , , |

Can Certain Foods Keep My Child Awake at Night?

This article comes to us from guest blogger and child-feeding expert; Kristen Yarker from kristenyarker.com. She provides us with another commonly asked question about food and sleep. You can read Kristen’s previous guest blog articles, “Will Starting Solids Help Your Baby Sleep Better” here and “How to Stop Your Toddler’s Food-Related Stalling Tactics” here and ” Are Snacks at Bedtime a Good Idea?” here.


A parent recently asked Joleen this question. Being a food-related question, she forwarded it on to me:

We gave our 2.5 year old daughter Frosted Mini-Wheats right before bed. She slept worse than usual. Did the snack keep her up at night?

In a nutshell: maybe.

Let me expand.

Mini-Wheats (original) have a fair amount of sugar in them – 10 grams in 21 pieces (that’s 2 ½ teaspoons of sugar). When scientific researchers investigate the effect of sugar on kids, they find no effect on their behaviour. However, many parents do find that giving their kids foods high in sugar is associated with “hyper” behaviour.

I don’t have a way to explain this gap.

What I do know is that each person is unique. Many of us have sensitivities to foods that the scientific community can’t explain. So, it could be that the sugar or something else in the cereal that interrupted this little girl’s sleep. Or, it could have been something completely unrelated.

With this in mind, I recommend being a bit of a scientist yourself with your kids – use your observation skills. If you’re finding that some nights your child goes to bed well and other nights are a struggle, do some record keeping. Take as detailed of notes as possible (yes, actually write it down) about everything that happened that day. Your child’s eating (both what they ate and at what times) is just one aspect of their day. Look for any patterns that arise.

Circling back to this parent’s original question, the cereal isn’t what I would suspect initially as the culprit for their child’s rough night. But I wouldn’t rule it out as a possibility. I’d consider it after ruling out all the other more likely possibilities.


Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)



Twitter: @kristenyarker

Pinterest: kristenyarker

Have you ever found that certain foods effect your child’s ability to either fall asleep or sleep solidly at night? Tell us about it in the comments below!


8 07, 2014

Are Snacks at Bedtime a Good Idea?

July 8th, 2014|Categories: Feeding Tips, Guest Post|

Bedtime Snacks for Toddlers and Preschoolers

This article comes to us from guest blogger and child-feeding expert; Kristen Yarker from kristenyarker.com. She provides us with another commonly asked question about food and sleep. You can see her previous guest blog articles, “Will Starting Solids Help Your Baby Sleep Better” here and “How to Stop Your Toddler’s Food-Related Stalling Tactics” here.


Bedtime snacks for toddlers and preschoolers are one of the most frequent topics that I’m asked about. Here’s what this parent asked:

My toddler/preschooler doesn’t sleep through the night and I think they’re hungry because they don’t eat well during the day. Is giving them a snack right before bed a good idea? If I don’t give it to them, they scream and cry.”

 Making A Decision

Either having or not having bedtime snacks in your family can be the right choice. But, you must make a choice. Often I see families only offering bedtime snacks when their picky eater doesn’t eat well at dinner. This is the ‘wrong choice’. It’s a ‘wrong choice’ because it tends to backfire – for two reasons:

First,  you’re inadvertently rewarding kids for not eating their dinner. Kids quickly figure out that if they don’t eat at dinner (where they usually are presented with more challenging foods), they can get a bedtime snack only a short while later that includes favourite foods.

Second, stalling bedtime. Many kids figure out that their other ‘reasons’ for not going to bed now – e.g. wanting to play, needing to go potty, etc don’t work because you can see through these supposed ‘needs’ and see what they truly are – delay tactics. But, for many parents, the one ‘need’ that they can’t see through is “I’m hungry”. Smart kids figure this out how particularly sensitive this button is to push – and they push it with glee.

Instead of falling for your clever child’s tactics, make a new family rule – choose either:

  1. There is always a bedtime snack
  2. There is never a bedtime snack

 Following Through

If you choose to never have bedtime snacks, kids will quickly learn that if they choose to not eat at dinner, they’ll need to wait until breakfast the next day to eat again.

If you choose that there is always a bedtime snack, make sure that there is at least 1 hour between dinner and bedtime snack. Offer foods from two to four foods groups. What foods groups you choose depends on what your child has eaten the rest of the day. Choose food groups of which your child hasn’t eaten much. For example, if your child ate lots of grain products and dairy/alternatives throughout the day, then choose to provide food from the meat/alternatives group and some fruit or veggies.

This way you are helping your child meet their nutrition needs throughout the day.

Vary The Choices

An important related point when choosing what foods to offer is to include a challenging food from time-to-time. As I mentioned previously, clever kids will catch on if challenging foods are only offered at dinner and favourite foods offered at bedtime snack. And they’ll choose to not eat at dinner, knowing that they’ll have favourite foods soon (the opposite behavior from what you want).

One last point – be sure to brush teeth after bedtime snack.


Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD

Child-Feeding Expert

Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)



Do you feed your toddler  or preschooler a snack at bedtime? Share your experience in the comments below!