Beyond Babies…Promoting Attachment Through Feeding of Older Children

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting calls parents to feed their children with love and respect. With infants, this easily translates into breastfeeding or “bottle nursing.”

But what does this mean once children transition to solid foods? How do parents continue AP as their children grow?

An Act of Love

First, parents need to remember that providing food to their children, no matter the age, is an act of love and a way to strengthen their emotional bond. By feeding them, parents are fulfilling a vital physical need. When children’s needs are met, they feel closer to their parents. This doesn’t change as babies grow into toddlers and toddlers into older children.

More than simply offering food, parents reveal how much they care for their children by offering healthy foods and modeling healthy food selection. This may mean that parents, themselves, have to change their eating habits, which can be difficult. This may also mean disagreements between parents and their children as they grow and are exposed to more models of unhealthy habits, especially as teens when peer influence begins to compete with the parental attachment.

Not Always Easy, But Worth the Work

Feeding with love and respect may seem to be one of the easier Attachment Parenting tools offered by Attachment Parenting International – that is, until the first time a weaned toddler decides to refuse all solid foods offered, except graham crackers, for a week. It’s the first sign of independence in the feeding department, and it can make parents worry about whether their child is getting all the nutrients he needs to thrive.

The advice for these parents, in dealing with challenges in feeding their children, is to explore strategies that are attachment-friendly. Forcing a child to eat a food she doesn’t want to eat doesn’t promote attachment; encouraging her to be a picky eater by not offering a variety of foods is unhealthy. Parents often have to be creative in coming up with AP solutions and may have to try several ideas before finding one or a couple that work.

Be Creative in Problem-Solving

It’s important to remember that one size does not fit all, and what may work for one parent may not work for another. Some parents say to simply not worry about a picky eater, that the child is eating as much as he needs and will eat more if he needs to; others find that if they don’t encourage their child to eat more foods that she consistently refuses to try new foods. Some parents trust their teens to make healthy food choices when they’re with their friends; other parents find that talking to their teens about the potential medical consequences of unhealthy food choices what works best.

No one knows a child, and what strategies will work to encourage healthy eating, better than her parent.

The advice for these parents, in dealing with challenges in feeding their children, is to explore strategies that are attachment-friendly.

One thought on “Beyond Babies…Promoting Attachment Through Feeding of Older Children”

  1. I have tried to follow AP since my son was born. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, positive discipline. Not always succeeded, but always trying. He is 8 now. The one sore point is food. About five years ago, he declared himself disgusted of all – ALL – kinds of fruit. Not juice, not in cakes, not blended with milk, nothing. We always have fruit available, different types, I am a fruit lover myself. But I don’t know what else to do. I have talked about the benefits, I have offered different displays and recipes, talked, talked, talked, and even, unfortunately I have resorted to threatening to cut all the chocolate he loves (which is another issue – I restrict it to 3 pieces a day, plus the chocolate milk that I hate but the grandparents introduced a few years ago). He has just said to me: I don’t like it, why don’t you just accept it? He´s not a junk food eater, we don’t buy crisps, lollypops or this kind of things, but he´s not a salad eater either, and a piece of brocolli per day and a enriched tomato sauce for his pasta is the most I can achieve. This and his daily rice and beans (we live in brazil, and this is our staple) are his life savers. What can i do?

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