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How to Teach Your Child to Eat Better

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How Children Learn to Eat: A month-by-month guide

Posted on: January 6th, 2020

Most adults believe that eating is “automatic, instinctive and happens no matter what.” However, it is not exactly true that eating is automatic and instinctive for all our lives. Research shows us that EATING is driven primarily by our Appetite Instinct only for the first 4-6 weeks of life. Then, the Primitive Motor Reflexes that we are born with take over as the primary drivers of eating. Unfortunately, those primitive motor reflexes stay in place only for around the first 5 to 6 months of our lives. Then, beginning around 3-4 months of age, our primitive motor reflexes for eating start to be less strong and then “go away” by 5-6 months. After these primitive motor reflexes go away, eating becomes a voluntary learned behavior.

After 5-6 months of age, children have only three options:

1. They learn to eat,

2. They learn to NOT eat, or

3. They learn to only kind-of/sort-of eat.

It is also NOT true that “eating happens no matter what.” Eating is the most complicated behavior we do as human organisms. Eating is the only activity we do as human beings that involves all seven areas of human function. Feeding/Eating is the tip of a complicated “iceberg” of interactions. To eat well, a child/baby needs to have each of the seven areas of human function work well, and each area has to coordinate with each other area.

Click on the age ranges below for more information relevant to each stage of feeding development:


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