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Toddler eating on demand? Is this acceptable or lack of discipline?

(34 Posts)
uwila Tue 15-Mar-05 17:54:54

Okay, I can somewhat understand the concept of breast/bottle feeding an infant on demand. But, I've just realised that my nanny feeds my toddler on demand. I am totally opposed to this philosophy. I think a meal is offered and if she doesn't want it, then okay, but you don't let her have toast when she demands it an hour later.

This thread is a small piece of a much bigger pie. But, I'm really interested to know if parents (or carers) of toddlers let them eat on demand or if you offer them food at mealtime, and then make them go until the next scheduled mealtime before they get any more food.

When I say eat on demand, she gets what she wants when she wants it, but junk food (like cookies and ice cream) are generally off limits.

The problem is if I set past in front of her on the weekend she says "No. Toast!" Nanny goes off to make her toast. I on the other hand believe very strongly that a toddler needs to learn discipline, and she needs to learn that I am not her short order cook.

Incidentally, we have huge problems feeding her on the weekend. And I have only just now realised it's probably because she is expecting me to bring what she demands, and not what I have already prepared.

Okay, okay, you can all see how I feel about it so I have probably biased your responses. But I really would like your opinions before I give nanny a swift kick in the arse, which she is going to get anyway. But, it's so easy to overreact when you are mad about other things.

I'm rambling now... over to the expertise of mumsnet....

Mum2girls Tue 15-Mar-05 17:59:40

I don't feed on demand - with 2, I'd never be out of the kitchen! At home (they go to nursery some days,)they get a choice of breakfast, then a small snack (dried fruit/biscuit) about 2hrs later, then lunch, another small snack mid-afternoon, then tea. If they refuse a meal, they don't get another till the next allotted time.

God I'm a hard woman!!

uwila Tue 15-Mar-05 18:07:26

Thanks, mum2girls. I actually think you are just human.

Will be back on here on a few hours to hopefully read some more responses...

myermay Tue 15-Mar-05 18:17:53

Message withdrawn

Saker Tue 15-Mar-05 18:41:36

I wouldn't feed on demand exactly but try to be a bit flexible. For example if both children are starving at 11.30, I would give them their lunch at 11.30 rather than making them hang on. If they made a fair attempt at eating a meal but weren't particularly hungry then get hungry later I might give fruit or toast or something. I generally apply a rule that if they are not hungry enough for fruit then they are not that hungry. Thing is I'm no angel myself, sometimes get really starving mid-morning etc so I feel it is a bit unfair not to take some account of their feelings. I certainly wouldn't be just giving them whatever they want at any time of day and if they have messed about with a meal would not feed something different 1h later.

Amanda3266 Tue 15-Mar-05 18:54:31

I don't exactly feed on demand. I cook meals and leave a platter of food available to my DS who is just over 2. He's a pretty good eater on the whole - most meals are eaten with relish although he rarely finishes anything. I am trying to give him the message that when you're hungry it's okay to eat and if you're not hungry then stop. Spent too much time as a child being made to sit at the table until I'd finished everything.
Breakfast is usually cereal and toast + fruit
I leave the fruit bowl in reach until lunch which varies from a hot meal to sandwiches. He has milk in the afternoon and the fruit bowl is there and then an evening snack or meal depending on what lunchtime was. He's a pretty good, unfussy eater - the nursery always comment on how well he eats and his unfussiness - then again I could just have a little angel.

RudyDudy Tue 15-Mar-05 19:04:31

Uwila - I sympthasise as we are having a couple of similarish issues atm, though not on the scale of yours but probably only as DS is only looked after by a nanny 1.5 days a week. I offer DS meals at roughly set times though alter them if it is obvious that he is really hungry and needs to eat sooner. Included in this are mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. We have a rule that there are no snacks after 11am and 4pm to ensure that he is hungry enough to eat his meals. The problem that we had for a while was that the box containing his snacks was visible on the worktop so he would go over to it and point and whine. If it wasn't snack time me and DH would distract him with something else but I'm pretty sure that the nanny just gave him stuff. We have now moved the snack box out of sight and put out the snacks for the day and it has stopped.

I understand your frustration, especially if there are other things going on (I haven't read your other threads). I would definitely try and have some ground rules - although with built-in flexibility for your DD being hungry at other times. I think unless you are introducing something new then if they are hungry enough they will eat what is available and if they don't they will pretty quickly get the message. However, if they get toast on demand - well, frankly I think I'd ask for it too

Twiglett Tue 15-Mar-05 19:06:57

I don't feed on demand, if I'm making a meal then DS gets it and DD (10 months) gets most of it too

If he doesn't like it he doesn't eat it and doesn't get an alternative


I will sometimes give him a choice of what I'm about to cook


I would always let him have a piece of fruit or a slice of bread, especially an hour or so after the meal

RudyDudy Tue 15-Mar-05 19:07:54

How old is your toddler Uwila?

uwila Tue 15-Mar-05 19:58:16

She will be 2 next week.

