Most babies go through a fussy phase in their first year, so how do you keep your cool?
No matter how good an eater your little one is, fussy eating is a stage that most mums have to handle at some point. And while toddlers are renowned for their pickiness, it’s quite common for tots to go through a faddy phase long before their first birthday.
There are many reasons why fussy eating can develop at this age. Often, there’s a physical cause: teething and illness, in particular, can spoil your baby’s appetite for solids, and he may well revert to wanting more milk to compensate. It’s also common for eating to take a backwards step if your baby is making developments in other areas, for example learning to crawl or cruise.
Fussy eating can also be a consequence of your baby’s growing independence. At around nine months, many babies start showing an interest in feeding themselves and will refuse to let anyone else feed them. Rejecting food is also a way for your tot to assert some control over you. If he’s no longer willing to be fed but isn’t very adept at using cutlery, try increasing the amount of finger foods that you give him. Also, provide him with opportunities to try feeding himself with a spoon or fork: yes, it’s messy, but he may be happier to get stuck in by himself.
One golden rule when coping with a fussy eater is not to pander too much to his pickiness. Research shows that babies who are exposed to a wide variety of foods become better eaters in the long run, so keep trying to introduce new tastes alongside old favourites, with lots of praise when he attempts even the smallest amount.
It’s a great idea to eat as a family whenever possible, even if you just sit down with an apple and a cuppa while your baby is eating. By watching you eat, your tot will learn to imitate your mealtime manners, and research suggests that children who eat with their family have healthier diets, too.
Fussy eating can be a difficult stage for parents, but despite appearances, babies are very good at regulating their own food intake and won’t deliberately starve themselves, so try to stay calm. It’s a good idea to keep a food diary over the course of the week to record what your little one eats: chances are that the days when he eats next to nothing are balanced out by days when he eats rather more.
Although it’s worrying when your baby goes on food strike, remember that until 12 months, he’ll get most of his calories and nutrition from milk. You can also top up his food and nutrient intake by offering healthy snacks in between meals, although it’s best not to offer food or big drinks less than an hour before a mealtime to avoid spoiling his appetite. If you’re concerned that your baby is missing out on vital nutrients, you might want to consider giving him a vitamin supplement, but rest assured that with patience, this stage will pass – eventually!
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