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Feeding tip: wiping a child’s face, and growing empathy. How does the “feeding machine” make you feel?

Posted by on Jan 22, 2013 in Blog Posts | 8 comments

chaplan feeding machine

I was watching a Charlie Chaplan movie this weekend, and saw this clip of a feeding machine (to boost productivity for factory workers so they could eat and not miss work…)

It made me incredibly uncomfortable, so of course, I want to share it with you. With his exaggerated movements and expressions, CC comes off childlike; his eyes open in anticipation of the food, he is distressed when he can’t get away, or keep up with the pace, or when the “blotter” comes out of nowhere and cleans his face. But gamely, he tries to do what he is told.

How do you feel when you watch it? Can you imagine being fed this way? Alas, it reminds me of various video clips I have seen of dysfunctional feeding cases, and even of certain therapy techniques where children are restrained and forced to eat or drink.

feeding tip: Notice how often his mouth is wiped and how it interrupts, surprises and seems to upset him. If you are wiping your baby or young child’s mouth frequently during meals, particularly if s/he is easily distracted or has sensory concerns, pay special attention to this video. Avoiding frequent wiping may help your child stay calm and focused and less stimulated during mealtimes. Feel free to have a warm washcloth for the end of the meal, or to use if your child indicates she prefers to be clean.

What do you think? Does it help you empathize with a child who is fed in a forceful or non-responsive way? Does it help you look at a practice like frequent face cleaning in a new way?

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  1. Amber

    What I used to hate is my family’s “close your eyes,open your mouth, and try a bite you’ll like it!” policy at the dinner table. I usually wound up gagging and choking because some icky food ( in my case pizza, artificially flavored pizza products, or eggs) was put into my mouth when asked “close your eyes,open your mouth, and try a bite you’ll like it!”. Last time my mother tried the “close your eyes,open your mouth, and try a bite you’ll like it!” bit was just two years ago as a joke, and I spit up the “pizza chip” she put in my mouth during a trip to the mall ( and here I’m a grown woman too!).

    • katja

      Awful!! Think about how powerful gagging is related to thoughts and anxiety and memories… If you look at a gruesome photo, or have an intense smell, many will physically gag. I vomited salsa freshman year of college and couldn’t eat it for at least two years, just compeletely lost my appetite for it. I came back to it, but it took YEARS, and I was a rational, eating competent adult… I think we underestimate how long it takes kids to recover from traumatic experiences, gagging and vomiting, and I worry some of the pressure we put on them to get over it slows them down…This is relevant to a popular thread on FB today about kids who have had trauma/gagging/choking around food…

      • Amber

        I’m slowly trying to get myself to eat pizza for years. Last week I had no choice as money is tight right now and a friend had found a pizza at a food bank. Strangely I gulped down two slices without a problem, but I guess when you’re in dire straights you have to eat what is given you. The pizza wasn’t bad actually as it was a health food store brand and did not have any artificial ingredients or the strange smel that usually makes me gag.

        • katja

          Wow, look at what you discovered. You can tolerate, maybe even like someday, the health food store brand. You’ve identified that the “artificial or strange” smell is a huge turnoff. You are learning and on your way! it’s tough when money is tight, because the permission to waste food isn’t as easy. It’s a huge reason why when folks can’t afford enough food, they stay with familiar and filling. You can’t experiment with a kiwi when you can’t afford to throw it away, or you need to get more calories for the money. Satter’s food hierarchy article (google it) is fascinating if you haven’t read it. Be kind and curious with this process… I’m glad you shared!

          • Amber

            When I have had extra money, I have tried new things, like buying dicounted spices at Asian grocery stores. I still have a good amount of curry powder from my good times, and now I use it sparingly to spice up whatever I can afford to eat.

      • kisekileia

        One of the reasons I still avoid oranges or strongly orange-flavoured things (and even other orange foods, in some cases) is that I have a very early memory of my sister eating an orange and promptly puking in her high chair.

        I have PTSD related to food deprivation at a camp. (There wasn’t enough food that my palate could handle and that wouldn’t make me sick.) I still freak out if I’m not able to eat what I need to, when I need to. The concept of the force feeding machine is really upsetting to me.

  2. Nebet

    Here is a link to a working version of the video:

    The clip is very disturbing. Even if the machine weren’t malfunctioning, I would find this kind of treatment distressing. For me particularly, since I have a small mouth and am prone to food and drinks “going down the wrong pipe” if I try to eat too much at one time, this would be awful. I am also a very slow eater, and I fill up after not much food. Having food forced into my mouth in externally-determined portions and at outside-controlled rates would be extremely unpleasant.

    As an aside, it also reminds me of the scene where Donald Duck runs afoul of an automated barber chair, among many other things. My brother and I saw this cartoon when we were very little, and when it came time for my brother to get his first haircut, he was TERRIFIED of the barber chair, heh. Here is the video:

    • katja

      Fundamentally it’s about the lack of control, isn’t it? I know that scene from Donald Duck too… A classic, and yes, also where DD has no control…