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Small dinner guests who refuse food

Just peas or just rice? And then just sausages? What do you do if your child will only eat one thing, or doesn't want to eat anything at all? The best advice is to take it easy, wait and see, or carry on offering little tasters.

The two things that new parents think most about are sleep and food. This is because both of them are such fundamental needs. When it comes to food, the anxiety is frequently caused by the child refusing to eat at all.

The right time for solids
If your child doesn't want to eat solid food, he or she may not be ready for it. Wait a couple of days or more, even a week or two, and then try again. When starting with solids, remember to choose a time of day when your baby is a good mood. That makes things easier for both of you!

Pecking at food
Children's appetites vary widely. There is no exact “perfect portion”. Keep an eye on your child's appetite in general rather than focusing on individual meals. You may notice that they actually eat a lot in the course of a day. The most important thing is to serve varied, balanced meals. If your child seems happy and is growing normally, everything is fine.

My baby only wants to eat cucumber
Sometimes children fixate on a particular food for a while, and refuse to eat anything else. It might be potatoes, peas, cucumber – anything at all. Don't worry. Some theories state that this is your child's way of practising with different kinds of food. Carry on serving the food you planned, and ensure that meals are varied. Your child will soon have more and more favourite dishes.

It's normal to refuse food occasionally
It's not unusual for children to refuse to eat at all sometimes. Try not to make a big thing of this. It's easier said than done, because it can be stressful and frustrating. We all know how important food is, in both the short and the long term. If you are worried, you can always get in touch with your paediatric clinic.

Advice and tips for when your child is refusing food 
It can be tempting to use all the games, rewards and threats in the book, just to get your baby to swallow a mouthful or two. But this can easily turn into a circus that just creates stress for everyone involved. Below are some tips for handling the situation.

 
Sit together at the table, and don't turn it into a battle.
Place small bits of food on your child's plate. Don't put too much energy into persuasion. Mealtimes shouldn't be a competition about who is the most strong willed. As a rule, it's helpful to take things calmly. Remember that you have hunger on your side. Heat the food and serve it when your baby gets hungry. Avoid rewarding them with a biscuit or other unsuitable sweet food.

Never force a child to eat
If your child is refusing to eat altogether, and does not seem hungry at mealtimes, try serving small meals at shorter intervals instead. It may be that your child's internal food clock is out of sync with the rest of the family's.

Your child's sense of taste is just as personal as your own
There may be certain kinds of food that your child just doesn't like. Think about your own food preferences. You probably still don't eat certain things, whereas there are other kinds of food that you've learned to appreciate with age. Your child is going through the same process.

Your child knows when he or she is full
They can decide how much of the food on the plate to eat. It is important for your child to get to know his or her own feelings of hunger and satiety. If we decide they have to eat up even when they are full, they may learn to overeat rather than recognising when they feel full.
 
Keep things calm and polite at the dinner table
Some children need peace and quiet in order to eat; others eat quickly or slowly. Find out what's important to your child. Maybe being allowed to put things on the plate would make things more interesting for your child? Some children feel full when they see a lot of food, so it's a good idea to plate up small portions of say, peas, and let your child pick at the food.

Ask your paediatric nurse for advice.

Read more about children's growth spurts and tips on nutritional advice.

Read more about food for children on the Swedish National Food Agency's website
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