We've been fortunate with Some Boy that he eats anything and everything. If it's edible (and even if it's not), it goes in the mouth without complaint. Anything in a sippy cup, on the other hand, is regarded with suspicion and outright disdain. Getting Some Boy off the bottle and introducing the sippy cup has been our biggest food battle yet. As his first birthday is rapidly approaching, I've started getting desperate for a way – any way! – to get him to start accepting the cup and letting go of that bottle.
I found a whole chapter dedicated to this issue in a book I've been reading called Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humo, and a Bottle of Ketchup. Here are a few tips I picked up from that book that have helped me:
Make it easy on them. Remove the valve from sippy cups. While these do prevent messes, they also make it a whole lot harder for babies and toddlers to suck liquid out.
Make it familiar. A lot of parents are tempted to start with water in sippy cups to make the process a little less messy. However, your child craves milk and will be much more likely to drink out of a sippy cup if you put liquids in it that he or she is familiar with and actually wants to drink. Try putting milk in the bottle first – they're much more likely to adapt to a new cup with a familiar liquid.
Try, try again. If your child rejects one sippy cup, try another. And another. And another. We went through no less than four types of sippy cups before finding one that Some Boy could (sort of) make his peace with.
If you're having any sort of food fight with your child – be it over vegetables, sugar, night weaning, whatever…you should check this book out! It has helpful solutions for any eating problem.
The publishers have given me permission to post an excerpt from the new edition of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed With Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup (American Academy of Pediatrics, March 2012) by Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. For more information about Food Fights, please visit www.HealthyChildren.org, the official American Academy of Pediatrics web site for parents.
As ironic as it may sound when you stop to think about it, perhaps the most common way in which parents use food as a reward is to encourage children to eat more and/or “better” foods. You hear it all the time— the old “if you eat your ______ (you fill in the blank), then you can have _____ (again, you fill in the blank)” technique. While your child may eat what you want her to and end up with dessert to show for it, in the long run you are likely to end up getting your just desserts as well.
We recognize that this tried-and-true technique may seem to work well at first, and we’re very aware of the fact that practically everyone does it. But we suggest you proceed with caution because it runs the serious risk of backfiring for several fundamental reasons.
• Things Can Quickly Go From Bad to Worse. From a child’s perspective, if you have to bribe them to eat something, then it can’t possibly be good. If a child is indifferent to squash, making a big deal out of her eating it and bribing her to do so is, in fact, likely to foster a much more active dislike. Studies show that bribing children to eat certain foods causes them to resist eating those foods even more than if they had just been left alone.
• The Tables Can Be Turned. Part of never letting your children see you sweat is not letting them know just how much parental self-worth you have riding on each morsel. Let’s face it—at its core, offering children edible incentives is really a you have riding on each morsel. Let’s face it—at its core, offering children edible incentives is really a way of manipulating them to do what you want. If, however, your child becomes aware of just how invested you are in what she eats—and children are very good at figuring this out—then look out! Kids who are “paid” to eat can become quite skilled at learning to turn it around to their advantage and either eat or refuse to do so as a way to get what they want. Once your child catches on, you may well be the one left with pie on your face.
• Elevating the Status of Forbidden Foods. When you promise your child a scoop of ice cream in return for taking a bite of her dinner, what you perceive as your accomplishment stands to be quite different from what your child takes away from the meal and the deal. Instead of Instead of developing a newfound appreciation for the healthy foods you’ve managed to get her to eat, your child’s sole focus is going to be on the sweets she’s earned in return. In fact, you’ll probably end up elevating the status of whatever goody you’ve offered as a bonus— making it more desirable than ever.
• Learning to Follow Your Lead. If your child isn’t hungry but really wants whatever tantalizing food lies at the end of the meal, she may wind up eating more than she would otherwise. In this instance, all you stand to teach her is to ignore her own internal cues and follow yours. This clearly contradicts the recommendation only to eat for hunger’s sake, since overriding internal (healthy) controls is a key and concerning dynamic on the road to overweight and obesity.