From teething to burgeoning independence, here’s why your baby might go through periods of fussiness – and how to cope if she does
As your baby gets older, he may be more comfortable with trying new foods and textures. However, he’s also becoming more independent, and food is one area in which he can assert that newfound independence. As he becomes more confident and self-aware, he may become fussier about what he will and won’t try – and other developmental milestones, like cutting teeth or learning to crawl, can put him off his food too.
At this age, babies need to be able to ‘trust’ the food you are giving them. This means being able to play with, mash and throw the food, so that he gets a good feel for what he’s eating. Go with the flow on this one, and just try to minimise mess with long-sleeved bibs, a waterproof table cloth and splash mat on the floor. If you let him get on with it, some food will end up in his mouth eventually. If it gets all too much to bear, clear up and move onto the next activity. If he’s really hungry, she will soon let you know.
Research has shown that it is important to move your tot on from purees to more mashed foods and then adult textures from one year. This helps to develop your baby’s chewing and swallowing muscles, and there’s evidence to suggest that babies who aren’t introduced to chewy foods early on might be more prone to fussy eating later in life. If you’re stuck with purees, try bulking out the texture bit by tiny bit, starting with favourite flavours and gradually building up the consistency one day at a time. You could also try special toddler finger food snacks such as breadsticks or mini rice cakes as a textured alternative.
Do keep offering vegetables at each meal. Try frozen mini vegetable pieces if you’re fed up with constantly preparing fresh vegetables which are left untouched; ultimately, he’s bound to give in and nibble on a piece of carrot. You can also mix vegetables in with other meals such as by blending them into a pasta sauce or cottage pie. If your little one is particularly resistant to veggies, for your own peace of mind, top up his vitamin levels with plenty of fruit.
Fussiness at this age may be a result of your baby wanting to feed himself, and getting cross with you feeding him. Try giving him a spoon of his own; for every spoonful he tries to feed herself, you could slip in another one. He might also prefer more finger foods such as chip-shaped pieces of chicken, vegetable sticks and chunks of cheese.
Make sure that fussy eating is not being caused by too many snacks or drinks around mealtimes. Ideally drinks (other than breastmilk or formula) should be limited to water to protect baby teeth and avoid spoiling his appetite. Talk to your health visitor if you think you should be reducing the amount of each milk feed, as this can affect how hungry your baby is. Keep a diary of when the main snack times are and this will help you to identify any patterns.
New teeth, tummy bugs, a cold or a change in childcare environment can all lead to phases of fussiness. Think about the occasions when you don’t want to eat; your baby may well be experiencing exactly the same feelings. The key is to keep calm through these dips. Don’t rush him; this will put pressure on him, which can reduce his appetite and come across as fussiness. Try eating as a family, with lots of praise when he does eat. Also, try removing any distractions such as TV or toys.
Always speak to your health visitor or doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s eating. Many health centres offer weaning ‘clinics’ and advice on different meal options. Also chat to your other mummy friends; they’re likely to be the best people to reassure you that fussiness is completely normal.
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