YEs, as Myermay points our, there are a few issues going on right now. For example, I asked her to write down everything DD eats, including quantities and times. She refused on more than one occasion. So, this week, I am coming home a few minutes early to sit down and fill out the form whilst she dictates to me what to write. At the end of the week I am going to tell her how the routine is to change. It is not likely to be well recieved. Last week she point blank refused to give her eggs for breakfast as I have requested on several occasions. Basically, as she has a degree in nutrition she feels she is better qualified to judge than I am. You can gues how I as DD's mother feel about my paid employee overriding my choices.

But, I'm making peace until I give her notice. I am going on maternity leave when I am 39 weeks pregnant (22 May). 4 weeks before that nanny will be given notice (4 weeks is required in the contract), and I will be on maternity leave until mid august when I shall employ a new nanny.

But, before I meet with her on Friday to tell her how the feeding is to change, I just want to make sure that the general consensus on mumsnet is not that I em the evil employer from Hell. I expect she will refuse once again to accommodate my requests. And that will set the grounds for a formal written warning, which will lay the groundwork for her dismissal. Of course, there is a remote possibility that she will change her attitude and do as I say. And, if that happens, I may let her stay. However, I wouldn't hold my breath counting on it.

Basically, she believes she is qualified in nutrition and wants to use her brain in her work. The problem is that isn't the job I hired her to do. It is not now or any time in the future acceptable for her to tell me how it's going to be. She works for me. And so long as she wishes for me to pay her, I expect her to as I say (so long as my instructions falls within her agreed job description of course).

Amanda3266 Tue 15-Mar-05 20:02:02

Oh uwila - if she wants to use her nutrition qualification tell her to find a job as a nutritionist. It's not her role to decide what your DD does or does not eat. Is she telling you that as a Mum your choices are naturally worse than hers? Terrible - she's obviously not fulfilled in her nanny role otherwise you wouldn't have all this. As soon as she's gone the better for you I think. Not long til May though.

RudyDudy Tue 15-Mar-05 20:38:43

Uwila - poor you Not to put too fine a point on it she sounds like a complete nightmare. Of course it is down to you what your child eats and the person you are paying to care for your child should respect that and only say something or do something different if she believes that what you are asking is unethical or harmful for your child. It sounds to me that you are doing all the right things and I'm just sorry to hear you are having to go through this - especially when you are pg! Roll on May

RudyDudy Tue 15-Mar-05 20:40:24

And I know it's not helpful to get picky about details but (as a dietitian in training) I'd be fascinated to know why eggs are deemed not suitable for breakfast.

edam Tue 15-Mar-05 21:21:58

The eggs thing sounds bizarre, what on earth is her reasoning?
I wouldn't ignore ds if he was really hungry between meals - I get hungry between them sometimes too! Equally, I wouldn't want to encourage fussy eating, turning down a nutritious meal only to snack on toast or something less healthy.
You're the boss, and you're the mother so in the end what you say should go, shouldn't it? But is this about some larger power struggle, rather than just about food? Personally, I'd listen to my childcarer's views, because I'd be interested, but then make a decision which I would expect them to follow.
A bachelor's degree doesn't make you an expert, either. I wouldn't take legal advice from a law graduate with no further training (well, I might ask them a question but I'd also ask a fully-qualified solicitor before taking any action).

deegward Tue 15-Mar-05 21:34:06

ooops, as a sahm, I read your message with interest, and realised (stupid emotion) that I have been feeding ds2 on demand, and (another really stupid emotion) that could be why a) he doesn't eat his tea, and b) he is waking through the night for a cup of milk. Will try tomorrow to impose more rigid eating times, although in my defence (but not your nanny's) its hard when they go on and on at you.

uwila Tue 15-Mar-05 22:01:24

The problem is that it is apparently just wrong to start the day with protein. It must be carbohydrates, and for every gram of protein one eats, they must then eat three grams of carbohydrates.... blah blah blah. A bit over the top, and not a view I share. I actually think protein is a very good thing.

Yes, this is largely about a grander power struggle -- which in itself is a problem. As I said, I'm just making peace until I let her go. And, I don't want her to go before I begin maternity leave because a few weeks of emergency childcare in the last weeks of pregnancy is really quite more than I feel like dealing with.

So glad that eveyone agrees with me.

I have to add it's odd because I really liked her until a couple of weeks ago when I suddenly realised she wasn't doing as I thought she was doing. I'm a stickler for schedules. People like Gina Ford are right up my street (within reason -- I do believe there has to be room for adaptation to real life). And, nanny has her own ideas. I don't know. It may just be a consequence of an older nanny. She obviously thinks she knows better.

