Babies grow up and there comes a time when they are ready to start trying new foods in addition to breast milk. There are babies and children who show an enormous interest in food and in experimenting with new tastes, and there are others who show less interest in solid foods, or directly reject them.
It is important to know that little or no interest in eating (or small amounts) in an infant one year old or older may be related to very specific times in the infant’s growth, such as growth spurts, illnesses, social or emotional situations, and even hunger strikes.
There are also children who normally eat in small quantities and only certain foods, we know them as picky eaters. This form of selective eating is generally considered normal in the developmentally normal behaviour in young children, it usually resolves by school age and does not affect the child’s growth.
We know that this is an issue of great concern to families, so we offer some tips that can help you to manage mealtimes better in a respectful way. We hope you enjoy them:
1. Respect your child’s appetite — or lack of one
If your child is not hungry, don’t force him to eat. Also, don’t force your child to eat certain foods that he or she clearly doesn’t like. This could only create a power struggle over the food. Additionally, your child may associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration or become less sensitive to his own signs of hunger and satiety.
Try to serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him the opportunity to ask for more on his own.
2. Routines can help
Try to serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. If you child chooses not to eat a meal, a regular snack time will offer an opportunity to eat nutritious food.
3. Be patient with new foods
Your child might need time to get used to a new food before he or she takes the first bite. Serve new foods along with your child’s favorite foods. Keep serving your child healthy choices until he or she is familiar with them.
4. Involve your child
While shopping at the grocery store, preparing meals, having a childproof space for the child to be able to touch, cut and play with different foods.
5. Try to create a quiet environment (as much as possible)
Don’t force your child to eat, encourage him/her to taste foods, avoid constant cleaning and negative messages to your child.
6. Prepare a menu that suits for all
Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn’t eat.
Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating.
Make sure there is always something your child likes so he or she can enjoy the mealtime.
7. Minimize distractions
Turn off the TV, cell phones, and other electronics devices during meals to help your child concentrate on eating. Keep in mind that advertising can also encourage your child to desire unhealthy foods.
8. Be a good example
The family is the best example a baby can have, they learn best through actions, not words. On the other hand, a healthy pantry helps to encourage good habits.
9. Don’t use food as a reward
Rewarding food (especially sweet or high-fat food) increases your child’s desire for it. Remember that children often eat what they need, not what we think they should. Encouraging is always better than forcing.
And of course, if you’re concerned that picky eating is compromising your child’s growth and development, consult your child’s doctor.