By Natalie Peal
Fussy eating is one of the biggest worries amongst my Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook community. When it comes to fussy eating a lot of parents don’t realise that it often stems from your child’s desire for control rather than the food itself.
Babies have very little control over their lives, therefore as soon as they realise they can get a reaction from you or can enjoy their favourite meal by refusing to eat, they will often use this to their advantage.
To anyone going through this phase in their child’s life then I would highly recommend the book Getting the Little Blighters to Eat by Claire Potter, this book helped me to change my perspective on fussy eating. The book is short, easy to digest and provides manageable to steps to help make family mealtimes a lot more enjoyable again. Below I have summarised my top tips for overcoming fussy eating:
It’s recommended we give our children three meals a day, plus two snacks by the time they reach 10-12 months. Before you start to worry that your child has become fussy, take a look at what foods they are consuming at snack time and whether this is having an impact on their hunger levels when you offer their main meal.
Firstly consider how long your child goes between snack time and mealtimes. I recommend at least two hours to ensure your child is hungry enough to eat again.
Also, look at what foods you are offering at snack time, and keep snacks light - some breadsticks with cream cheese or pineapple and cheese chunks are enough. If you are offering a whole muffin and banana at every snack time, chances are your baby will not be hungry enough for their main meal.
Keep Your Emotions Hidden
Fussy eating is a very normal part of development, and often it’s not about food, but about your child’s desire to control an element of their lives. If they know they will get a reaction from you, and their favourite meal by refusing what you offer, then children will often take full advantage of this. Therefore it’s important food refusal isn’t met with negative emotions and is ignored as much as possible, giving the behaviour attention can only make things worse.
My Top Tips for Managing Food Refusal at Mealtimes:
- Offer one food you know your child will eat, and this should help to avoid a full-blown meltdown from the get-go
- Keep emotions at bay, try not to encourage your child to eat, it can be very off-putting and make your child feel very out-of-control
- Don’t talk about food at the dinner table
- If food is refused, don’t comment, simply remove the plate and try again next time
- If your child has not eaten anything, then consider taking the food away without a fuss and offering it again in 30 minutes - this way you have given them every opportunity to eat
- Don’t offer alternatives if food is refused, but you could introduce a separate pre-bed ‘snack time’ to ensure your child does not go to bed hungry - but ensure you are in control of what is offered.
Let Your Child Take Control
A method that has proven very effective for lots of children is to offer food in a buffet-style manner, placing the food in bowls on the table and letting them help themselves. This often gives them enough of the control that they have been craving and results in a much happier and successful mealtime.
I hope these tips prove helpful and that things improve for you swiftly.
Creator of the Baby Led Weaning Recipes app and book Baby Led Weaning Made Easy.