Quite frequently we see parenting articles , mom bloggers and other well wishing sources thronging the internet with innumerable suggestions about how to feed a ‘fussy eater’. We see so many queries on mom groups , asking for solutions for the same . While I know it’s not easy to feed a child , specially the one who refuses to open his mouth when we offer something but this label disturbs me to the core.
I am a mother of two toddlers who though don’t represent the whole cohort of kids but definitely are different enough for me to understand that no two children will eat the same way and yet it is not a cause of excessive worry.
Here are a few aspects behind why a child gets labelled as a ‘fussy eater’.
They are already partially full with their previous meal or milk feed .
If a child says no to the food , maybe they just haven’t developed hunger yet . Since there is no way we can assess this , accepting a child’s refusal is the only way . I know it is highly irritating when you make fresh food and the child rejects , but please don’t take it personally .
They have had enough mouthfuls for the meal .
Feeding that one extra morsel of food to your child when he clearly denies to accept it , it is one habit atleast Indian mothers need to get rid of . Will you like if someone force fed you after you were done with your meal. Respect their choice. A no means no. Finishing the meal should not be the goal.
Maybe , your child is not a foodie.
Different types of adults most obviously stem from different types of children . Since not all adults are foodies and live to eat , similarly not all kids will be enthusiastic about food. But they will eat when hungry , they will eat for their requirement because that’s a healthy body ‘s natural mechanism to incite hunger when needed. Only a serious illness will suppress an appetite and in that case you need to visit a doctor and screen for medical issues.
Maybe , the particular meal is not to their liking.
Though it does offend me when I spend hours baking an amazing dish for my toddlers and when I try to feed them , they outright deny and maybe even puke the only bite they take in. Not all you cook will be to your child’s taste and it will take sometime for you to understand that . But the key here is to keep giving them variety despite rejections as your child needs to get acquainted to various flavours to even decide his preferred ones.
Teething ! The monster we all dread.
We all know teething can make a baby fussy , cranky and reject whatever you offer . Even their favourite food . There is no way around it except to wait and watch . Teething is not forever , it usually lasts for a few days to may be a week or two and all you can do is keep the baby fed with whatever they accept . Trying out new things in this phase is futile . Do not worry about nutrition in this phase as it’s for a short duration and you can compensate later .
A few things that actually help .
- Keeping milk feeds limited , not more than 500 ml after they turn 1 year old.
- Feeding calorie and nutrition dense food , like using ghee to cook, adding curd , including one protein like eggs/ cheese/ dal / besan/ paneer/chicken / fish in almost every meal. A portion of veggies finely chopped added with all carbohydrate rich dishes .
- Whole Fruit snacks in the evening , specially which they can eat on their own with fork and bowl.
- Self feeding and the joy that they get from it . (I know a lot messy than we want but definitely keeps them interested) .
- Avoid stocking processed food at home .
- Never offer processed food even if the child denies home made food . Try to feed again after an hour or so but don’t replace home food by processed food ever.
- Variety is the key to avoid deficiencies . For a balanced nutrition , avoid giving the same foods all week long . Mix and match and keep it random .
I hope this helps fellow moms.
Though my kids are not perfect eaters , but that is the very point that no kid is . If your kid is always hungry and never denying food , maybe then you should be worried whether you are underfeeding them on most occasions.
Till they learn to convey their feelings , only their cues can help us know what they want . But labelling them is a bad habit and it keeps us away from making active efforts to improve our approach .