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Fussy little eaters

Fussy little eaters

What can you do if your child will only eat one thing, or if they won't eat anything at all? The best advice is to keep your cool. Don't make a big deal out of it if your child is fussy or flatly refuses to eat.

There are two things new parents think about the most: sleep and food. That’s probably because both are such basic needs. When it comes to food, the toughest situation is when a baby flatly refuses to eat. They may not be quite ready for solids, so wait a couple of days or so, perhaps even a week or two, and then try again. Remember to choose a time when your baby is happy to start on solids. This will make it easier for you both.

Picking at food
Children’s appetites vary enormously. There’s no such thing as an ideal portion. Look at your child’s general appetite instead of focusing on each individual meal. You might find they are actually eating quite a lot during the course of the day. The most important thing is to serve varied, balanced meals. If your child seems happy and is growing, everything’s fine.

Wants to eat only one thing

Sometimes children become obsessed with one food and refuse to eat anything else. It could be potatoes, peas, cucumber – you name it. Don’t worry, these fads usually pass. Keep serving what you planned and keep meals varied. Your child will soon discover more favourites.

Flat-out refusal
It’s not unusual for children to periodically refuse to eat. Try not to make a big deal out of it. This is easier said than done, as it’s very stressful and frustrating – we all know how important food is in the short and long term. It’s tempting to use all sorts of tricks like games, bribes and threats to get your child to swallow a mouthful or two. This can easily turn into a circus which you haven’t got the strength or energy to deal with at every mealtime.

Don’t make meal-times a battle
Here's some advice: sit down at the table together and put a small amount of food on your child’s plate. Don’t spend too much energy on coaxing. Mealtimes shouldn't be a battle of wills. Playing it cool usually pays off. Remember – you’ve got hunger on your side.

When your child gets hungry, warm up the food and serve it. Avoid “rewarding” your child with treats like biscuits or sandwiches.

Never force a child to eat

If your child flatly refuses to eat and doesn't even seem hungry at mealtimes, try serving frequent smaller meals instead. Your child’s food clock might simply be different to the rest of the family’s.

Your child's taste is personal – just like yours
Your child might simply not like certain foods. Think about your own food preferences. You probably still don’t eat certain things, while you learned to like other foods as you got older. Your child will go through the same process.

Ask your Well Child nurse for information and advice. The Ministry of Health has a useful book, ‘Eating for Babies and Toddlers’, available online or in print free from www.healthed.govt.nz

Did your child ever refuse to eat? What did you do? Tell us about it here.

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