I've been having a really hard time figuring out how to deal with Donovan's eating schedule. How often shoukd he snack? How long is a reasonable amount of time for him to sit and eat, and how much is a reasonable ampount to eat in one sitting? How much of a "schedule" should there be and how strictly to stick to it, vs just feeding him when he says he's hungry?
Here's how it's been going lately: meals are fairly "set" and consistent. He eats breakfast shortly after waking up, sometime between 6:30 and 7am whenever he seems to ask for food. Lunch is then around 12noon, and then dinner around 6pm. Meals tend to go fairly ok. It's the snacks inbetween that I'm having more trouble with.
Sometimes it goes fine, and he'll ask for 1-2 snacks between each meal and it works out. But then he goes through phases, like he is now, where he will ask for a snack, sit down to eat a couple bites, decide he's done, and then 20-30 minutes later ask for a snack again (I get the feel he gets distracted away from eating, and then keeps realizing that he's actually still hungry). I think this has been paertially prompted by being able to climb up onto his high chair on his own now, so he can just get up there when he decides he wants food. To be honest, this cycle on endless micro-eating drives me batty. And this is where I get caught, because I want him to listen to his own hunger cues and know when he wants to eat and when he is full, but I also don't want to have to cater to this fickle eating. It makes me tired and frustrated and also makes me tend to give him more boring snacks because I don't feel at all like being creative with snack ideas or putting much effort into preparing something that will just get rejected after 2 bites. And then there's the added complication that he's still hovering between 10-15% for weight for his age, and while I'm not that worried about it I also don't want to be denying him calories. So should I put in place a "snack schedule" and just ignore his own hunger cues, encouraging him to "eat while he has a chance" and refusing to give him more inbetween? Or set aside a "minimum time limit" between snacks? Or maybe just set out a bowl of cheerios that he can go to if he decides he wants to eat at a random time? What do you do?
There's also the issue of how much he eats, and of what. I realize that toddler appetites are incredibly fickle and so at times he just won't be hungry. But what do I do about times like tonight, when he didn't eat anything at dinner (6pm) but then after his bath and right before going to bed (7pm) he saw a container of puffs and really wanted them? Or when I set out a plate of food and he rejects it, but signs "more" to show he wants something else? I realize I may be powerless over whether he develops into a super-picky child, but at least for now I really really don't want to get into the habit of giving in to getting him alternate foods when what he's been offered isn't what he wants. I really don't want to end up having to have separate meals for Mom and Dad, and The Kids. I try to offer him at least 2 if not 3 (up to 4 for a meal) types of food at a time, and most of it stuff I know he likies or has liked in the past, so it's not like I'm trying to force him to eat something he doesn't like. At the same time, I also don't want to deny him food or calories.
I hope all of that made sense, and I would love to hear advice or just how you handle some of these things with your kids. Thank you!