The Wiggles: My Secret Weapon In Getting My Toddler To Eat!by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
My babies are already watching TV and they're only 16 months old.
I’d love to tell you it’s just a little Baby Einstein now and again but they are already hardcore watchers with an unfortunate affinity for The Wiggles.
During every mealtime, you will find my babies strapped into their booster seats in front of the TV vacillating between laughing and giggling like little impish maniacs to straight zoning out while eating their breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I’ve publicly admitted my tendency to allow my preschool daughter to watch TV without making a big deal out of exactly how many minutes she logs. A lot of times she, like her mama, will have it on as background noise while she colors, runs around the house or tells me stories about who got in trouble for using a “bathroom word” in the classroom.
I just didn’t think my twins would be into it so early. But here’s something really crazy: the television during meals is actually a form of therapy. And no, not just for me.
As you might know from past posts, we’ve tried every trick in the book to get Sadie - our miniature twin - to eat like a normal baby. And by normal baby, I mean at least take more than one bite of food in any given meal. It's been such a struggle for us, from the moment we took her home from the NICU. She even has a gastric feeding tube or "button," to help her get extra nutrition, mostly overnight. But despite the g-tube, she hasn't gained an exceptional amount of weight.
It's so funny, when I wrote Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay, I distinctly remember advising parents not to worry so much about what their kids eat or don’t eat. At that time, I had a kid with no food issues so I didn't have any experience dealing with one who literally doesn’t eat. Let this be my mea culpa: I didn’t know. I didn’t understand that my advice would not work for all parents. And we are definitely not the only exceptions. And so, I’ve worried about what Sadie eats and doesn’t eat enough for an entire worry army. I’ve earned a Silver Star in worry.
Sometimes the parenting “rule book” has to be thrown out completely in order to be the best you can be. I don’t know if there are any hard and fast rules about parenting, however I'm pretty sure that plopping kids in front of the TV for every meal is frowned upon in most circles. But in our family it’s exactly what we need. And if we’re ever going to get rid of the button, the kid’s gotta eat - which brings me to the over-consumption of Wiggles in our living room.
First we tried encouraging Sadie to eat by sitting with her and cheering her on for every bite. When that left her annoyed, we moved on to letting her be and just eating what she wanted and quickly removing her tray when she tried to push it away. Fine by her. Not so much for me.
We’d been going along like this for awhile until one day early last week. The TV was on and I started feeding Sadie from a plate of food while she was in zone mode. She ate more than I’d ever seen her eat, apparently because she wasn’t thinking about it. Yes! Exactly the same reason why if you’re overweight, you are not supposed to eat mindlessly - just ask my thighs. But you and I are not sixteen pound, sixteen-month-olds!
I excitedly told Sadie’s occupational therapist the news the next time she came over and she tried it herself. It worked again. We were instructed to try it consistently, and by consistently, every meal, every day for at least a week to see if it makes a difference. Of course her sister gets in on the fun because they eat every meal together (another form of therapy…eating is social!).
The good news is it’s working! Sadie’s never eaten more food than she has in the past week. She’s stuffing her face with mac & cheese, shredded cheese, ravioli stuffed with cheese…pretty much anything in the cheese family, but yesterday she even allowed some broccoli!
The bad news is I can sing the freaking Wiggles’ theme song in my sleep and have had more than one dream about Captain Feathersword. Let’s never speak of that again, okay? So yeah, it’s unconventional, but I'm not sure I care. All I know is that the Wiggles have been a long sought-after remedy for a seemingly unwinnable situation. And for that, I’m grateful. At least this week.