Oh well... What can I do? Sad but true I'm afraid I must say good-bye.

uwila Tue 15-Mar-05 22:07:43

Deegward, your post made me laugh. I think that a lot of parents will give in at the heat of the moment, but few will actually recommend feeding on demand.

Oh, btw, she does give DD good food. Toast is wholemeal, eggs (in the afternoon) come with spinach, she purees veg and sneaks it into mashed potatoes for lunch. DD is a miserable little cow when it comes to eating. She would quite happily just go without food all day rather than eat what I put in front of her.

So, at the end of the day, DD does get a lot of nutrition. I just can't stand for nanny telling me how it's going to be. And, it worries me more with a new one. Is she going to decide something other than the formula I give her is best? I just can't trust her to be doing what I think she's doing anymore.

soapbox Tue 15-Mar-05 22:29:37

Uwila - I recall reading a study done of school children (was on the BBC website) which looked at 'braininess' and what children ate for breakfast. There was a significant positive effect from eating a protein based breakfast. They suggested scrambled eggs, bacon and eggs, baked beans etc.

I did have doubts about how they measured 'braininess' but was interested that it went against the perceived wisdom that carbs are best first thing in the morning.

The other things I would say though, about feeding times, (your other thread) is that it is supposed to be best to give small and healthy snacks between meals to small children. This keeps their blood sugar stable. If you are still giving milk drinks between meals this would be enough. If not then your DD at 2 probably does need a small piece of fruit or packet of raisins between meals.

I would not feed on demand though - rule in our house is if there is no half-decent attempt to eat main meals then only fruit is offered. If they've polished it all off then they might get something more interesting such as a plain biscuit or yoghurt etc.

I would not under any circumstances allow a nanny to dictate what my children eat!

uwila Tue 15-Mar-05 22:48:49

Interesting, Soapbox. I wonder if the "braininess" is a result of triomega oils, which are found in eggs. This is, incidentally, why I like eggs. I also like Salmon. But I found I spending money on salmon and often saw nanny making it for herself. Don't know if DD was getting it. So I stopped buying it (about a week ago).

justamom Tue 15-Mar-05 23:26:29

i guess i am kinda of ashamed to say that i do feed on "demand"....i really don't know how it happened it just did... i was always the strict parent with my first, and with ds,well ...i'm a push-over.... sometimes i can kick myself in the behind but i mean really what is the harm as long as it isn't junk food then who cares...he is 21 months and generally is a good child..except when he is hungry and can't say what he wants and gets ...i guess i figure i will never be able to be this important to him again, the older they get the less they need you so ...well you get the picture..i'm a lose cause..

uwila Wed 16-Mar-05 09:51:11

Aw, justamom. That was very gloomy. There will be many more things he needs you for... it's not just food.

If you are happy to feed on demand and feel his getting the nutrition he needs, then that is fine because that is your choice. This problem is more about nanny's defiance and am I asking her to do something unreasonable. I think I am not.

Soapbox, any chance you could dig up the bbc article for me? I tried to google it and couldn't find it.

KarenThirl Wed 16-Mar-05 09:58:00

I always stuck to mealtimes with ds when he was a toddler, but as others have said, with flexibility. I began by offering health snacks between meals but soon found that it would often mean he wasn't hungry enough by mealtimes. Meals were sometimes brought forwards if he was too hungry to wait. As he got older we were less prepared to give him a snack if he hadn't eaten his meal and he had to wait till food was put out for him again. Mind you, J's never been much interested in food and it's been a struggle to get him to eat anything, tbh. But at least we do it to a timetable!

skerriesmum Wed 16-Mar-05 10:00:34

I don't give more food or give on demand but there are times when ds wants his lunch or a snack a bit earlier than I was planning to give it; if he's going to the cupboard pulling out cereal etc. I'll say "lunch?" and he'll say "OK!"

handlemecarefully Wed 16-Mar-05 10:14:37


A succinct post - I agree with you.

My dd would eat marmite on toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I let her.

Caligula Wed 16-Mar-05 10:31:27

As they've got older, I'm much more structured in mealtimes. I'm much more likely to give DD (nearly 3) a snack between meals than DS (because I think she's still too young to understand that if you don't eat lunch, the next time you will have food is at dinner, whereas he can understand that), but I will give snacks of fruit if they are genuinely hungry. Very small children need little and often, but obviously as they get older they can go for longer periods without food. And being a cook on demand is no fun - if I wanted to do that, I'd go and get a job in Jamie Oliver's restaurant!

It does sound like you need to get rid of her Uwila - someone who just goes their own sweet way in spite of your views, when their job is to fit in to your family, is just not someone you can work with, imo.

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