It is quite normal for a baby to refuse food occasionally. Don’t worry about what your baby eats in a day it is more important to think about what they are eating every week. It is also more important how much breast milk or formula milk they are consuming as this will still be the primary source of nourishment in the early stages.
Below are some suggestions on how to cope with a fussy eater.
- Avoid frequent snacks between meals and ensure that your baby is not
drinking continually throughout the day – both of these can reduce your baby’s appetite for main meals.
- It’s best not to use food as a reward. Your child may start to associate sweets with happy times and vegetables with conflicts at the table. Try to come up with a range on non-food rewards, which your child will like and that are practical for you.
- Keep to regular mealtimes – children need routine.
- Keep portions small – babies cannot eat large amounts of food at a time
- Don’t become anxious if your baby refuses food – just clear away the food calmly and dispose of it. Don’t offer an alternative – just wait until the next meal or snack.
- If a food is refused, try it again a few days later – it may take several attempts before your baby will accept it.
- Make sure there are no distractions, e.g. toys, television.
- Give small portions and praise them even if they only eat a little of it.
- Never force your baby to eat. Just take the food away without comment. Try to stay calm even when it’s very frustrating.
- Children sometimes get hungry and thirsty mixed up. They might act hungry when really they are thirsty and vice versa.
- If you know a child of the same age who is a good eater, invite them around for tea. Another child setting a good example can work well, as long as you don’t talk too much about how good the other child is.
- Ask an adult that your child likes and looks up to, to eat with you. Sometimes a child will eat for someone else without any fuss.
- Children’s tastes change regularly and without notice, so don’t give up on a particular food, reintroduce it again and they might like it.
- Don’t have conversations about what your child likes or dislikes, they are young and will change their minds about a lot of things, so try not to reinforce any dislikes in their mind by talking about it.
It can take up to 10 or even 15 tries before your baby will really start to like a new taste, the things that you would really like your baby to eat are quite often the foods they dislike most. Keep offering them tastes of new foods and eventually they will develop a taste for them. You don’t have to make a fuss or have a battle every time, you just want them to have a taste each time.
For most children this will be a passing phase, so try not to worry unnecessarily. However, if you’re really worried about your child’s eating habits, for example if they are losing weight, talk to your GP or health visitor, or ask to see a registered dietician.