You’ve recently become a mom. The first few months pass by in a whirlwind of sleepless nights, clothes changes, diaper changes, feeding and burping your newborn.
You finally start to feel as if you have things under control. Then your baby hits the 6-months mark and now you have to start feeding her food other than milk.
And your child just won’t eat as much or as easily as you’d hoped. Mealtimes can take anywhere from half an hour to a full hour, and you still feel dissatisfied with the amount she has eaten.
And then you realize how much EASIER it would be to just have your baby watch a cartoon while you feed her. You try it out and mealtime is no longer a power battle between you and your child. She finishes all of her food – within minutes!
Screen time has so many adverse consequences that you realize it’s not the long term, or even short term, solution to feeding your picky eater.
Harms of Screen Time for Children Under Age 2
Excessive screen time for young children can be detrimental for their mental, emotional, and physical development.
This is why the Canadian Pediatric Society completely discourages screen usage for children under age 2. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that even if screens are shown to babies under 18 months, they should be limited to video chatting only.
- Speech delays
- Poor performance on development tests
- Problems with inattention and misbehavior
- Internalizing issues (i.e. more prone to displaying depression and anxiety symptoms)
- Poorer academic performance
- Lesser quality of sleep
- Increase in risk of obesity and heart disease later in life
Children under 5 years of age who have little to zero exposure to screens grow up to become happier and mentally healthier adults, according to W.H.O.
Are you struggling to adjust to your new role as a mom? Feel overwhelmed and lonely?
Don’t suffer alone!
Why Feeding a Child while Showing Them a Screen is Harmful
In addition to the above dangers of excessive screen time, there are some specific reasons why screens should be completely absent while feeding your child.
1. Children aren’t able to fully enjoy the taste of different kinds of food when they’re being distracted by cartoons.
2. It leads to the development of poor eating habits. Your child relies on their brain to signal them to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. If she’s focused on a screen as opposed to what and how much she’s eating, she won’t learn to listen to her natural hunger and satiation signals. This can lead to obesity later in life.
3. It reduces your child’s autonomy. When you first begin to feed your baby, you goal is to ultimately raise a healthy eater who can make mature choices about the selection and quantity of food they consume in a meal. You also generally want your child to grow up to make wise decisions in all spheres of life. When you sit her in front of a screen and proceed to stuff her without paying attention to her cues, it decreases her inherent sense of autonomy and independence.
4. Screen time during meals wastes a great opportunity to bond with your child. There are so many ways you can use mealtimes to deepen the connection between you two. I’ve listed just a few of them in the next section.
Islamic Parenting: Tips to Feed Your Child without a Screen
So how do you manage mealtimes without screens?
I’m sharing what has personally worked for me in feeding my picky daughter below.
1. Tell a story.
You can vary the type of story according to the age of your child. Even toddlers understand language much more than we can comprehend. In the beginning, make funny sounds to capture your baby’s attention. You can make up stories as you go along. When she’s older and understands you better, you can tell her stories of real people, e.g. stories of the companions or prophets.
2. Talk about Allah (swt).
You can use mealtime to talk about Allah (swt) with your child. For example, you can begin by telling her that He is the One who provided her with food, He is the One who nourishes and takes care of her, “mommy and daddy love you a lot but Allah (swt) loves you even more”, etc. Simple concepts about Allah (swt) should be introduced to your children as early on as possible so they grow into strong little believers with hearts full of faith and love for Him.
3. Use mealtimes to teach your child.
There is so much opportunity to teach while eating! You can teach your baby how to count by counting their bites or food pieces. They can learn the names and colors of different types of food. For very young children, you can teach them the names of body parts so they’re distracted long enough for you to feed them easily. Try teaching them colors, shapes, or food names in a different language if they already know them in their mother tongue.
4. Show her a box of novel toys or items.
When my child is being particularly fussy and no amount of talking or storytelling will soothe her, I bring out something she has yet to play with (or isn’t allowed to touch normally) and let her go through it while I supervise and feed her. For example, I’ll hand her my jewelry box, makeup pouch, handbag, etc. Or I’ll bring out a toy she hasn’t played with in a while and that will also keep her engaged long enough for me to feed her.
5. Listen to the Quran.
You can finish listening to the entire Quran with your child if you put on a recording during a specific meal every day. You can fix a time depending on what suits you and your baby. For example, listening to the Quran while feeding her dinner is a good option because by that time of the day, you’re usually too tired to entertain her through storytelling or playing. Quran over breakfast can be a great way to begin the day. Spiritual habits like this are beneficial for both you as a Muslim mom and for your baby too.
How do YOU get your baby to eat? What tip would you add to the list? Comment below to let me know!