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Fussy Eating- How to help.

Baby crying whilst eating

Having a child who is fussy with their eating can bring so much stress into mealtimes. We know from research that the majority of children will go through a fussy eating stage at some point, so it can be a perfectly normal part of their learning and development.

Babies can either start off fussier and not take to many foods, or they may wean really well onto solid foods and then have a fussier stage later on. Either way the key is not to panic! 

There are a number of reasons your little one may refuse foods- here are some to think through:

  • Are they unwell? It could be that they are teething or coming down with a sickness.
  • Are they filling up on milk and therefore just not hungry at mealtimes?
  • Are mealtimes too exciting and distracting them from eating? This can happen with siblings at the table, if you have the TV on, or when you are eating out of the home.
  • Are they going through a developmental leap? Sometimes when a baby is learning more they can go off eating or reduce the number of foods they will eat.
  • Are they just refusing on a one-off occasion or is this a consistent issue?

If it seems like your baby is being fussy with their eating, remember it is most likely to be a stage and not here to last. There are however, plenty of things you can do to help:

  • The top tip – try not to stress! This is hard to do, but your little one will pick up on your anxiety and react to it. So keep meal times light hearted, and if it helps try to ignore them a little. Too much focus on how they are eating can add more pressure.
  • Routine is important- try to stick to your normal meal timings and structure so they know what to expect.
  • Eat with them, so they can follow your example. Let them see you eating and enjoying the same foods.
  • Keep offering the foods they are not eating- exposure really is key. Put small amounts of some of those foods onto their plate at each meal time. This will encourage your little one to touch, smell, see, and eventually taste the foods. 
  • Let them play with their food. It can go against our instincts to let babies make a mess with food but this is all part of the learning process. Playing with food is a step towards eating the food.
  • Your child is in charge of what they choose to eat. Even when they are small they can make these choices independently, so try not to coax or force feed them. Instead, leave them to try the food and see what happens. It can be that babies just want to feed themselves!
  • Finally, When your little one does try a new food try not to show your excitement. Whilst inside you may be cheering, keep things calm and cool on the outside. This way they will know it’s just a normal part of eating.
Close up of baby with spoon

-Written by For Aisha dietitian Priya Tew. Find out more about Priya here.

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