There are very few things in child rearing that can be established as fixed, and the time each child needs to eat is one of them. What we can do is give you certain recommendations about what the estimated time would be for, for example, children in school, but as long as we have factors on the table that we will detail below.
From birth, we must establish a type of diet on demand, and this includes when to eat, how much to eat and the time invested in doing it. Obviously, already from breastfeeding, we can differentiate children who eat faster and others who eat more slowly, just as there are some who eat more than others. If at this time the breast or bottle should not be removed from the baby who takes the longest to eat, it should not be done later either.
With the beginning of the supplementary feeding Things do not change, there are still children who eat faster and others more slowly, some who eat little and others who have a great interest in food. Thus, whether the baby is fed with purees or if it is done following the method of feeding guided by the child, neither the amount nor the time that the child spends eating should not be interfered with. If he continues to want food, we must continue offering it, and if he rejects it, he does not want any more.
When the child is older and self-sufficient to feed himself, even when the plate is crushed - depending on the ability of each one individually and depending on which feeding method has been followed, the age can vary a lot - it is usual for them to settle meal schedules, so the only part of the 'on demand' that remains under your control is how much you decide to eat (how much) and the time it takes to eat it.
If we interfere with it, that is, if we force him to eat more than he needs, we can affect the way in which the child eats both in the present and in the future, potentially creating a risk of obesity and / or overweight. In the same way, if we interfere with time, removing the plate before the child has finished, we are causing him to limit his intake, which is why he may have both energy and micronutrient deficiencies.
How to differentiate, however, what is very fast or very slow from what is presumably normal for a child?
- Until school age (approximately 6 years old), it is completely normal for children to be distracted while eating, and they miss the time to eat without having eaten what they really need. If we are sure that what we put on our child's plate is an appropriate portion -This is another reason why it is completely impossible to establish times for a child to eat, since it not only depends on the age but on the portion and / or the amount that the child plans to eat- we must remind them to eat (from time to time from time to time) and establish a maximum time in which the child can remain at the table, eating.
This time depends a lot on the functioning of each family. In my house, as we take the opportunity to chat and tell each other about the small events of each day, the time at the table is extensive, so even the slowest of my daughters has time to eat whatever she wants; On the other hand, in other families, they may not spend as much time eating and their patience runs out. It is essential that the child knows this limit and, if necessary, that it is shown to him with a watch so that he can understand it. Half an hour might be a suitable compromise.
- If, on the other hand, the child does not last a minute sitting at the table because he has other things on his mind and he wants to go play, we must establish other types of rules. Remind the child that it is time to eat, insist that they have to be seated and, above all, that the moment they get up from the table, the plate is removed, so they should not start playing until they have satiated their appetite. Additionally, it can be established as a rule that you cannot get up from the table until one of the adults has finished his plate, thus we make sure that the child dedicates time to his food.
- When children are older, the rules may be the same, they should not take less than an adult and they should not stay for more than half an hour eating, but most likely they are already able to understand our motives and we can reason with them.
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