put a stop to picky eat­ing to­day

Your Baby & Toddler - - Front Page - BY Alex Gaz­zola

Do you have a fussy

baby? A tod­dler who

turns his nose up at

food? A nu­tri­tional

no-sayer of a child?

Don’t worry – it’s

per­fectly nat­u­ral

Ababy who’s fussy with his food needn’t be the cause of as much worry as you might fear. Tod­dlers reg­u­larly turn their noses up at food, and of­ten the rea­son is not some­thing that should overly con­cern you. It could be a gen­uine dis­like for a food, the child may not be hun­gry, he may be teething, or per­haps as­sert­ing his in­de­pen­dence. To re­as­sure you, it is ex­tremely rare for tod­dlers to starve them­selves. While it’s de­press­ing when a meal you’ve care­fully pre­pared is re­fused, with pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance, and by adapt­ing to your baby’s needs and whims, th­ese episodes can be kept to a min­i­mum. The key is not to get stressed or an­gry, and turn mealtimes into a battle zone. Re­mem­ber: oc­ca­sion­ally re­fus­ing food is nor­mal.

A learn­ing curve

Ba­bies may begin to re­ject food at four to six months, dur­ing wean­ing. As you grad­u­ally try to in­tro­duce some solids – in the form of baby rice, veg­etable and fruit purées – into your baby’s diet to com­ple­ment his milk feed, you may find he ini­tially re­jects them. But be pa­tient, and try again the next day. An early re­fusal may be merely put down to the sur­prise of the new sen­sa­tion and taste in his mouth. Wean­ing is a stop-start process, and there may be days when he is will­ing to try purées, and days when he in­sists on the com­fort of your milk. This is nor­mal.

Be­tween six and nine months your baby’s first tooth will prob­a­bly have cut and he will be able to chew. This is a time when you can in­tro­duce him to coarser purées, and foods such as breads, and meats and pulses for pro­teins – foods he will need to chew, which may take a lit­tle get­ting used to. Once he can sup­port him­self, this is the time to in­tro­duce him to eat­ing in a high­chair at the ta­ble with the rest of the fam­ily. He may find this strange, and refuse food at first, but per­se­vere, and even en­cour­age him to feed him­self – in spite of the mess!

From nine months, solid foods will form the ma­jor­ity of your baby’s diet, and he will in­creas­ingly want to feed him­self. From one year his diet can be al­most as var­ied as any other mem­ber of the fam­ily’s, but be­cause of his in­creas­ing sense of in­de­pen­dence, he is more likely to ex­press strong likes and dis­likes, re­ject­ing many foods for just one or two, which can cause parental worry about di­etary bal­ance.

To over­come this, di­eti­cian Dr Frankie Robin­son sug­gests you ex­pose your in­fant to as many dif­fer­ent foods as

It’s the anx­i­ety that the child will want to avoid. If you take a step back he will find his way back to food when he’s hun­gry!

pos­si­ble. “Try dif­fer­ent pro­teins in the form of meat, fish, prop­erly cooked eggs or beans, var­i­ous starchy foods, and of course as many dif­fer­ent fruits and veg­eta­bles as pos­si­ble,” she says. “Grad­u­ally ex­per­i­ment with tastes, colours and tex­tures – the more food ex­pe­ri­ences he has, the more likely it is he’ll find more foods he loves.”

Tod­dlers, food and a grow­ing in­de­pen­dence

There may be psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­sons why your lit­tle one some­times re­fuses food, but again it’s usu­ally noth­ing to worry about. “Food is one of the ar­eas which tod­dlers can reg­u­late and in which they can as­sert their in­de­pen­dence,” says child psy­chother­a­pist Tessa Baradon. “Par­ents shouldn’t view this as a prob­lem, but rather a pos­i­tive nat­u­ral devel­op­ment.”

Prob­lems can arise, how­ever, if you try and push your child into eat­ing when he doesn’t want to. “To a child, food can be­come as­so­ci­ated with pleas­ing you, the mother,” says Tessa. “Some chil­dren think, ‘I have to eat mom’s food in or­der to be loved by her’, and will com­ply with your wishes, but end up feel­ing de­prived of their au­ton­omy. Oth­ers may pre­fer to go hun­gry and refuse to eat. If you then try and bribe or force him, you’re send­ing him the mes­sage that you’re wor­ried about his eat­ing habits, which is in it­self trau­matic for the child.”

To break this cy­cle or pre­vent it from es­tab­lish­ing it­self, with­draw from the con­flict, al­low your child to feed him­self from a wide se­lec­tion of foods. “It’s the anx­i­ety which the child will want to avoid,” says Tessa. “If you take a step back he will find his way back to food when he’s hun­gry!”

Some tod­dlers eat seem­ingly small amounts of food, but may do so more reg­u­larly, so their to­tal daily in­take is ad­e­quate. If your child is a small eater, give him less food than you ex­pect him to eat, so that he ac­tively asks for more food. Press­ing food onto him or giv­ing him a huge amount of food on his plate will only dis­cour­age him. How­ever, if you no­tice that your tot seems to be eat­ing very small amounts of food, or es­pe­cially if he is clearly not grow­ing or is un­der­weight, con­sult your health vis­i­tor, pae­di­a­tri­cian or doc­tor im­me­di­ately. YB

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.