Parents’ Survival Guide To Feeding A Fussy Eater Baby
We’re here to share some tried and true tips on how to survive feeding with a fussy baby!
Almost every parent experiences the struggles of feeding a fussy eater! Having a picky baby or toddler is not unusual, but did you know there is a difference between fussy eating and hesitation around unfamiliar foods? It’s very common for children to be cautious when they’re trying new things!1
It’s your job to make sure you a providing appropriate meals, BUT it is your little one’s responsibility for eating it. There a many reasons why your child might not be hungry, from being overtired or going through growth changes. Whilst it might be hard, trusting in your child to know when they’re hungry is important
Don’t become disheartened by the rejection, as it can take up to 15-20 times of exposing a baby to a new food before they like it.2 You also only need to provide your baby with a very small amount of food to help them accept it.
It’s important to be aware of your role and your little one’s role when getting them to try new foods. Remember one thing: parent provides, child decides.3 As a parent, you take care of the what, the where and the when, whilst your baby decides how much they want to eat (if they want to eat at all!) The most important thing to remember when transitioning to solid foods is to trust your little one. They will eat the amount of food they need to feel full and eventually, they’ll learn to eat (almost) everything you eat.
To help with feeding a fussy eater, here are some useful tips:
- Eat the same foods as your baby and speak about them positively! Positive role modelling can encourage babies to eat more veggies.
- Allowing choice from foods placed in the centre of the table. Offer lots of variety and to be able to play with different flavours, textures and temperatures to expose them to as many different foods as possible.4
- Limiting drinks before meals so tummies have room for food
- Persisting with new foods; instead of pressuring your baby to try a new food, respond to rejection by saying “you’re still learning to like this food; maybe you’ll like it tomorrow”.
- Serve evening meals earlier as tired children struggle to eat well even when they’re hungry.
- Keeping meals simple. The less effort you put in the less your disappointment when its not eaten.
- Be realistic about portion sizes. One serve of veggies for a 7to 12-month-old is just 20g – which is about one tablespoon! So don’t expect your one-year-old to sit down to a plate full of veggies.
- Avoid bribes or attempts to placate with favoured foods! However, you can reward your baby with things that aren’t food based. Once they’ve had a taste of a new food, praising or encouraging them with a non-food reward can help increase their acceptance of a food. Something like a sticker or a trip to the playground can be much more motivating for a baby!
If your little one doesn’t want to eat their meal avoid a fuss and simply take it away – remember it’s their choice to eat or not. No child in a home with a full pantry will ever starve, especially as the next meal or snack is never far away.
- Taylor CM, and Emmett PM. Picky eating in children: causes and consequences. Proc Nutr Soc [Internet]. 2018 Nov 5 [cited 2021 Apr 15]:1-9. doi: 1017/S0029665118002586
- Spill MK, Johns K, Callahan EH, Shapiro MJ, Wong YP, Benjamin-Neelon SE et al. Repeated exposure to food and food acceptability in infants and toddlers: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nut [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2021 Apr 15];109(1):978-89. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy308
- The Ellyn Satter Institute. The Division of Responsibility in Feeding. © Copyright 2019 [cited 2021 Apr 15]. Available from: https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/the-division-of-responsibility-in-feeding/
- Levene IR, Williams A. Fifteen-minute consultation: The healthy child: “My child is a fussy eater!” BMJ [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2021 Apr 15];103(2):71-8. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2016-311787