A baby who eats happily and healthily is every mother’s “dream come true”. Unfortunately, very few babies fulfil this dream. Feeding fussy eaters can be a major challenge. From being obsessed with one flavour and refusing to eat anything else to not eating enough food, your child can give you a pretty hard time with food. It may seem impossible to feed him any healthy food, but the battle can become simpler if you understand the reason for the fuss and work your way around that.
Here are 13 tips that can actually help.
Break the habit
Fussy eating isn’t a problem as much as a bad habit. Each baby may show different signs of fussy behaviour. In many cases, it is the result of not getting enough attention. Babies who feel neglected by their parents may act up during meal times to get some extra attention. One way to deal with this habit is to play with your baby during the day so that he does not seek attention at mealtimes.
Understand the reason
Feeling neglected is not the only reason babies behave fussily. Studies have concluded that there is no pattern or specific cause that can be attributed to fussy eating. Some babies may push away food simply because they do not like the taste. Adapting to tastes they do not like is something that will happen much later in adult life. Others may have a health issue that makes eating a particular item difficult. Identifying the reason behind your baby’s fussy eating habits is the first step towards changing them.
Do not force-feed
Most mothers get worried when their baby isn’t eating well and try to force-feed the infant so that they get the nutrition they need. However, instead of correcting the issue, this could worsen the situation. Do not push food into your baby’s mouth. If your baby pushes the spoon away, stop the feed and play with your child instead. You can try to feed him again a little while later.
Experiment with flavours
When your baby starts eating solid foods, their palate will start developing. It is normal for him/ her to become choosy about what he/she eats. Do not be afraid of trying new flavours. There are many ways you can experiment with flavours and make healthy meals for fussy eaters. Try steaming and pureeing different fruits and vegetables to introduce new flavour profiles. Avoid mixing foods until you are sure your baby is not allergic to them.
Check for infections
Health issues are a common reason why babies may not eat their food. In the case of infants below the age of 12 months, teething is a common issue that causes fussy behaviour. As the baby’s teeth emerge from the gums, eating solid foods can be irritating and painful. If you have a fussy eater baby, check your baby’s mouth and throat for signs of infection. Infections can make your baby feel restless and irritated, thus causing picky behaviour.
Babies take time to adapt to new flavours. When introducing any new food, give your baby time to get used to it before you introduce something else. This is also important from a health perspective. Introducing one new food at a time helps identify potential allergic reactions.
Check your diet
In the first few months, solid foods should be seen as a supplement and not a replacement for breastfeeding. For this reason, solid foods in the first year of a baby’s life are also termed as complementary foods. If your baby is fussing with his food, you should check your diet as well.
You may not realize it but when you are stressed out, the stress is transferred to your baby as well. In most cases, a picky eater baby will grow out of this phase and begin enjoying various foods. So, there is no real need to get too worried. If you can relax during meal times, your baby will relax and be more receptive to food as well.
Do not be too strict
Many mothers turn to ultimatums when their baby does not eat. It is natural to say you can’t get up until you have finished your food. However, this can make your baby even more estranged from food. Be firm with your child but do not be too strict.
Let your baby choose
Like adults, babies do not like things they are forced to have. When your baby is hungry, let him/ her choose between 2-3 foods. A baby who chooses his/her own food is less likely to be fussy than one who is force-fed something.
Eat with your baby
Feeding your baby may seem like a chore and it is tempting to say ‘I’ll eat later after the baby has finished’. However, eating with your baby may encourage him or her to eat too. It also reduces their need for attention.
Create a routine
Leaving your baby with a bowl of food at random times may not be a very effective way to feed your baby. In most cases, your baby will ignore the food and get busy with some other activity. To tackle a fussy eater, try setting a routine for mealtimes. As your baby gets accustomed to the routine, he/she will accept solid foods more.
Portion size control
Your baby has a tiny stomach that is no bigger than his fist. Thus, it is important to recognize that portion sizes will differ for you and your toddler. Fussy eaters often push away food because their stomachs cannot digest so much food at one time. Hence, feed your baby a little at a time and ensure that all your baby’s meals are nutritious.
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