Force-feeding babies: an archaic and dangerous practice

in Motherhoodlast year (edited)

Getting some infants and toddlers to eat is a big task for their parents. My first child is going to be 4 years of age later this year and getting him to eat has never been an issue even for just a day. My second child, however, is a complete contrast. He is a year and a month old but getting him to eat normal food (apart from breastfeeding) is always a major task.

He was exclusively breastfed for 6 months and other foods have been introduced gradually since then. It is not that he does not eat other foods at all, but give him a spoon of cereal in the north and you will have to pursue and coerce him to take another spoon in the south.

This whole episode of having to spend hours trying to get him to eat has really frustrated the mother and this made her mention the words "force feed" for the first time since we have been together.

Forceful feeding is a practice whereby babies are forced to eat against their wills. This is often achieved by a variety of methods. One way is to seize the two hands of the baby while sitting on the lap of the mother or caregiver, the cereal (pap, usually) is then forced down the throat of the child by gradually pouring it into their mouth and then closing the two nostrils of the baby.

As the baby tries to gasp for air by opening the mouth for normal gaseous exchange, some quantity of the cereal trickle down the throat as well. The cycle is repeated until all the cereal is forced down the throat of the baby. In another method, the baby is placed sideways on the lap of the person that wants to do the force-feeding in a horizontal position with their two arms restricted.

The person doing the feeding then uses the fingers in one of their hands to block the nostrils of the baby while simultaneously using the side of the palm to form a trough at the mouth of the baby. The cereal is then gradually poured into the trough which directly connects to the mouth of the baby. As the baby tries to gasp for air through the mouth, some of the cereal is channeled into their mouth and down to their throat. This process continues until all the required quantity of cereal has been downed by the baby.

In several instances, the food gets successfully lodged into the stomach of babies while in some cases, babies end up throwing up most of the downed food - back to square one. Of course, there are other methods of force-feeding babies, just that the two methods described above are those that take the practice to the extreme.

source: pxhere

The practice of forceful feeding described above used to be very common around here while growing up because, back then, only a few people had formal education. In actual fact, I got to know that I and my siblings are victims of these practices. However, as time went by and modernization started getting to the nooks and crannies of the country, the practice started waning bits by bits. Today, the practice is limited to a very few unlearned (not necessarily uneducated) folks within the society.

Force-feeding babies is considered to be generally bad and some of the downsides have been reported to include vomiting (which I have mentioned earlier), eating disorders, aversion for foods, aversion for feeders, among many others. In addition to these, the methods described above also posses a major risk to the health of babies.

Because the methods require that the gaseous exchange pathway is restricted, there is a higher tendency for the food that is being forced into the throat to clog the space left in the airway resulting in choking and suffocation. In actual fact, many babies have been anecdotally reported to have been lost to these force-feeding methods. Apart from that, force-feeding as described above may make babies end up with fragments of food in their lungs, causing major health issues such as pneumonia.

Anyone that has witnessed babies being force-fed using these methods will agree with me that it is barbaric because the babies' pains and struggles to breathe are always obvious to the eyes.

Thus, when my wife mentioned the words, even though I knew she was merely joking, my response was very firm and direct. Never in my lifetime would I sit and watch any of my kids being force-fed. We will continue to be patient with the baby until he is ready to start eating normally.

Thank you all for reading.


The pattern followed by your children is very similar to that followed by mine. The first one eats everything, is happy to try out new food and new tastes, etc. On the contrary, the second one is a disaster. He is now six, and it is a pain to get him even trying a lot of things (like simple vegetables).

We have however never forced him to eat anything. I didn’t even know this was a thing today. As you said, it sounds barbarian. For what concerns my youngster, we usually ask him to try three times something he does not like (to be sure he does not like it), we insist (sometimes quite heavily) and we are very patient. So far, it worked well enough. He is not eating a lot what he does not like, but with patience he ends up trying despite of being not happy with certain types of food.

That's a really good approach. In our own case, the fact that there's still an option of being breastfed seems to make him lazy to try out other stuff. So, for now, we are just taking it easy with him until he's properly weaned.

Ah yeah this is the un-easy transition for some kids. Then we have to check out how this will evolve. Good luck with this period of your kid's life :)

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