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Don't Turn Your Baby into an Emotional Eater

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Guest blogger Jessica Katz: When you have a child, they tell you that your baby will cry if he or she is hungry or wet, so we learn to give our kids a bottle to soothe their screams. My daughter is a year old, and therefore has given up the bottle. So every time she started to cry or whine -- which happened a lot while she was teething -- I used to hand her a snack. She would always stop crying (I think because she couldn't cry while eating).

baby crying
My mom came to visit for the holidays and saw the tactics I was using to stop the tears. She suddenly said, "You cannot feed her every time she whines or cries, or she will become an emotional eater. She will learn that food soothes her." I had never thought that a graham cracker had so much significance.

I realized then that I needed to teach my daughter two things. The first thing I needed to teach her was how to have a healthy relationship with food. Yes, one day she will drown her sorrows in a tub of ice cream (like we all do). But on an everyday basis, she needs to understand that, while food is enjoyable, it must also be a healthy fuel for her body. When I thought Dippin' Dots were a brilliant cure for teething (only once), my husband reminded me that we only have a few years before she will go to school and trade carrot sticks for Twinkies. So we have to influence her as much as we can while we can.

The second thing I needed her to learn was healthy ways to cope with her emotions; that she is allowed to be disappointed and sad. Those are valid emotions, and they don't always have a quick fix. Life is hard, and no snack is going to fix that.

Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than being hungry. Instead of feeling the physical symptom of hunger, an emotion triggers the eating. Having that type of relationship with food can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. And even a baby can start developing bad habits!

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Moopy January 5, 2011, 10:26 AM

I think your Mom is very wise.
Kudos to you for heeding her advice instead of taking offense.

Your husband is right, it’s best to feed her “real/healthy food” as long as you can!

Anonymous January 13, 2011, 6:26 PM

I try to do the same with my 4 year old. I never reward good behavior with food or offer candy/treats when he’s feeling down and sad either. I really believe that will stick with a person if they’re body and minds are used to eating when happy or sad.

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