There seem to be stages in a child’s development when they go through a more fussy stage. I often see questions in parenting groups about fussy eaters and having 2 children on my own I’ve been through a few fussy eating stages myself. There does seem to be a pattern.
So why may a child have a stage of fussy eating?
- Teething. If their mouth hurts it fairly likely it will affect their eating. They may want to choose softer foods or want more milk and less solids. My daughter used to go back to only wanting puree for a few days. If you know they are teething, go with it, offer softer, soothing foods. Try soups, yoghurt, rice pudding, soft cereals, porridge fingers, scrambled egg, fruit purees.
- It can be a developmental stage. For some children when they are learning something new it can affect their sleep, their need for cuddles and closeness and/or their eating. It is usually just a stage.
- They may be feeling unwell. Not wanting to eat is often an initial sign for me that my children may be coming down with a bug or are off-colour. Trying to force them to eat can be detrimental. I remember encouraging my daughter to finish her breakfast as we were going out on a long day trip… she vomited 3 times in the car!
- Eating for Attention? For some children they know the link between parents wanting them to eat healthily and getting more attention if they don’t.
- A reaction to something else that is going on. Eating and choosing not to eat is one of the few things that young children have any control over. If they are upset about something or there has been a big change in life they may respond by communicating via their eating.
- Don’t stress out. Be as calm and composed about it as you can be.Your reaction is key. You child will be watching you. Getting upset or cross about their eating will not be helpful. I find it helpful to ask if there is a reason my children don’t want to eat something. Sometime it is a simple reason like it isn’t the right temperature or it has a mark on it. Easily fixed.
- If you are in a calm mood try negotiating that they try a few mouthfuls, but don’t let it get stressful.
- Don’t make another meal. If mine do not eat dinner they can have 1 yoghurt and that is it. If they are hungry they know to eat what I’ve made.
- Be a good role model. I can’t stress this enough. Children are sponges, they watch everything, they repeat everything. If you don’t eat vegetables how can you expect them to?
- This too will pass. If it is a phase then ride it out. If they are ill or tired that will pass. If it goes on for longer than a few weeks start to ask questions. You can always seek the advice of a dietitian. They are the experts.