A few weeks ago on social media I wrote about my mother loving to feed Raffy the foods he enjoys in excess and I received a HUGE response from those reading my page.
First thing’s first – Grandparents are SO wonderful, and I’m incredibly lucky to have the family that I have, looking after my boy. They also are pretty good when it comes to his food, but my mum just doesn’t have much of a “stop” button when it comes to some of Raffy’s favourite foods.
However after posting, what I realised was that many others actually have extreme problems with their parents and in-laws (will refer to as Grandparents going forward for ease), just not understanding (or respecting) some parent’s ideals and routines around foods. Lots of people said they have grandparents who are horrified that children <1 aren’t allowed chocolate, some said that vegetarian preferences and allergy needs are ignored or disregarded, and others said that Grandparents are just so anxious of offering anything to their little ones that it hinders their ability to look after them at all.
This can make it really tough, especially in a society where, quite often, grandparents can be looking after little ones regularly.
So, what to do?
Obviously I don’t have all the answers to this. Every family, every situation is going to be different and it’s really going to vary depending on current relationships and family dynamics. But I’ve worked in this field long enough to have a few tips up my sleeve AND I also received some FAB feedback from you guys on how you handle tricky grandparent food related situations.
Firstly, you’re definitely not alone. I received an overwhelming response to this post, so it’s something that a lot of people struggle with. But it’s also good to remember that the odd chocolate, sweet, ice cream isn’t going to be detrimental to your little one’s health – it only may become a concern IF it becomes a very regular thing.
Therefore the odd holiday or day trip with Grandma isn’t going to be a problem, and might even help teach kids a little more about “balance” too, but as many Grandparents become more than just a ‘once in a while’ baby sitter, it can get a little tougher for parents!
So, what can help?
- Often the best approach is being very honest and open about your own feeding routine and which foods you feel are and aren’t appropriate for your baby/toddler
- Bring the conversation up early, so it’s not something that is sprung upon them on their first day babysitting.
- Talk to them about “new research” and new methods of feeding baby such as Green Foods First, Baby Led Weaning and explain how lots has changed since they were parents due to their being such a wealth of research in this area.
- Giving clear instructions can help, and can help nervous grandparents to have something to go by, so you could try writing it down/drawing out routines etc – I know this actually helped with my very organised parents in the early days
- Share info that you read online, via my page or via NHS pages about Child Nutrition & current recommendations. It might help them to hear it coming from someone else and not just you. It can also take the pressure off you a bit, so you can say “NHS guidelines say X”, as an example.
- Having print outs or handouts can help too, and I have a whole host of these from www.littlefoodie.org that you can share so that parents can understand the process that you’re going on and a little bit about why early years nutrition really matters. Leaflets that you receive from the GP/HV/Midwife/Nursery can also be handy to pass on too, as a way of explaining why.
- Try sending them off with food you made from home – often this can save you stress and worry, but it can also help them out too. It’s not always practical, but it can work really well for some families. I started doing this with my Mother in Law, but she loved the foods I made, asked for recipes and started making them for them both to share, which was such a win for me. I more of less know when his Nanny has him, he will have salmon, quinoa, spinach and yogurt!
- Sometimes including the foods or suggesting the foods you KNOW your little ones love can help too, as Grandparents are likely to get pleasure out of seeing your little one enjoy their foods. Focusing on the somewhat ‘healthier’ ones they love might be all they need.
- Communication is often the answer in many of the tricky situations, but I know it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Here are some more tips that I received from all my lovely readers on social media too, that might help!
- Share information you read in the press/online/books via group whatsapp conversations so that they can read them in their own time
- Have clear rules about what you do and don’t want baby to have so that it’s easy for Grandparents to understand, without any blurry lines
- Send them recipe ideas and inspiration – engage them in conversations you have about this topic as much as possible so they don’t feel like you’re just “telling” them what to do
- Try tongue-in-cheek jokes, if that works in your family
- Pack a lunch for your little one so that they can see the kinds of food you offer and your little one normally eats
- Invite them for lunch/dinner to showcase what it on offer and how well baby enjoys the “family foods” that you offer
- Talk about language and not encouraging “good” and “bad” rules around foods – so you don’t want them thinking that sweets are a treat because they get them at Granny’s house.
- Ask others to help you explain your reasoning behind the foods you do or don’t offer regularly to your little one, so it’s not just coming from you – esp if you don’t have a great relationship with them too!
- Just go with the flow, knowing that they will have some good meals with you on other days anyways.
- Compromise and work out something in the middle, for example if they are having them regularly, could they only offer them certain foods at certain times, or offer them alongside something else? Could they feedback to you what’s been eaten, so you can adapt what’s given at home etc?
Lastly, just a big shout out to all the parents/in-laws/grandparents out there who are helping out with childcare. I genuinely think EVERY DAY about how lucky I am to have my parents and in-laws and how I’d cope without them!
Let me know if any of these work for you and if you have any tips to add! I’d love to hear them.